Memories and Shark’s Teeth

We went for an overnight to Vel’s beach home down at Englewood and (as always) had a fabulous time.

The weather obliged (as it almost always does in Florida) and the surreal surroundings provided a well-needed respite from the hectic work week we had both just escaped from.

We watched the birds in the trees around the house sing their melody to the evening winds while we sank a few Coronas in the company of one of my very best friends.

The conversation was only silenced when we broke away and went looking for shark’s teeth on the beach and then continued into the final golden rays of the evening as the sun sank below its watery horizon.

It was indeed a gilt-edged visit that will rest in our memory bank for quite a while. We found out that birds (or at least lady cardinals) peel the nuts before eating them. Inna found lots of fossilized shark’s teeth and I found that silhouetted selfies can help hide the years for an old fart like me.

I have included a number of shots at the end of the blog and I hope you find something to enjoy, I edited in a close up of Inna with a shark’s tooth, in case you are unsure what they look like.

But it was really the journey home where the thought for this blog arose.

You see, so much of our life is spent doing things that we oftentimes forget to make memories. We certainly did, in this visit. But much of our normal days these past few months has become a blur of progress and achievement.

We have knocked so many things off our must-do list but very little in our want-to-do list. Such is life in a high pressure existence. We can become very efficient at dealing with all the complexities of modern day living and, excluding disasters, seem to be to get to the bottom of whatever needs to be done in order to continue with forward progress.

But it is a rare person that lies on his/her deathbed and reflects on how competent they were in dealing with the challenges that they faced throughout life. More likely than not our thoughts become consumed with things we haven’t yet done, love we haven’t yet shared, and worries of those that we leave behind.

No matter how prepared we are for that final breath, there will be some of those thoughts that we leave behind in that final exhale. But, it is really important that our want-to-do list is given real life during our lives and we don’t end up short-changing ourselves because we were too busy or focused on the afterlife.

I am not going to rail against religions and their role in the latter, but really what I am trying to say is that with the former, being too busy is a fools errand.

Sometimes we consume ourselves with the thoughts that certain things have to be done today. Or that we are the only ones that can do them. We pad our thoughts with ample reasons as to why we need to be so busy in dealing with life’s urgencies.

And I am not saying that these reasons are invalid.

I am only saying that most things will get done somehow, by someone, at some time. We are not indispensable to life’s process, though we might like to think that we are.

But one thing is for certain. If we devote no time to our want-to-do list, then we will never do what we want.

Making time to smile with your loved ones, create some memories, and experience the true joy of being alive, will help add real meaning into our existence and help avoid merely becoming a blackened fossil washed up on a distant shore.

… just a thought!

Smiles and Growls

When we went to the marsh rabbit run trail at Circle B, we knew the blue skies overhead would likely produce some memorable moments that are photo-worthy.

That time of the morning, is always a creature-rich part of the day as nocturnal creatures have relinquished control of the trails and daylight-animals and birds are out looking for their first meal of the day.

Fish, eels, lizards, and others at the bottom of the food chain unwittingly begin the day’s cycle of life as nature’s breakfast-serving to their predatory (and hungry) neighbors.

I’ve said it before and I will say it again. If it turns out that I am wrong about reincarnation and I become some wide-eyed fish, please let it not be one in the waters around Lake Hancock.

I mean, I love Osprey. I really do. But I have seen so many eating their sushi-style breakfast in the trees above the trail that the thought of having my face eaten off me by one has become a theme for some miserable day-dreams.

In any event, we wandered the trail, Inna with her binoculars as the spotter and me with the 600 mm lens as the image-taker, and we weren’t short changed. Activity was all around us and we rarely took more than a few steps before something or someone made us stop and observe.

This time of the year, with the arrival of afternoon rains, the thicket either-side of the trails that we walk are greener and more lush than the dry season and much of our experience was listening to sounds that were near us. Audible doesn’t always translate to visible on trails like Circle B and sometimes you just have to be satisfied with hearing something rather than catching it front and center in a bright light.

There were several moments when we were surrounded by growls that we couldn’t see. For anyone who hasn’t experienced it, Alligator growls are an amazing primal moment. They can hit you in the pit of your stomach, well-beyond what your ears can tell you.

You know you are only feet away from whoever is growling and yet you can see nothing. They were to the left of us, the right of us, ahead of us, and behind us.

It was genuinely awesome in the true meaning of the word.

I have put a quick ten second clip on youtube here from our trail. Nothing to see, but do turn up the audio.

