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Timing is Everything

Why would a turtle crawl onto the same bank as an alligator? Excuse me, but something doesn’t seem right about this photo. After all, alligators eat turtles. Their massive jaws have an extreme biting force that can easily break the shell of a turtle.

Strange but true, alligators and turtles sometimes become friends. In fact, some alligators let turtles ride on their backs. A gator might provide a nice way for the turtle to sun itself in a wide expanse of water.

Alligators only eat when they feel hungry. But how would a turtle know the gator’s stomach was full?

Herb and I saw this interesting scene on our latest camping trip to Kissimmee Prairie Preserve State Park. Although Herb zoomed in for a close up, the gator was only about twenty feet away from us. Since we had Buddy (our beagle) with us, we didn’t wait around to see what might happen next.

The phrase “timing is everything” applies to many situations in life. The success of something is often related to when it happens. Our intuition guides us to the appropriate time to act. Animals rely heavily on their sense of intuition to process what is going on in their environment. In contrast, humans rely on their cognitive processes and tend to ignore their intuition.

Perhaps the turtles had a “gut feeling” about the alligator and the contents of his “gut.”

On that note…. until next time, watch your back.

Leave a comment if you have had any interesting animal encounters.

Think About Why You Started, and Keep Going

Everyone has dreams. How many of your dreams have become reality?

Five years ago I started writing this blog. Initially, I wanted to encourage people to pursue their creativity. I started as the Poet on Blueberry Street on April 1, 2016. My first post was very short. I really didn’t know what I was doing or where this blog would take me.

So it goes with creativity. One step leads to another and before you know it five years have passed. I have published one hundred sixty-two entries since 2016. Some of you may have followed me since the beginning. We have shared the ups and downs of camping in Florida, adventures in gardening, and of course who could forget the pandemic?

Throughout it all I’ve weaved my love for poetry, reading, and writing. Today I looked back at some of my favorite poetry posts. In case you missed them, or would like to revisit, click on these links.

If Trees Could Talk and Other Poems (2017)

Poetry a Message in a Bottle (2018)

Fallen Leaves (2019)

Ode to the Spotted Bananas (2020)

I realize I am not a blogger who keeps a specific schedule. I tend to hit the keys when I feel inspired. Creativity cannot be forced, but it can be furthered by allowing ourselves to “be in the zone.” I am thankful for this opportunity to express myself without an editor looking over my shoulder.

In the process of writing this post I discovered a website called DayZero. I was surprised to learn the world’s most popular goals include writing a blog, losing weight, and writing a book. Interesting. How blessed I am to accomplish two of those goals. (Remember, I like to eat bread.)

Whatever your goals, I leave you with this quote from Darren Hardy.

“Starting is not most people’s problem. Staying, continuing, and finishing is.”

In the words of Buddy the Beagle…. never give up.

At home, reading Return to Blueberry Street to my favorite beagle.

Are We There Yet?

“Some threads of our social fabric have changed forever.”

Do you ever wonder what life might be like if Covid 19 had never happened? Unfortunately, we will never know. One year has been wiped out of our lives. As difficult as the year has been, we have established new habits. We’ve become accustomed to a stilted way of life. One which is less social, less free, and less risky.

Why have we chosen comfort and safety above everything else? What happened to the bold Americans who explored unknown territory? Why do we still hesitate to venture into public without our masks and wash our hands countless times a day?

One year ago I wrote a post entitled Lessons from a National Emergency. Last March the entire country was under a stay at home order to “slow the spread.” Over the past year Florida eased many restrictions regarding social distancing. Public schools opened, as did restaurants and hair salons. However, many churches, and community organizations continue to meet virtually. Museums, if open, insist upon scheduling appointments to accommodate visitors. Businesses maintain mask policies, and many employees still work from home.

I believe some threads of our social fabric have changed forever. Virtual communication is here to stay. We are different now. It is so much easier to meet with someone on a screen. Driving somewhere to interact with people involves too much effort. We feel uncomfortable without our masks, and wonder… “what if the vaccines we receive do not protect us from a deadly variant?”

When our children were young, we rented a small trailer and took a road trip from Columbus, Ohio to Yellowstone. Prior to the trip, we prepared a child friendly map of the U.S. for each of them. We drew our route on the map and highlighted all of our stops. When we were on the trip the children placed a star sticker on each stop we made. We hoped it might help them to see how far we still needed to go before we were “there.”

In a similar way, most Americans can’t wait for the day when the pandemic ends. We all want to be “there.” Back to a time when we could enjoy a play in a crowded theatre or attend an indoor concert. (without a mask) The slow car ride to normality drags on. We feel disappointed when we hear our government say, “Put another sticker on the map, kids. Busy yourself by looking out the window.” Like you, I am bored with the view from the back seat and continue to ask, “Are we there yet?”

