Tuesday, January 24, 2012

The Real Swamp Monkeys of Nassau County

     The Florida of Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings still exists. In the little hamlets of northeastern Florida only a few miles from the famed Okefenokee lay dirt roads leading to dirt roads wending their way through tupelo plantations, long pine and palmetto.
     It's here my niece and her family make their home. And here these "swamp monkeys" (so dubbed from my previous posts) live much like Jody and Penny and Ma of Rawlings famed book The Yearling.
     Every morning Kaitlin rises, grooms Joules, her pony, and rides her. And should Kaitlin be thrown from the horse, she climbs back up and keeps on going. Will and Zach lead me down the dirt roads where we scare up deer and armadillos, see no snakes or alligators even though they live around here.
     And two-year-old Callen? He comes along whenever he can.
This is me. I'm NOT one of the Swamp Monkeys
     What a world of "forts" off overgrown paths--isolated homes of neighbors who know their neighbors--of ponds of crystal water and the whitest sand where one can swim or fish or hunt.
     Of course these swamp monkeys love video games--Zach delighted in completing too many levels of my "Angry Birds." They enjoy TV, love to cuddle. But they still relish the lost culture of the outdoors--of reveling in the glory created, not by man, but by God.
     It's a delightful wilderness filled with lakes and fresh air and adventures. Both fortunately and unfortunately a part of Florida no tourist sees.

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Friday, January 20, 2012

Florida Fandango: Okefenokee Pt. 2

     We continued our search for alligators along the car route and were rewarded with three juveniles swimming in a little pond as well as a young one sunning himself with head resting on a log. But our main objective was to see the Chesser Island Homestead.
     If you ever heard of this place, you would have read a much copied, word for word version of the settlement of Chesser Island. (Has anyone ever heard of plagiarism?) Our boat guide told us another tale.
     W.T. Chesser shot a man in a brawl. He did not want to go to jail, so he fled to the swamps and built his homestead. Forty years later he discovered a judge ruled the shooting a justifiable homicide. Therefore, W.T. essentially jailed himself for forty years in a mosquito plagued swamp known as "Trembling Earth" or the Okefenokee.
     This begs the question: Isn't it better to admit our failings and accept the consequences? Although the homestead is charming, I've been in enough swamps to know there's a reason people don't settle in these places.

     And an aside that has nothing to do with history, the water pump to the left intrigued Callen and the rest of the Swamp Monkeys. They all drank from it until the water ran green. At that point we all agreed, perhaps we shouldn't drink the water.
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Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Florida Fandango: Okefenokee

     Okefenokee--what a way to start my Florida vacation. In size, it's bigger than 300,000 football fields. (Even the Pats would find touchdowns difficult in a field that size). This last summer, much of it burned up--but like God refining us in the fire, this will restore the swamp. If fire didn't kill the growth, the vegetation would suck up all the water and we'd be hunting gators on a freeway.
     As a matter of fact, engineers did try to drain the swamp, but they ran out of money and never connected it to the St. Mary's River and the outlet malls went elsewhere.
Getting up close and personal with the gators
Sandhill Crane
     And that was a good thing. The swamp is home to myriad species: Sandhill cranes, alligators, great blue herons and bunches more.
     The water looks like tea, and like tea, is dark because of tannic acid. But don't drink it! The temp is only 68 degrees and tepid tea is not tasty.
      One critter that is not as well known is the swamp monkey. Out in the midst of the swamp where methane rises like the bubbles in a lava lamp you can find this creature. One must lean over the sides of the boat and stare into the depths of the water. Inevitably, you will see the swamp monkeys. I was lucky enough to capture photos of six of them.
Swamp Monkeys Neil, Zach, Will
Kaitlin Swamp Monkey

rare picture of mamma & baby


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Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Whom Do You Trust?

Magellan Blazer12 GPS Receiver.
     I love my GPS--or as I've called her once before, my ILT (I'm Lost Too). With faith I program her and believe wholeheartedly she will get me where I'm going. But...
  1. In Madrid, she told me my hotel resided under a four mile tunnel.
  2. In Wilmington, NY she believed my route followed EVERY cemetery in the area, and she took me to Malone via Plattsburgh (50 miles east of my destination)
  3. She told me Target lay in the middle of a four lane highway.
  4. She thought a side trip through Washington D.C. would be a nice diversion forgetting I've already seen the Washington and Jefferson Monuments and my destination was Charlotte, NC not D.C.
  5. She had no idea that South Tryon Street existed. It's a major thoroughfare through Charlotte.
     Still, every time I travel, I turn ILT on and with faith follow her lead. So why don't I do this with my Lord and Savior? Who best can direct my steps? God never leads me astray, never loses satellite connection and knows every twist and turn of my being. If I trust the fickle ILT, I certainly can believe my Creator.

2 Thessalonians 3:5 May the Lord direct your hearts into God's love and Christ's perseverance.

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