Sebastian

Several months ago, I moved from the Orlando area…busy, bustling, heavy-populated to Sebastian where my two daughters live.  It’s small and quiet but still the Florida that I grew up with.  I love the beauty of my home…nature abounds in all her glory.

Quiet, it sleeps nestled along the river
that merges with the Atlantic.

Inlets allow entry of myriad
sea life easily spotted by
a walk along the edges.
 
Waterfront winds for miles;
I never tire of the

drive along the coast.
Pelicans diving into the
shallows, dolphin
slowly undulating through
the waves, their fins
breaking the water
while osprey and
eagle fish for lunch.
 
 
Men fish too, seafood
is abundant and fresh,
sometimes plucked
minutes away from
where you may be
enjoying it.
 
Our house sits in almost
constant sunshine…open
and welcoming, flowers
line the walkway up to
the bright red door.
Doves, Blue Jays,
Mockingbirds,
Cardinals and Red-
Bellied Woodpeckers
are daily visitors to
the bird feeders and
baths situated among
the lush greenery.
On occasion, a fox
has been spied
in our backyard
on an early morning
forage for food…
or maybe a mate.

Bing Images:  Pelican, Indian River Lagoon

Manatee:  Bing Images

Bing Images:  Red-Bellied Woodpecker

Warm most of the year,
The Sunshine State is
aptly nick-named.
Subtropical, our home
is verdant and flowering
most year ‘round.
We have gators, lots
of gators—almost all
bodies of water have
an alligator in it.
We’re home to manatees,
those gentle, slow-moving
“cows” of the inter-
coastal waterways who
are vying with motor
boats for their lives.

Wikipedia:  Florida Scrub Jay
 
We also are host
to a special
one-of-a-kind
bird found no
where else in our
country…the Florida
Scrub Jay.
It is endangered
because of loss
of habitat.  It is
a stately blue-gray
and has an endearing
quality that I have
never seen in another
bird…they will take
food from your hand.
Wherever you go,
in whatever place
you find them, they
will fly out of the
scrub and eat peanuts
out of your open palm.
 
Very cool…I hope
they survive…

Pamela Sayers hosts us today at dVerse Poets for sharing the places we live:  http://dversepoets.com/2013/03/07/oh-the-places-we-live/

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Invader

Wild Green Iguana (Iguana iguana) in the Botan...

Image via Wikipedia

Feral iguana
lives down south
likes it there
in hospitable Boca;
the subtropical
greenery like
a welcome mat.
Taking over native
flora and fauna,
their numbers
swelling, they’ve
settled in.
Digging burrows,
decimating plants,
climbing trees
to lay in wait.
Enjoying your
yard and even
your pool, they’re
smelly invaders
uninvited to stay.
And come the
brisk cold in winter’s
wake, they freeze
in their tracks and
fall from the trees!
We must make
peace, they’re
here to stay,
but I’m glad they’ve
not made it to my
hometown yet.

There are many invasive plant and animal species that have made their way into Florida.  The invasion of the Green Iguana, and other iguanas, has been blamed primarily on people who have kept them as pets and then let them loose into the wild (or they escaped) when the owners found them too difficult to manage.  I personally, don’t think that the average person is capable of being responsible for these and other exotic animals and there should be a ban on keeping them.  As it is, we are overrun by cats and dogs that are not cared for properly and are not neutered or spayed and neither are the iguanas.  We are learning the hard way.  I’m not sure why laws aren’t engaged to protect animals from careless human beings who are now creating larger problems for our environment.  I do not blame the animals, of course…it’s unconscious humans.

St. George Island

   Perhaps now, November will bring  memories of the time I spent with my three sisters for a getaway on St. George Island in the Panhandle of Florida.  Only one of us had visited that part of our state and we were eager to see what it would bring to our stay on the island.

     Our youngest sister, Mary, came from Kansas and our sister Tracy joined us from her home near Boulder, Colorado.  The four of us had never taken a trip together before and we looked forward to spending the time with each other.  Mary and I drove the six hour trip from Orlando and settled in on our check-in day of Saturday afternoon.  She and I had the spacious, three bedroom, three bath house to ourselves until Jan and Tracy joined us on Tuesday.

