Monday, November 15, 2004


There's a stretch of asphalt that I walk every day from the building where I work to my vehicle. This afternoon, the upward view was a busy one and more interesting than anything parallel to my eyesight. Overhead an hour or so before dusk, the sea gulls, those grey and white, wide-winged large birds, were soaring and dipping. The brisk wind was pulling my jacket away from my body and scooping my hair back out of my eyes. So as I watched the birds flaunting their strength with those arabesque movements, dipping and luffing in swirls, I wondered: are they playing? It looked alot like play. It I were a bird, that's just the thing I'd do: catch a good strong current and let it lift and turn me, then duck out of its tow and start the game again with another draft.

On the ground, squirrels are burying their caches of acorn, sampling a taste and handling each nut before delivering it into its scratched-out winter home.

It is November 15. Here in North Florida, winter is a slow thing that comes against the will of its environs. It usually shows itself on a morning full of low steel wool clouds with sprays of rain and mean bites of wind. We don't look forward to this season because the sun leaves us. Here in this part of the state, the sun keeps an equilibrium: it's our compensation for wide asphalt parkinglots, cold towers of business and overpopulated garages. We don't get the balm of south Florida, the green beaches in wintertime, the mangos and coconuts to remind us of happiness. We get busy squirrels, sliced date palms, chill and nightfall that comes too early.

When the sun starts its shady business of winter, we must find another way to maintain. We will fall into a season of sadness otherwise. Like many, we use diversion and service to defy unhappiness. I don't know anyone who knits, but I know a few who bake and thrive on the scent of fallow dough; the sleepy pungency of cinnamon and apple. We probably get more sleep and have more sex and wake happier if we're fortunate. A few of us write but one season does not eclipse another with that activity - fall or spring, we will still write.

I'm paying more attention this winter to the outdoor residents. It takes just a little reading and a little preparation to give service to these fine neighbors. I started learning with the National Wildlife Federation, one of those agencies which aims to hold GWBush accountable this time around. The organization has a website full of rich color photos and regionally-explicit guides. I've just discovered something called "brush piles" and have an answer to disposing of the huge oak limb that fell on my front yard. After my brush pile, I may turn domestic and cook up a suet cake. Some fine recipes are here. These folks must have real winters.

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