Be Like A Tree

The truth is I’m a tree hugger. Whether I’m admiring the knobby knees of a bald cypress, or the limbs of a towering live oak, trees are my thing. I’ve shared scores of photographs on this blog and written many poems about trees.

During my four years of camping and tromping through the state parks of Florida, I’ve seen many species of trees. Most of the parks in northern and central Florida include forests of longleaf pine.

Young long leaf pines flourish in a field of grass at Goldhead Branch.

How can a pine tree have leaves?

The longleaf pine is really an evergreen conifer. Its name originated from the needlelike “leaves” which develop in bundles of three. These needles grow up to 18 inches long. Unlike the bald cypress tree, the longleaf pine does not lose its needles in winter, and is not classified as deciduous.

The longleaf pine has a single trunk which is covered in thick scaly bark.

How can fire be an agent for growth?

Like many pine trees, the cones contain seeds which are dispersed by the wind. However, the seeds of the longleaf pine will never germinate unless they come in contact with soil. When the ground around each pine is thick with leaf litter and undergrowth, the seeds fail to produce new trees.

Longleaf pines need fire to keep producing more trees. If other windblown seeds from hardwood trees take root and grow, the longleaf pines are eventually choked out.

The restoration of longleaf pine forests have become a major conservation policy of the state parks. Unless a lighting strike produces a fire naturally, the park staff use controlled burns to remove the undergrowth. Fire does not damage the longleaf pine, which is also resilient to pests, windstorms, and drought.

When I heard this information from a guide at Highlands Hammock, I was surprised. I never thought fire could be so helpful. Forest fires illustrate how trials are necessary for new growth. Nature often reminds me of scripture.

“Blessed is the man who perseveres under trial, because when he has stood has test, he will receive the crown of life that God has promised to those who love him.” James 1:12 NIV

Forests like this covered seventy percent of Florida when the early settlers arrived.

Intelligent trees?

After the seed germinates, the longleaf pine focuses on growing strong roots. When its taproot reaches a length of twelve feet, the longleaf pine concentrates on growing taller. Longleaf pines reach a height of one hundred feet and can live for three hundred years. Doesn’t all growth rely upon a firm foundation? A forest like the one above provides a home for thirty endangered animal species including the red-cockaded woodpecker.

As you can see by reading this post, I have always been a teacher at heart. I hope I have inspired you to spend time outdoors. Nature has much to teach us.

Be like a tree…. stay grounded and keep growing.

Enjoying a walk with Buddy in the Pine Flatwoods of Highlands Hammock.

Small Beginnings

Arise my barren cypress

Lift your branches high

winter days of darkness

Are now in short supply.

You endured the many trials

Which robbed you of your cheer

Stripped of all your beauty,

you’ve aged another year.

Time will soon restore

the lushness of your leaves

to dance above the riverbank

with every summer breeze.

Arise my barren cypress

Your future is not grim

For countless tiny buds

slumber on each limb.

Dear Readers, A quiet walk in nature often brings encouragement and inspiration to my heart. I have taken many photos of cypress trees, but I did not see the beauty of a barren tree until today. I was reminded that faith is being certain of what we do not see. (Hebrews 11:1)

Are You a Creature of Comfort?

“The secret to a great campfire is in the wood.”

Winter camping brings challenges, as we discovered on our recent trip to Mike Roess Goldhead Branch in northern Florida.

The weather forecasted fifty-degree day time highs for our campout. Herb and I looked forward to this trip, but the thought of spending whole days in the trailer did not appeal to either of us. I am definitely a creature of comfort!

I checked my local Publix for firewood, since the wood they sell always burns well. Unfortunately, the store had none in stock, and an employee could not tell me when a delivery might arrive. (Another supply chain affected by Covid, of course.) Herb checked at Ace Hardware, and also came home empty handed.

I googled “firewood near me” and found a place located twenty miles away. Always the dutiful husband, Herb ventured out to see what the man had to offer. About an hour later he returned with at least thirty logs in the back of the jeep.

I helped Herb move the wood from the car into the trailer. “Great! This is enough wood to keep us warm until the cold snap ends. By the way, how much did it cost?”

“The man didn’t take a credit card.” Herb replied. “I told him all I had in cash was $18.00. He said that’s fine and took it.”

“What a deal!” I stored some of the wood in the shower of the trailer, while Herb stuffed as many logs as he could under the bed.

When we got to the campground, I cooked dinner while Herb positioned a few of the logs in the fire ring. There are two ways to build a fire. You can make the log cabin or the tee-pee. He built the tee-pee.