      We explored the nearby, small town of Apalachicola, home of roughly three thousand residents.  (St. George Island is mostly inhabited by visitors.)  We met one that first afternoon, John Lee, who ran a small shop in the historic downtown district.  He had run the newspaper there for years and now could come and go as he pleased being semi-retired selling t-shirts with historic figures on them and offering the popular Tupelo honey that was made locally.  He knew much about the area and we received quite a history lesson that day.  He told us about Dr. John Gorrie and other historic notables.

     Driving around on the outskirts of downtown, Mary and I spied an old cemetery and decided to walk through it and see some of the resting places of well-known past residents who had made this fishing port their home.  We were looking for Dr. Gorrie’s grave site as well.  He was known for inventing the first ice machine used for helping keep yellow fever and other illnesses at bay.  His discovery later led to refrigeration and air conditioning.  We also learned that his remains rested across the street from a museum in his honor and not in the town cemetery where we had been looking.

     We also drove down to one end of St. George Island to St. George Island State Park where camping is popular and trails are numerous and there are many undeveloped beaches to explore.  Pure white dunes, covered in state-protected sea oats populated the area along the beach.  The length of the island is around 38 miles and we drove from one end to the other at times driving with the Gulf of Mexico on one side of the road and Apalachicola Bay on the other.

     The four of us hiked Tate’s Hell State Forest a tract of land covering over 200,000 acres where we saw black bear tracks (large and small) in the sandy trail that we followed as well as cat prints–bobcats or Florida Panthers?  I was very glad that we didn’t come across a bear even though I was told they were usually quite timid and would run if they heard voices.  I didn’t want to test out that theory!  We all had our binoculars at the ready looking for a new bird to spot but didn’t have much luck throughout the trip.  Timing seems to be very important when bird watching–apparently we were a little early to spot any new “snow birds” arriving to the area.

     Cape San Blas was a destination another day where we all stopped for a picnic and walked along yet another beach looking for shells.  After lunch, we continued on our drive to St. Joseph’s Peninsula State Park where we came to the end of the point that looked out onto a small island in the bay which could only be accessed by boat.

     We made most of our meals at home but my sisters enjoyed some of the fresh seafood made famous by the area waters when we went out for dinner a few times.

     The weather was perfect for hiking and sightseeing during the week.  The days were mostly clear blue, sunny skies in the low to mid 70s with the nights in the 40s to 50s.  It became quite blustery at times and a heavy but fast-passing rain hit one night as we played Scrabble.  The house of three levels, which was built on high stilts, shook with the wind.  We felt a little disconcerted but our feelings passed quickly as the storm did.

     Apalachicola was hosting its 48th annual Florida Seafood Festival and was expecting thousands of attendees this weekend.  This is Florida’s longest running maritime event held at the mouth of the Apalachicola River.  Mary and I saw some of the preparations as we went into town the day before the festival began but we left Saturday morning as it was getting underway.

     Yes, this trip may become one of my favorite memories of all of my Novembers. It was a very memorable time had with four very special sisters.

 

Monday Morning Writing Prompt:–November:   http://liv2write2day.wordpress.com/

Afternoon at the Wildlife Refuge

     When I want to get away for an afternoon, Tom (or other family members) and I like to head over to the Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge specifically to travel the slow, winding seven mile Black Point Wildlife Drive located on the eastern coast of Florida.  It’s about a 45 minute drive from our house.  Nearby is the Haulover Canal waterway which connects the Indian River to Mosquito Lagoon.  Most often we stop there on our way home to visit the Manatee and watch Bottlenose Dolphin swimming slowly in the canal.

    On one particular winter visit to the refuge, the place was heavily populated with not only the usual Florida residents but many wintering species of birds.  We saw large groups of Roseate Spoonbills, you can’t miss their brilliant pink feathers, White Pelicans, bobbing on the surface of the water like small sailboats, and many species of ducks including Northern Shovelers with their unmistakable, large, broad bills.  We spotted charming Belted Kingfishers darting quickly through the scrub, which we commonly see well before we arrive at the refuge, perched on the telephone wires–their unique, large, crested heads easily identifying them.

