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During a recent visit to Mexico Beach – a tiny gem situated alongside some of the most beautiful and benign waters in the Gulf of Mexico – a friend showed up brandishing a shiny new metal detector. One of my many secret desires is to own a metal detector, so I pushed myself leapt out of the Adirondack chair in which I had faithfully lounged for the past hour or so. “What’s that?” I inquired, wide-eyed and sidling up close to the object of desire.
My friend, a serene and gracious person, was unperturbed by my eagerness. With a beautiful smile, she explained it was her new metal detector and unselfishly handed over the device. With wide sweeps and satisfying beeps I quickly detected 3 bottle caps, a wine bottle foil, and a nail buried in the sand. Quickly bored contented with my findings, I handed the detector back to my friend, who strolled along the beach in search of fresh treasures.
Later that evening, after my friend departed for higher-yielding territories, our friend and hostess Weepy joined my partner and me on the deck for cocktails. Weepy had a story to tell. It seems that earlier that day she observed a tourist cutting sea oats on the beach. “He must have been semi-gay – carefully cutting each plume and arranging then admiring the bouquet held in his fist,” said Weepy. (Note, the semi-gay comment was not meant to disparage, but merely describe the plunderer’s methodology.)
Weepy was incensed. Having lived beachfront for many years and survived plenty of storms, she knows just how important the berms of sea oats are to her property and her community. My mind wandered as she continued to rant about the miscreant who dared defy Florida state law and risk a $500 fine for a vase full of sea oats.
I began to imagine Weepy as a super hero – defender of dunes, sister to sea oats, avenger of blight – racing down the beach in tall white boots stenciled with sea oats and a bright green cape billowing in her wake! As I created this vision, I began to realize that the lovely sea oats that grace the beach are indeed treasures worthy of our protection. Moreover, people like Weepy, who care enough to defy interlopers and defend the ecological balance, are also treasures to be commended and emulated.
As I idled through the next few days, I discovered many other treasures on the Forgotten Coast. Among them are an Osprey flying close by clutching a fish in her talons, early morning deer tracks in the sand, the soft Gulf waters warming me as I cast my fly rod into the swell, thousands of frolicking mullet fish that have never taken my fly, millions of sea shells, and some of the most beautiful sunrises and sunsets the planet offers.
If you are interesting in visiting this area, I recommend Weepy’s Gull Haven. For more information, please leave a comment.
If there’s only one attribute to ascribe to the Great Blue Heron, perhaps it is perseverance. I’ve watched solitary herons stand in shallow water for long stretches of time as if turned to stone – waiting, watching for the next small vertebrate to flow within reach. Then, the strike! In a heartbeat a fish is caught and gulped down the heron’s long sinewy throat. The process is repeated many times until the sated heron folds her neck into an S, spreads her wings, lifts her feet from the river’s edge and with an emphatic squawk and extended legs trailing, sets sail for her roost in the highest boughs of a longleaf pine.
The heron is an accomplished fisher and hunter. When small fry and other aquatic life are not at hand, the heron stalks mice, insects, snakes and other terrestrials for its sustenance. During breeding season, this is especially beneficial as both heron parents must consume up to four times as much food as normal when building nests, mating and feeding their young chicks. In fact, in all things, the heron excels. And why shouldn’t she? With ancestry dating back to dinosaurs, herons have had plenty of time to hone their skills.
I admire the dogged heron’s stick-to-it-iveness. She has learned the best methods for nest building, mating (herons are monogamous), rearing her young and of course, fishing. The heron doesn’t lay around in the nest and thus be late for choice fishing time. She does not need to decide which type tackle she’ll use on any particular excursion… fly rod or spinning reel, light weight or heavy, live bait or plastics? The fact of the matter is that the heron has no use for thousands of dollars worth of boats, rods, tackle, bait, etc. She knows ONE WAY to catch fish, she’s done it THAT WAY for a lifetime and it’s KISS.
Ah, the simple heron – paragon of determination. Had I followed her example of single-mindedness, I might have actually excelled at doing one thing very well. As a business woman, I could have been blue-chip. I could have stood out as a prize-winning writer, an exemplary parent, an exceptional artist, a blue-ribbon gardener, a fantastic lover, a television chef, and without a doubt a splendiferous bass master.
With extraordinary conceit, I have considered myself a Renaissance woman. I am an idle poet. I’ve written three unfinished novels; owned, operated and abandoned two successful businesses; embarked upon innumerable careers including used car sales, cabinet-maker, artist, insurance clerk, special events maven, and charity fund-raiser. I am a half-fast boat skipper, have single-parented one adultescent, lost and gained hundreds of pounds, and of course, own all the fishing tackle Bass World has to sell.
My latest project, which has recently been supplanted by the writing of this blog, is hand-painting renderings of fishing fly patterns. I am beginning to believe if not for my unending impatience (aka Adult ADHD) to move on to the next big thing, by now I could have reached the apogee of achievement. Or at least been able to retire with my sweetie and a comfortable little nest egg.
As my mother (G-d rest her soul) admonished: be happy with what you have. The heron is. And today, I am too.