Writers write. That’s what I tell myself as I notice the new growth on the viburnum hedge just under my window. It’s what I remind myself when neighbors stroll by with their Labradors and miniature poodles. And it’s what motivates me as I confirm my next writing deadline.
But writing doesn’t take the place of living. I don’t want to limit my writing to covering other people’s experiences. So, after living in this beautiful part of Florida for more than twelve years, today I finally drove ten minutes to Halpatioke Park with a friend, rented a kayak for the first time, and paddled up a lazy river.
Oh. My. Goodness. The South Fork of the St. Lucie River is also known as Lost River. Now I understand why. This portion of the peaceful waterway meanders in a series of twists and turns within the seclusion of Halpatioke Regional Park. It’s a hidden treasure of Martin County, hosting an abundance of flora and fauna to delight the senses.
Nestled in our kayaks, we paddled, then coasted, then paddled some more. Water swirled around each dip of the paddles as we found our rhythm. The scenery pulled us in, farther and farther. Palms, cypress, and pines stood tall against their shimmering reflections in a picture of symmetrical grandeur. Shrubs, ferns, and dead branches populated the shoreline in a natural panorama of intertwined clutter hugging the shoreline.
We intruded on the habitat of reptiles and fowl who tolerated our presence and shared their bit of paradise with human interlopers.
The eight-foot alligator floating in the water didn’t move as we glided past, although he didn’t have to – we considered him menacing enough. Later, other kayakers told us “he” is a “she” – they had seen several babies around her. Yet another reason to give her wide berth. Later, a second, slightly smaller alligator lost patience with our presence and submerged in a seeming huff.
The painted turtle sunning himself on a partially immersed branch didn’t appear concerned as I stopped to photograph him. He stretched his neck high as the sun’s rays warmed him. Another turtle – perhaps a slider – was clearly disturbed by our trespass. He dipped back into the water before I could ready my camera.
A pair of yellow crowned night herons swooped down in front of us, landed on a tree branch, and watched with a wary eye. On our return, one of them held several twigs in his (her?) mouth. Not sure if they were constructing a new home or remodeling an existing one. Either way, they were building it together.
Occasionally, a fish jumped out of the water and landed with a splash. Was he doing it just because he could, or was he rushing to escape his position in the food chain? What might have been chasing him? A snapping turtle? An alligator? On second thought, I’d rather not know.
The return trip seemed shorter, perhaps because we didn’t take the long way around one of the islands on the way back – although that little detour only added to our delightful experience. I was disappointed when houses came into view, informing us our excursion was just about over.
As General MacArthur said, “I will return.” Not to conquer, but to be conquered by this slice of heaven with which God has blessed us. And I don’t need to travel halfway around the world to find it. It’s in my own backyard.
What local activities have you been meaning to experience? Do it today!