Cruising the St. Johns River

Would you agree 2021 seems a lot like 2020? The more stressful our lives become, the more we need to take time to relax. Even a three hour get-away can work wonders. My recent trip on a St. Johns riverboat increased my awareness of the soothing effect of water. Did you know contact with water can help people feel happier, calmer, and more creative? Hmm… maybe that’s why we get some of our best ideas in the shower.

Some rivers are known for their length, others for their exciting rapids. The St. Johns River boasts of neither. However, it holds the title of the laziest river in the world. Remember your elementary science classes? Water flows along the path of least resistance. In Florida the path of less resistance is found between Indian River County in the south and Jacksonville in the north. The St. Johns is twenty seven feet higher at its source compared to its mouth. This slow moving river drops one inch per mile over the course of three hundred ten miles. No wonder white water rafters look elsewhere for thrills.

In spite of its laziness, throughout history the St. Johns has given rise to an abundance of activity. The river was one of the earliest routes used by Europeans to explore Florida. During the Civil War, the Union Navy operated steamboats up and down the river to carry out attacks on Confederate forts. After the war, riverboats carried wealthy tourists south for fun in the sun. Throughout the nineteenth century paddle wheelers moved produce from Florida farms to northern states.

Today, the Barbara Lee is the only authentic riverboat sailing the St. Johns River. The ship was built in 1986 and refurbished in 2012. Unlike the steamboats of the past, the Barbara Lee uses diesel engines to turn the massive paddle wheels.

We boarded the Barbara Lee at its port in Sanford for a lunch cruise. (By the way, the dining room is air-conditioned.) The food tastes great and the service is superb. Above the dining room, we relaxed on the deck and marveled at the natural beauty of the river.

Standing on the deck, I felt miles away from the problems of the world. Rivers seem so sure of themselves. They have no doubt they will reach their destination. I felt linked with nature, connected to the past, and renewed in my spirit.

Herb and I loved our trip on the Barbara Lee.

Travelers looking for alligators may want to select an evening cruise. The water temperature averages eighty-five degrees in August. Our guide told us during the summer the gators seek cooler temperatures at the bottom of the river. At night the reptiles are more active. When the gators swim across the surface of the water their eyes cast an eerie glow. How spooky!

Click here to learn about the many cruises offered by the St.Johns Rivership Company.

What My Dog Has Taught Me About Writing

I’ve learned a lot from following my dog around. Whenever Buddy picks up an interesting scent… he walks faster and faster with his nose to the ground. Buddy will not stop until he tracks the scent to its source. It might be as small as one goldfish cracker, but he will not give up until he gets what he’s after. I must admit I admire his persistance.

I’ve discovered I need to apply a few of Buddy’s good qualities to my writing life. Although Buddy is directed by his sense of smell, I’m directed by what I see. My focus determines the direction I will go. I’m trying to direct my focus and be more productive by thinking like a dog.

Keep Looking Forward

Buddy never looks back, but continues to forge straight ahead when he’s on a mission. Sometimes I think fondly of the past and wish I could go back. That happens a lot when I look in the mirror and see how I’ve aged. Allowing my age to stop me from pursuing my dreams as a writer is a non-starter and robs me of my motivation. I need to remember and be thankful I’m retired. My age gives me more time to spend on my craft.

Look Beyond The Obstacles

Buddy never lets anything get in his way. When his back legs were paralyzed, he used his front paws to pull himself forward while dragging his back feet behind him. Wherever he wanted to go, he went. If I had focused on my inexperience as a writer, I would have never moved forward. My husband believed I could write a children’s book before I did. With his support, the fact that I’d never written a book, didn’t stop me.

Stay Alert for Opportunities

Buddy can be on the other side of the room but the sound of chopping vegetables or rustling cellophane signals his attention. He trots over to assume his position at my feet, keeping watch for any crumbs I drop on the floor.

Ideas for writing pop up on my radar just like those noises in the kitchen. Good ideas can fall to floor as quick as a kernel of popcorn. I need to keep a notebook, or my phone handy to capture them. If I’m stuck without an idea for a blog, poem, or plot, I can always consult my notes.

Take Time To Rest

I’ll admit I’m somewhat of a workaholic. It’s important to realize whether I’m being productive, or spinning my wheels and getting nowhere. Busy work saps creativity. As I write this, Buddy is curled up sleeping. He doesn’t have a care in the world. He knows he can trust me to meet his needs. In the same way I need to remember everything doesn’t depend on me. Rest can be achieved in many ways, physically and spiritually. I rest physically when I stop hitting the keys. I rest spiritually by remembering that ultimately God is in control.

I wrote this post in 2019 but the message endures today. Two years later, I’m working on book three of “The Tails of Blueberry Street” series. Buddy the Beagle is the main character of all my books. Join us for our back to school book signing this Friday in Casselberry, Florida.