After dinner, we got ready for the grand lighting. Although Herb used a fire starter, the logs would not ignite. Instead they produced enough smoke to activate the smoke detector in the trailer. Eventually, we gave up trying to get the wood to burn and turned in for the night.

Ugh! This wood is bad.

The next morning we drove to the park entrance to buy more wood.

The park ranger was happy to oblige us. “Sure, we have just what you need.”

“Yes, but will it burn?”

“Our wood is kiln dried, guaranteed to burn.”

“Ok, I’ll take two bags.” Herb handed him $12.00.

After our hike we returned to the campsite to test the new wood. This time Herb built the tee-pee using the kiln dried wood. It burned right away. Success!

Then Herb started introducing the bad wood to the good wood. It too, started to burn. Yay!

The rest of the afternoon we continued to burn baby burn. What else were we to do with all of the bad wood? We were at the height of glory until…

Night fell along with rain. We took cover in our trailer. After a bit there was a knock on the door. I opened it to a park employee who informed me there was a boil water alert for the entire park. Apparently a water main broke and the campground drinking water became contaminated.

Although we’d brought some bottled water with us, I knew we didn’t have enough for the rest of our stay. So I set to work boiling water.

After the rain stopped, the wolf moon arrived along with bitter cold. But we were warm in our trailer as long as we used the propane heater.

After a hot breakfast of bacon and eggs, we decided to tour the park by car and pick up another bundle of wood to get through the day. The ranger was out, but the wood bin was unlocked. Herb dropped $6.00 in the mailbox with a note.

Back at the campsite, we spent the afternoon reading, warmed by the fire and the abundant sunshine.

By sunset we burned every stick of wood we had.

Our last night the temperature dropped to the mid-thirties. Before we we went to bed, Herb turned the thermostat to 65. We were low on propane because of all the water I boiled. I had a hard time sleeping because it was so cold in the trailer.

Some camping trips are remembered for beautiful scenery, others for people we’ve met, but this one deserves dual awards for the most expensive and the least comfortable.

I would be negligent to not mention the scenic features of this park. The property was donated by Mike Roess and developed by the Civilian Conservation Corps in the 1930’s. Gold Head Branch ravine, formed by seepage springs, divides the park and has been designated a State Natural Feature Site. The shady, moist, ravine is 65 feet deep and 1.5 miles long. We carried Buddy down the eighty-five steps to the stream. The boardwalk was perfect for a Buddy size hike.

Herb and Buddy strolling the boardwalk along the Gold Head Seep.

I leave you with this…Mike Roess Goldhead Branch sells excellent firewood!

Are You a Hugger?

If your answer is “YES,” I’m sure the past ten months have been difficult. Social distancing has made hugging a no-no.

I didn’t realize how much I miss hugging until I heard January 21 is National Hugging Day. Maybe that’s the problem in America lately. We need more love.

I hope you have someone within your circle of relationships you feel comfortable hugging. Did you know wrapping your arms around someone for twenty seconds releases a feel good hormone called oxytocin? Oxytocin is beneficial to our mental and physical health.

Hugging helps us by:

  • improving our sleep
  • reducing pain
  • reducing stress
  • lowering blood pressure
  • lowering the risk of heart disease
  • easing anxiety

In addition, people who enjoy more affectionate relationships are less likely to get sick!

Granted, many of us might not feel comfortable with a twenty second hug. (Personally, I’ve never timed my hugs.) A twenty second hug seems more appropriate for close relationships. At a time when handshakes are off limits, hugging anyone outside of our immediate family could be a social faux-pas.

Embracing our family members is important during these troubled and lonely times. When children see their parents embrace, they feel safe and secure. When children and teens receive hugs from their parents, they feel loved. Hugs encourage us in the midst of challenges, bolster our self esteem, and communicate support when words seem empty.

How many hugs a day do you give? How many do you receive? Virginia Satir was a pioneer in family therapy. She believed you can never receive too many hugs and families suffer when physical touch is absent from our interaction.

This is a short post about a simple action. Hugging is free and our supply is unlimited.

Have you hugged your loved ones today?

Thanks to Donna and Geren Baird for modeling the art of hugging.

The Captive

Wet flurries drift downward

commanded by the pull

of unyielding earth

intercepted

the lacy flakes can go no farther.

In quiet submission

snowfall blankets each backyard

painting the world a wintry white.

Giggles break the silence.

The spotless snow…

trampled and squeezed,

rolled into a boulder—commissioned to support a body

pierced with two sticks

each limb raised skyward to flag down help.

Nearing completion, the frozen man

tries to ‘keep his head’ in this desperate situation.

