Sometimes, a promise is all we have. What we have is what we hold. Consider spring. We put it on the calendar as if to anchor it. It is the promise for waiting out a long winter.
And for most of the United States, winter has worn thin in the mind while its ice shows no sign of a thaw. Even here in northern Florida and much of the South, winter’s freeze stuns.
I have to admit that increasingly spring’s promise seems a bit soggier and a bit colder but with each passing year, my memory is not as sharp. I always remember the previous spring as warmer for I am at that stage of life where warmer temperatures are preferred.
Regardless, when a dear friend came to visit this past week, we explored winter in Florida’s panhandle, along the Gulf coast, aside stilled rivers, and glimpsed the infrequent inhabitant that also ventured out on a winter’s day.
We wrapped ourselves around winter temperatures—I complained; she did not–but the promise of spring never left either one of us.
It is one of the many treasures of a lifelong friendship that in seeing new lands, old lands are remembered, different as each is. In the discovering, memory replays moments long forgotten. In the creation of new memories, the old are perhaps even more golden.
We grew up knowing rivers of the Rocky Mountains, clear and chatty, sometimes white in their rapids. In north Florida we visited blackwater rivers mostly, their own southern brew of organic acids and tannins.
On a particularly brisk day we “went down upon” the Suwannee River; she is deep enough that steamboats once paddled her strong currents. In these days, wooden gliders afford the visitor a comfortable seat for reflection.
The Ochlockonee River (“yellow waters”) intersects with the Dead River, perhaps so named because its movement is barely perceptible. Together, the two make their way to the Gulf of Mexico.
The Ochlockonee State River Park is one of the most pristine parks I have visited in Florida and is particularly rich in wildlife, some whose existence were unknown to me such as the white squirrel.
The “history” of the white squirrel is rich and varied, sometimes involving King Charles of Spain (1499) while other explanations are more scientific and involve gene mutation. We enjoyed all the brochure stories and went in search of the white squirrel.
After some unsuccessful searching–we saw not a squirrel–we decided to ask a park ranger. Memories of past explorations reminded us we might not be in the right location but we were among the live oaks, prime squirrel territory regardless of color.
What we did not have was a bag of chips to shake. Yet, we are a resourceful duo and are not given to giving up. While I rested, my friend walked among the live oaks, crinkling a bit of cellophane from a tissue package.
It was only as we began to drive away that we spotted a bit of white at the base of a live oak. It did not move—we almost did—before it did. While the squirrel snacked on acorns— underwhelmed at our presence–we worked with the digital overload of our cameras.
For me, focus is always a challenge. Mine is the “aim, shoot, and hope” philosophy of photography. That may be why I prefer shots of the sea for no matter where I focus, there is always a wave.
On some days the Gulf chopped, white capping in stark contrast to its tannic underbelly. Here, spring seemed a distant promise. Off the shores of St. George, a barrier island, the clear Gulf waters lazily made their way to shore, as if to say spring is on its way–in its own time—as promised.
For now, a winter’s day and a white squirrel.
KM Huber is a writer who learned Zen from a beagle. She believes the moment is all we ever have, and it is enough. In her early life as a hippie, she practiced poetry, and although her middle years were a bit of a muddle, she remains an overtly optimistic sexagenerian, writing prose. She blogs at kmhubersblog.com, may be followed on Twitter @KM_Huber or contacted by email at writetotheranch[at]gmail[dot]com.