Tom-the-Cat likes to escape to the jungle out back whenever he can to go skulking around, exploring on his own. He takes this time very seriously, and does not like to have it interrupted by photographers hunting HIM.
There is a restlessness on the wind these days, the kind that whispers insistently in your ear that you it is time to move on. This is the weather that took Mary Poppins aways from the Banks’ home, when the air itself is so unsettled that you can’t sit still. When the weather is like this, I long to be Marco Polo, sailing the seas to anywhere, or a hobo jumping a train to be anywhere but here.
My daughter was obviously born to the water, and cannot stand the idea of being far from it. When she asked to take the photos today, I should have known that they would be water based.
Nearly every photo was of Hoggetowne Creek, which we walked along today. As we went through the photos to use tonight, she asked me to use the one with more water in it every single time.
While we were looking through the photos, she was bothered that in most of them the creek reflects the green of the trees too much. In reality, it did not look very green, but a muddy grey-brown from the sediment stirred up by some wild storms earlier.
When most people think of Florida, they think of beaches, but the landscape is much more than that. Away from the beaches and the tourists, there are trees and vines and a wilderness so dense that even civilization cannot tame it.
Pockets of jungle are found all over Gainesville, carefully protected, even though they butt right up to houses and busy roads. I love finding them all over the place, some official parks, some just areas in between. The ones in between are often the most fun, carved out by those who seek adventure at home.
Whether this is an official park or not, I have never been sure, but it is a trail used by bikers who fly over the roots and across the many rickety bridges. The bridges change frequently, moved as the creek bed changes, broken, new ones added. It makes it a little more of an adventure.
There is no doubt that spring is here in Gainesville, although it seems to have passed so many by. The cheerful bright pink rose that grows wild at the end of my driveway is putting out new growth, with bright red leaves, but no blooms just yet. Meanwhile, its neighbor, a smaller pink rose, is blooming with abandon. Many of my roses bloom for much of the year, but this one is not as prolific. It blushes with its own beauty, a frilly puff of magic.
The bees are busy collecting pollen to make honey for me. While this mock orange won’t produce any fruit from the bees’ busy work, the real oranges need them to help pollinate the fruits we’ll enjoy over the winter and into next spring.
Many times over the last three years, I have despaired of ever seeing fruit on this tree. Most citrus takes three years to produce, but one of the reasons I bought this lime tree was that I was told it would be able to bear fruit right away. When it didn’t the first year, I wasn’t terribly surprised. After all, it had just been transplanted.
Last year, I had a brief hope that I would see some limes when it bloomed a few tentative blooms, but they were blown off by a violent storm and nothing more happened. Since then, I have started using the citrus fertilizer on the tree regularly, and have been thrilled with the growth. I don’t know whether it was that or maturity that led to the apparent bounty it holds right now, or a combination of the two.
Out in his native habitat, the jungle of my back yard, Tom-the-cat lets his instincts prevail. He perches on the fence, watching for the perfect bird to happen by so he can pounce. The intensity of his green eyes is matched only by his love of comfort. As soon as he saw me with my camera, he leapt down and ran to the door for his evening meal.
I saw a little mockingbird, sitting on a sign, singing all his favorite tunes. “Teakettle, teakettle! Vireo, vireo! Cheater, cheater, cheater!” I’m not sure who he was trying to meet, because he was calling to everyone in town. I took one step too many and he flew away.
Earlier today I found out that my mother’s wonderful cousin and friend for life, Bitsy, passed away. I can’t claim to have been extraordinarily close to her myself, but I remember her well and always enjoyed her company.
Her life never struck me as an easy one, but she was always cheerful, and probably much nicer to me than I ever deserved. When I was a kid, Bitsy would bring her mother, my grandmother’s sister, and her brother, and her sons to visit when we would go to my grandmother’s house on vacation. Her mother had dementia, her brother had suffered a devastating head injury, and her sons and I did not get along. They were not my favorite people to see.
She took care of all of them just because she loved them and could take care of them. I can’t remember ever hearing her complain. I did. I complained a lot about her mother and her brother and having to even see them. I hope that it was never in her hearing.
Later on, when I moved in with my mother after divorce, she would visit my mother, and I always loved her visits. Cheerful, bright, always sparkling, she loved my wild boys, and I could see why my mother had always been friends with her. She was fearless, just like my mother. I could picture her running wild through the woods of Bohemia, and taking up the dares I’m sure my mother threw at her.
The last years of her life were apparently spent in great pain, which saddens me terribly. She deserved the best in life, and maybe, through all her hardships, she got it. She passed away surrounded by family, and was loved even by those who barely knew her. That surely matters more than having an easy life.
Spring is everywhere around me right now, in an amazing show of vibrant greens that come of having had a cold early winter. Forget the Wizard’s castle made of stones; my city is full of trees and trails and adventures.
We headed out to San Felasco up in Alachua, where my son had recently seen a bison, hoping that I would see one, too. That wasn’t in the cards, but the trail had a feeling of magic to it, bursting with new greens so bright they almost hurt.
Arches through the wood give way to moss-covered stones touched by the glow of the spring sun. Around every bend, I expected to meet with a fairy or leprechaun. The leaves on the ground added to the hushed feeling of the forest.
The late afternoon sun turned the leaves to gold, signaling that it was time to return home again.
I moved to Gainesville FL to earn my degree in architecture and never left. You can often find me wandering the many trails with my camera, always on the lookout for our famous gators. When I'm not on the trails, I'm probably walking the streets of a neighborhood, discovering the beauty that each one offers.