So I am slowly getting back into my old routine. Well, that’s a lie. For one thing, I never really had a routine. For another thing, I hate routine, although I’m often the first person to complain when unexpected things happen. Usually this time of year, one would expect blog posts on the successes and failures of the past year along with hopes and resolutions for the new year. Well, not me. Nope, nope, nope. Right now I’m just living in the moment.
After surviving yet another NaNoWriMo and concurrently providing daily posts on the novel-in-progress, surviving what might have been the flu for me and then caring for my husband who definitely had the flu, and managing to keep a low profile during the holidays, I just want to enjoy the moment. Not really think about the future, which looms bright or dark depending on my mood, and not wanting to dwell on the past that I can’t change. I had some nice moments yesterday when my husband and I decided to go for a 7-mile walk at the St. Marks National Wildlife Refuge. It was a beautiful, sunny day, a bit warmer than we expected, but perfect for sighting my favorite reptile: Alligators.
First we saw this little guy.
Yes, I mean “relatively” little: a young one, about 2-3 feet long. We took several photos, trying to not get too close and scare him off. This best shot was made possible by my husband’s walking stick which doubles as a monopod (look it up). He secured my camera to the monopod and, with a 10-second timer, we took turns holding the stick out and over the very obliging reptile. Of course, his stillness probably had more to do with the bath water temperature of the pool he was in. That is, rather than enjoying the photo op experience, he just had the most perfect spot and wasn’t about to move for a couple of gawking bipeds.
We continued on our walk, excited about our pictures while also slightly worried that the young alligator was leaving himself vulnerable to less well-meaning folk. Then we came upon this guy.
Another young one, although a foot or more longer than the first one. His teeth were barely noticeable, not yet marring his otherwise pleasant smile. Still, as you can see, we kept well on our side of the road and didn’t try anything fancy with my camera. Just a couple of quick shots and lots of smiles and walking backwards until we were a safer distance away. But only a few feet up the road was yet another sunning gator.
This guy was bigger (almost 6 feet) and had more impressive teeth. Of course, I couldn’t resist another photo, but by now, we were getting worried. Each alligator we had so far encountered was bigger than the previous. What was waiting for us at the turn in the road?
Now, St. Marks is my most favorite place in north Florida, maybe even all of Florida. The only time I’m not enamored about the Refuge is in summer when it’s very buggy with chiggers and mosquitoes. So I just don’t go there then. Across from the shot above, we have the bayou with the mid-afternoon sun giving everything a silvery, shiny effect.
Including the alligators.
This is where I learned that my cheap little camera actually has a telephoto function (thanks to my husband who used it once and figured it out while I’ve had the blasted thing for a year and a half and had no clue). Due to the camera, this alligator that is roughly 20 yards away, looks so much closer. This guy I called “Big Daddy” and if we had met him on the road, trust me, we would not have stopped to take pictures. We would have been running the other way and fast. We figure this guy to be about 8-10 feet.
By now I’m like a kid in a candy shop. I love my alligators, as long as they are in the water and I am on dry land. And most of them were.
You know you want another close-up (via a telephoto lens, of course).
And it weren’t all alligators either. Up from the banks came this attractive specimen of a young stag. Because we were all surprised, I didn’t have time to point, focus, and shoot. I simply had to shoot, and this young buck was definitely anxious.
But he just wanted to get by. Running away from us didn’t seem like an option for him, so we moved closer to the banks to get him more space. Then we saw what might have startled him to begin with … and it wasn’t us.
Okay, this guy was on MY side of the bayou, but still I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to take a couple of pictures. Of course, I’m no fool. Gators aren’t the least interested in eating people. Unless you’re swimming around in their pond at dusk or night. Then you’re the fool. This gator did what they all do when humans get too close: make a big splash and swim away.
Same guy, but because we were getting into his personal space, he made a big splash and started out across the bayou, away from us. It was beautiful sight, the shimmery glide of the gator as he made his way across the water, to a low mound where he pulled himself up so he could go back to his sunbathing in peace. My camera has a movie function, and damn if I did not remember to use it.
I hope you enjoyed my living-in-the-moment moments. If I were to make a resolution for next year, and I won’t but if I were to, I’d resolve to have more such moments to share with all of you.
Happy New Year!
Marie A Bailey
Writer, blogger, knitter, cat lover, and introvert.