                                                              Roseate Spoonbill

Belted Kingfisher

     Very common bird sightings at this wildlife refuge are Great Blue Herons, Green Heron, Tri-colored Heron, Snowy Egret, Moorhens, American Bittern, White Ibis, hawks, eagles, gulls, terns, snipes, sandpipers and coots.  Binoculars at the ready, we can zoom in on many of these birds and enjoy them more close up and personal.  Florida is fortunate to be such a haven for so many species.  Most everyone in my family are nature lovers and birders and take the chance whenever we can to watch and listen to see if we can add another bird to our long list of sightings.

     We almost always see alligators sunning themselves on the banks of the narrow canals that line the Black Point Wildlife Drive.  On one recent visit, I did my best impersonation of a baby gator cry and the large alligator we were watching, lifted his head up and looked back at me.  I’ve also had alligators swim towards me, attracted by the sound.  They may have been interested in a meal–they will eat their young.

     Native plants are also abundant there and we often spot the colorful, daisy like, coreopsis or Tickweed, catching our eyes by its bright yellow.

     My sister and her husband have seen the elusive Florida Bobcat several times,  sometimes catching them walking nonchalantly down the middle of the road barely paying attention to them as they follow.  I’ve yet to see one, although I have seen their tracks on the walking trails.

     Near the end of the seven-mile drive is a platform built partially over a canal with a device attached to it pinpointing an enormous Bald Eagle nest in the distance.  The mating pair raises a family there yearly–the nest seemingly growing more expansive as the years go by.  It’s held high in the branches of a huge oak tree.

     Then it’s over to Haulover Canal to see if we can spot a manatee or dolphin.  We usually do.  Last week, when I was laid up with my bad back (and couldn’t go), my brother and sister who are visiting here, went with another sister and a friend to the canal after completing the wildlife drive.  They had the most astonishing encounter with a manatee as they sat on a boat launch.  Our friend had heard that if you splash the water, the manatees may come over to investigate.  They are known to be very curious.  So my sister, Tracy, took up splashing her feet vigorously in the water and a huge, 800 pound manatee (by my brother’s estimation) swam right over to them.  They each took turns “petting” him as he brought his head up out of the water and peered at them.  My other sister began scratching his back, which he obviously seemed to enjoy, and then turned over floating on his back and allowed her to scratch his belly–even holding her hands gently with his front flippers at one point.  I’m getting over there as soon as I can!

     Needless to say, this is one of my most relaxing ways to spend an afternoon.  Immersed in nature–surrounded by Florida’s untouched beauty.

My entry for Monday Morning Writing Prompt–A Day of Refreshment:http://liv2write2day.wordpress.com/2011/08/22/monday-morning-writing-prompt-a-day-of-refreshment/

Loggerhead Turtle

Loggerhead of imposing spirit

Silhouette outlined in the moonlit night,

I watched a miracle of your endeavor.

A pit dug deep by flipper’s strength

In unaware trance of your audience.

Respectful of the sacred scene,

I quietly observe this clutch you’re leaving.

From your reverie you finally rouse

Oh, mother, still more toil ahead,

Slowly with each flip you fill

The sandy cavity’s excavation.

Nesting fulfilled, you turn to go

Beginning return to your ocean home.

Witnessing your grace and quiet might

I reach out my hand and touch your back.

I’ve had the good fortune to witness these beautiful marine reptiles several times on Florida’s beaches.   Each time has been at night when nesting females have come to lay their eggs.  During nesting season, it is common to see protected, cordoned off areas designating these as Loggerhead nests with warnings not to disturb them–it is unlawful to do so.  They are an endangered species.   Their eggs are about the same size and shape as a ping-pong ball.  I’ve yet to witness the eggs hatching–I hope to one day.   Adults average between 200 and 300 pounds.

Gator Boy

American Alligator, (Alligator mississippiensis)

Image via Wikipedia

Restless brother, nature lover

One day declares, “Let’s go find gators!”

