NATURE WORKS MAGIC

dsc03807A weekend spent enjoying the wonders of where we live helped fight the anxiety of the past few months. Nature always rejuvenates me and inspires me to continue. If the bald eagle, the great blue heron, the white ibis, and the anhinga can survive the loss of habitat and invasion by humans, then I can survive the political turmoil occurring wherever I turn, except when I’m surrounded by blue skies, water, and wildlife. Enjoy my little photo journey and inhale its curative powers. (Photos by P.C. Zick from St. Marks Wildlife Refuge and Wakulla Springs State Park, both lovely spots less than thirty minutes from our home in Tallahassee.)

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Snow Inspires Florida Writer

DSC03106I woke to a fairyland of snow-covered trees and lawn on a day when I thought I would be waking up to the marsh and swampland of the Everglades.

I’d planned a writer’s retreat while my husband attended a conference in Reno. We began by spending a week with my daughter and her boyfriend in St. Augustine, after driving there from Pennsylvania the week before Thanksgiving. We played in the surf, walked the beach, walked across the Vilano Bridge to Ponce de Leon’s Fountain of Youth site. And then we shared a Thanksgiving dinner with family and friends in Flagler College’s dining hall, replete with one of the largest collections of Tiffany glass in the world. The college is housed in the former Ponce de Leon Hotel, Henry Flagler’s showpiece of grand architecture, art, and opulence during the Gilded Age. My daughter graduated from Flagler in 2005, so it was a grand setting with a bit of nostalgia. The food was tasty and the company even better.

wood stork

wood stork

As our week progressed, the weather warmed. But my husband’s condition that first surfaced in Mexico returned, and we were forced to cancel our plans and come home five days earlier than planned.

As I looked out at the snow-covered yard, I was struck by the beauty of the whiteness against the stark background of naked tree limbs.

We spent those unexpected days at home with no plans or deadlines and delved into keeping warm and getting my husband well.

In the week since we returned, I’ve completed the first third of my new novel, Native Lands. It might be true what writer Harry Crews always said. He needed to write about growing up in Georgia away from there.

Perhaps being in the setting of the Everglades would have distracted me from the work. As the wood storks, great blue herons, and snowy egrets foraged for food in the swamp, my eyes would be glued to them and not to the laptop screen. The gators sunning on the edge of the water and fish slowly swimming by the dock would have occupied my time instead of the writing. The kingfishers, pelicans, and ibis might have forced me to photograph them rather than working on my manuscript.

ibis roaming in a yard in Tarpon Springs, Florida

The warmth of a November day in the Everglades would make me sit with my feet up, a beer in my hand on a lounge chair overlooking the mangrove and cypress trees dripping in Spanish moss. It’s much easier to write when I’m forced to stay inside.

I’ll go back, hopefully in February, for another try. This time I’ll have more of my novel done and during  my time in St. Augustine and Everglades City, I’ll spend time on plenty of porches and sandy beaches warming my toes in the sun checking my facts on whether the surf is stronger at sunrise or sunset and determine whether the pelican or the great blue heron fascinate me more on a lazy afternoon.

That’s good research in any book I write.dsc00466.jpg

A Love Affair with Birds

great blue heron in the salt marshes of Florida

By Patricia Zick @PCZick

My grandmother taught me a love of birds many years ago back in Michigan. She had a bird feeder right outside the window so she could see it from her chair in the living room. She kept bird books on the table there and I loved to visit her in the winter to watch the colorful birds come to the white-covered feeder.

When I moved to Florida, I continued my love affair. I’m not an expert, but I know I admire birds, especially large ones. The great blue heron is found near any type of water, but I thought it was only in Florida. When I moved to Pennsylvania two years ago, I discovered they are year-round residents here as well. One morning when I woke in my new house, I looked outside the French doors in my bedroom to the balcony railing. A great blue was perched there looking down at the small pond below as small gold fish swam unaware of the danger lurking above. Too bad my camera was in another room.

Great blues forage alone so it was with surprise that I saw two flying over us as we cruised on the Beaver River recently. I assumed they must be migratory here, but according to the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, they are year-round residents in much of the continental United States.

great blue heron on Beaver River in western Pennsylvania

Right now, the males are searching for places to nest in the trees, which provides an explanation of why these two kept perching on tree limbs instead of the usual foraging on the banks of the river. It also explains why these two traveled as a pair. Most likely, the male is looking for the right platform while enticing the female to join him.

We also saw a great egret on the river the same day.

great egret on Beaver River in western Pennsylvania

I’d never seen one of those in Pennsylvania, but they are abundant in Florida. These are migratory birds, but usually travel in flocks so I’m not sure why this one was alone. According to Cornell, during mild winters the great egret will remain in the north. We did have a mild winter last year. In that case, the male may have been doing the same thing as the great blue: looking for a nesting site in the tree. Then again, this great egret may have just been resting for a bit before heading to its winter home in the south. No matter the reason, it’s good to see the great egret here. At one time, they almost disappeared because women’s fashion required their plumes in gilded age hats of the late nineteenth century.

This time of year anywhere in the world, is a great time to see the birds preparing for the change in season.