Anyway, I have added some images at the end of the blog. My favorite is the alligator with gaping mouth to where you can see the water drops on his teeth.

Hope you enjoy.

So, the thought that sprung to mind when pulling these images together today was how the smiles and growls of the trail were absolutely misleading and how they can take us in a certain direction to where we make poor decisions. You see, the growls while undoubtedly worrying, were not intended for us. They were territorial and competing alligators were trying to ward off others in the area and attract a female. The deeper the growl, the bigger the alligator and apparently in the female alligator mind, size really does matter.

I have encountered a fifteen foot alligator once, just five feet away from me as he rose out of the water and told me I was too close for his comfort with a growl that I can still feel in the pit of my stomach while writing. The presence of a growl in an alligator encounter therefore doesn’t mean we are about to be attacked.

Similarly, when resting, alligators’ mouths curve into a wonderful smile. They always look so happy and as there is nothing else on their face to give us an expression to understand, we (and others) can easily arrive at the wrong conclusion that all is right in a certain moment. In the animal kingdom, they quite possibly have the most misleading smiles of all.

When it comes to the world we live in, these thoughts translate into our reality inasmuch as not everyone who growls at us is an enemy and not everyone who smiles at us is a friend.

Over the years I can recall some who growled at me in days past that turned out to be good people and one or two that are currently friends. Similarly I can recall many who smiled to my face while plunging a knife into my back.

Our ability to recognize a true growl or real smile is part of the growing experience that we take with us through life’s journey. We invariably discard some of each and look to the motive behind them.

Some growls might be an expression of love; for example a parent chastising a child for a behavioral issue that the child needs to improve. Smiles might be a simple way of disarming you while you are being taken advantage of or abused.

It is people’s actions and particularly the actions beneath the surface that really count in how we gather or discard them within our lives. Knowing your friends is every bit as important as knowing your enemies. The damage done by misinterpreting a smile or growl can sidetrack or even derail the best of life’s journeys.

And as we only get one journey, it is important to read the signs correctly along the way.

… just a thought.

The Whole Picture

We took the trail by the lake last weekend at Circle B and watched once again as life and death struggles played out in front of us.

It is the real benefit of going early in the morning inasmuch as creatures are by far their most active as they begin their day with a search for food. Yes, the weather is also more pleasant at that time of the morning but it is really the witnessing of activity on the creature-stage that takes me there at that time.

We encountered all the usual suspects and it was hard to see everything because there was so much happening in all directions around us at the same time.

Armed with my trusty 600 mm lens, I did my best to capture some of it and I have attached thirty-plus images at the tail end of the blog.

But first I want to present 6 quick images (crops actually) the whole pictures of which are at the end among the others.

You see, it dawned on my as I went through the images, how deceiving or incomplete only seeing a certain portion of the image is. See if you can figure out all six before you go to the end.

In any event, it was this “part-of-the-picture” idea that captured my imagination and led me to today’s blog.

We can completely misunderstand or incorrectly identify things in life when we don’t take the time to see the whole picture.

Over the years I have seen many people jump to conclusions about someone or something when the wiser approach is to show more patience and wait for a clearer picture.

The world has molded us into early responders and converted much of our input into sounds bites that can shape our minds to believe what they want us to.

The political world is full of this on all sides, and in dominating the news cycle with 30-second summaries, it has fashioned our minds into thinking that all of life should work in the same way.

I’ve seen it watching sports games, where pundits will quickly tell us why certain teams have unraveled and will lose. I have seen it in movies where we leap to a quick decision on who the bad guy is and what will happen in the storyline.

In these instances, it doesn’t matter when they or we are proved wrong. Sporting losses and wins are largely irrelevant and movies are made to entertain us for just a moment of watching; not to leave a lasting impression.

But there is a real cost to being incorrect in assessing a real life situation or person that can be extraordinarily damaging.

People get married to someone they don’t really know, tell secrets to a BFF they only just met, profess hate of another based on something they just heard.

They take up jobs without knowing what it entails, decide to live someplace because they visited there once, and buy a new car because they like the color.

We all make decisions and not all of them are right. Even armed with the best of information, we can all make a mistake. But making a mistake because you didn’t bother to do the right homework is a poor excuse.

We learn from each mistake, or at least we should. But when outside pressures are continually honing our skills in instant decision-making rather than good decision-making, there is very little time for deciding, let alone learning.

Take your time, absorb as much information as you can about whatever is in front of you. And if you still get it wrong, then so be it. At least you tried.

… just a thought.