 So to the largest lake we head, to hunt his favorite prey,

 He makes us sisters tag along with greatly, increasing dismay.

 Hiking through wetlands, brambles and brush,

He implores us to keep going and quit making a fuss.

Without breaking his stride, without slowing a bit,

He’s steadily seeking the biggest one yet.

Finally, finally he reaches the bank,

Where the most gators ever always are found.

With expert precision, his eyes scan the edges

All around Lake Jessup’s huge swampy perimeter.

The muckiness drags at our shoes,

As we move cautiously forward,

Then suddenly he stops and whispers loudly, “Look at that mother!”

Not 200 feet away, way too close for our comfort,

Lay a gigantic alligator that had just eaten supper–

His side was almost splitting from the animal in it.

Yes, he’s huge, we marveled, taking a step or two back.

Then my sister grabbed up her camera and captured a snap;

Now my brother has a memory to add to his others–

As we high-tailed it out of there, until the next adventure hollered.

Based on a true story.  My brother is “Gator Boy”!

An awful buzz in the Everglades…

It was almost a year ago that Tom and I set out for the first “whole-week” vacation I had ever taken.

We were headed for the West Coast of Florida–beautiful Naples.  We had reservations at a lovely, single-story condo, with pool and Jacuzzi, not far from downtown and the beach.

We really didn’t have much of an agenda, just relaxing and seeing some sights.  My Dad had told us of a park in the Everglades to visit.  So we made a mental note to check it out.

In the meantime, we did manage to take a tour of the Thomas Edison-Henry Ford compounds and saw the amazing and immense “walking” Banyan tree that had spread across acres and acres of the property.  We walked the grounds that had plant species brought in from throughout the world.

One of the most awe-inspiring experiences I’ve ever had occurred one late afternoon as Tom and I walked along the beach.  As we looked along the shoreline–I am always looking for shells and other treasures–Tom, who had stepped out into the sparkling, clear water of the Gulf, suddenly pointed out a large, six-legged starfish, and then another and another!  There were thousands of starfish just a few feet from the edge of the beach.  We walked on and on, and there were more and more starfish.  We were stunned and thrilled to witness such an incredible scene.  And we saw Brown Pelicans perched by the dozens in the Pine trees that lined up along the dunes “yakking” loudly.

Another day on the beach, we came upon hundreds and hundreds of stingrays!  The tips of their small “wings” broke the water as they swam along.  We stopped and spoke to a local woman who said she has walked the beach for years and she had never seen anything like it.

Wow!  What a show!

But our singularly most memorable day was when we went to explore that park my Dad had mentioned.  I had never been to the Everglades.  I was excited at the prospect of what I might find.

So we took off and were soon nearing our destination.  We came upon some water that ran alongside the highway with a gravelly, rocky beach and even an inviting picnic table.  I suggested we pull over and walk down to the water.  Sure, it would be fun.

We got out of the car, and Tom picked his way carefully over the sharp, jutting rocks to the edge of the water; I was not far behind.

Suddenly, there was a loud, buzzing sound.  I looked around frantically and then began to slap myself.  MOSQUITOES!  They surrounded us with a vengeful lust for blood covering us with their massive numbers.  I’m sure they took delight in the two imbeciles who had walked straight into their personal dining hall!

We ran to the car for safe haven.  To our horror–and I mean horror–we found that the inside of the car was thick with zillions of tiny, blood-thirsty vampires!  We had left the windows open!  We had no choice and did the only thing we could.  We jumped in the car with all the windows rolled down, then took off, blasting down the highway as fast as we could to blow the mosquitoes out, the two of us slapping and wriggling as we went.

Poor Tom, with both hands on the wheel and eyes on the road, got bit the worst.  Finally, after the one hour ride back to our condo, the mosquitoes were almost gone.  To this day I cringe when I hear that telltale buzz.

I do look back on my vacation to Naples as magical, but, as I’ve told Tom, the only way I will ever return to the Everglades is the day it snows!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A bowl of shells and other sea life that I brought back from our trip.  I love to look at them and remember those days.

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