WEEK THIRTY-SIX: INSPIRATION

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Clyde Butcher first visited Florida several decades ago.  Enchanted by its singular beauty, he stayed and began taking pictures, offering them for sale on the Florida art show circuit.  His reputation grew quickly. Butcher is known mostly for his large black and white images of the Everglades, where he made his home for many years and where he still has a gallery. But his portfolio includes unique and stunning images made in many other areas of the state and across the US.

This week I reacquainted myself with Butcher’s work and found myself inspired – inspired to make more black and white images, inspired to plan a week exploring the Everglades, and inspired to drive out to the end of our own Ozello Road, where the Gulf of Mexico meets salt marsh, in search of iconic summer cloud formations.

I do subscribe to the idea that part of one’s purpose in life is to inspire others. But it is just so much fun to be inspired. It is truly one of life’s guilty pleasures.  Thank you, Mr. Butcher (www.clydebutcher.com).

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WEEK THIRTY-FIVE: BEATING THE HEAT

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It is suddenly summer here in Florida. Mornings have turned sultry. There’s a warm heaviness to the air, threaded with the mild scent of jasmine, and even before dawn one can feel the low rumble of thunderstorms building far out in the Gulf. By noon, the searing heat is unbearable.  A loud chorus of crickets sings its tribute to the season – a throbbing one-note chant. By late afternoon, all that energy has been captured in onshore thunderheads and is released in a torrent of rain, followed by near-sauna conditions.

There are precious few options for beating the heat. One can simply stay inside, of course – an option that was not available before air conditioning came, none-too-soon, to the southern states. Minimizing clothing helps a bit, and old-timers advise against any type of physical activity while the sun is high. Of course, the very best way to forget about temperature is to simply get wet.

When I was young, my sister and I and the neighborhood kids played a brilliant guessing game. We sat cross-legged in a circle. One child announced that she was thinking of something, a color for instance. Each child then, in circular order, had a chance to guess what that color might be. If you guessed it correctly, a thimble full of ice-cold water was abruptly delivered to your face. It was exhilarating, we dissolved into giggles and the heat was forgotten in no time.

WEEK THIRTY-FOUR: SACRED GROUND

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A kayak is the best way to get up close to the low-lying cedar and palm forest that is defined by our river, the Homosassa.  This wood is unlike any other I’ve seen and brings to my mind an ancient and untended graveyard.  It feels like sacred ground to me.

I’m drawn to these cedar carcasses, each with its own character, and each looking as if it had been struck down prematurely and instantly preserved, like a doomed citizen of Pompeii.  A.E. Hausman’s poem, To an Athlete Dying Young, springs to mind:

And round that early-laurelled head
Will flock to gaze the strengthless dead,
And find unwithered on its curls
The garland briefer than a girl’s.

WEEK THIRTY-THREE: CARPE DIEM

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For the most part, flowers strike me as happily receptive.  They are open to the universe and ready to meet the day regardless of what it brings.  I do get that carpe diem is advice that most of us need from time to time.  But you have to admit that it is a stressful and aggressive way to exist.  “Seize” is not a relaxing word.

What about simply meeting the day, being completely receptive to it?  “Meet the day” has more appeal to me.  It’s so Zen, so without stress or expectations, so natural.  And so full of the potential for pleasant surprise.  One can simply sit quietly, without pretense or plan, and either deal with or delightedly soak in whatever happens.

I suspect this means I’m approaching retirement or at least a career change.