There, above the false smile and carrot nose,

two pleading eyes

look for the sun’s redemption

and the day when all things become new.

Dear Reader,

Thank you for reading my blog this year. I wish you all a happy and healthy 2021. A new year when we finally escape the captivity of the Coronavirus pandemic. In many ways, I am like the snowman in this poem. Held captive by forces beyond my control. I look to Jesus for redemption and the day when we will all be free.

The Business Side of Writing

Perseverance is the theme of 2020

I’ve met many people who write. Some have unfinished projects hidden away in the closets of their mind. When they speak about writing, they tilt their heads to one side with an expression of longing. Then they usually let out a sigh, snap out of their fantasy, and don’t elaborate much. I always wonder what made them give up on their dream. Did the pursuit of publication seem too difficult?

Writing demands bold perseverance. In order to succeed you must finish your manuscript. The next step is convincing an editor your book should be published. Once your book is released, the glory of being an “author” slowly diminishes. Now you begin the hard work of eternal marketing. As long as your book is print, you’re married to it. It’s a “till death do we part” kind of relationship.

Most writers are not salespersons. Once I heard something from a seasoned author. “If you don’t promote your book, no one else will.” His words stuck with me and have prompted me to strike up conversations about my work with strangers. Anytime Buddy (my beagle) is with me these conversations become easier. Whenever we take a walk folks ask me about his red boots. (The best thing about being an author is being an author who writes stories about her dog.)

Buddy and I love meeting people. For the past ten months all of our public appearances were cancelled due to the pandemic. Until now.

I’m excited to announce I will be selling and signing copies of Buddy the Beagle on Blueberry Street and my latest release, Return to Blueberry Street at the Conway Community Market.

Location: Conway United Methodist Church 3401 South Conway Road Orlando FL 32812

The outdoor market will be open from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.

Come out and meet us! And if you wonder who I am under my face mask, you can take a look at my headshot on the back cover of my books.

“A book that can be enjoyed by all ages, this story is filled with life lessons, character tests, and love.”—Amazon reviewer

“Buddy engages readers on a new adventure, while teaching many of life’s important lessons. A great complement to any classroom.”—Amazon reviewer

* If you do not live in the Orlando area, or are unable to attend our book signing, click here to purchase.

Dear Reader, I leave you with this quote…

“And by the way, everything in life is writable about if you have the outgoing guts to do it, and the imagination to improvise. The worst enemy to creativity is self-doubt.”
― Sylvia Plath

Remembering “The Good Old Days”

“When we face challenges, human nature makes us think we were happier in the past.”

Now that I’m a senior citizen, I tend to do what seniors have always done. We romanticize the past. We say things like:

“The good old days were better than now.” I wish I could go back to the eighties.” (or seventies, or sixties)

“I wish I looked like I did ten, twenty, or thirty years ago. I used to be much thinner.”

“In my younger days I was a champion __________.” (Fill in the blank with any sport you want.)

I have to admit, so many changes have happened in 2020, I’m beginning to consider the year 2019 part of the good old days. Was it just last year I took a Viking River Cruise in France? Now the experience seems like a dream.

I don’t think 2020 will ever qualify as a candidate for the good old days. Will we have fond memories of wearing masks, social distancing, and cancellations? I doubt it. When we face challenges in the present, human nature makes us think we were happier in the past.

For years I’ve turned to Scripture to begin my day. Sometimes I underline verses which stand out to me. Once in awhile I write the date next to the verse. It’s as if the Holy Spirit is speaking to me personally and saying “Hey Debbie, you need to remember this.”

On July 8, 2012 I underlined this verse. “Do not say, “Why were the old days better than these? For it is not wise to ask such questions.” Ecclesiastes 8:3

So why did the author (possibly Solomon) think it unwise to romanticize the past? Was it because romanticizing the past breeds greater dissatisfaction with the present?

Paul the apostle wrote, “I have learned the secret of being content in every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or want.” Philippians 4:12

How? The next verse tells his secret. “I can do everything through him who gives me strength.” v. 13

When we are weak, Christ is strong. When we are unable, Christ is able to sustain us. When we focus on the past, we miss the joy which can still be found today. We may not be able to control our circumstances, but we can control our own thoughts. Nothing, not even a pandemic, can separate us from Christ’s love. And he is waiting for us to seek him in prayer.

At last, 2020 is coming to an end. Will 2021 be just as challenging? I want to remember 2020 as the year I found contentment in spite of my circumstances.

Dear Reader, thank you for your time and attention. I would love to dialogue with you regarding your sentiments about this year. Has 2020 taught you something about yourself? Leave a comment.