Fred smiled. At least I think he did. It's hard to tell when alligators smile. It was daytime, warmer than usual for this time of year at Myakka State Park. Alligators snooze in the daytime, digesting what they've eaten in the night.
Myakka State Park 2012
"What do they eat?" the guide prompted us. "Anything that moves." We sat especially still, smiles frozen on our faces at the joke that was not a joke.
We were headed out on Myakka Lake to see more wildlife. Our cheerful guide went on to explain that there had been no officially documented alligator attacks at the lake, citing the lack of documentation provided by successful alligators. Those little keys on the computer are particularly difficult for 8-12 foot long reptiles who are, ok, let's just admit it here, illiterate. How would the alligator begin to report the attack? As a description of gourmet dining? Certainly the person involved would not report it.
'Wiggly, jiggly, with some crunchy parts marked 'Canon'. Thrashed a bit and made a fuss. Tastes a bit like the javelina although more tender once you get past the annoying textile coverings. Not a snack but a full meal. On the whole, however, I prefer the anhinga for its bite-sized portions.'
I doubted Fred was the food editor for the Myakka Alligator Herald somehow. I wondered what alligators dream of during the day. Food, I figure.
Fred continued to smile as we left the dock and moved out into the lake.
We begin now the Chinese year of the water dragon and it was not lost upon me that I was hoping for an alligator encounter of the photographic kind, only, at the Water Dragon time when Fred and his family are my closest representation.
My husband and I have traveled to Florida to spend time with his cousin Margaret and pursue wildlife photography. Margaret is the self-proclaimed family matriarch, formidable herself without the least bit of comparison to dragons or alligators. She has survived much in her life. She is deeply religious. She cooks killer breakfasts and dinners. She will pass on wildlife of any kind.
"I like people," Margaret says. "Is it so awful that I don't want to hear stories about your cat or dog?" Margaret does not come with us on our wildlife photography forays.
Florida is one of my favorite places to visit because of its natural beauty. True, my idea of nature and beauty is skewed because my childhood was spent there in the oaks, pines and palms, the veils of Spanish moss, the birdsong and abundant water. There seems to be less and less of the Florida I knew as a child since that joke about selling swampland in Florida for housing developments isn't really a joke. It's a good thing Margaret likes people. Good grief, they are everywhere! Little grey and white haired people having a wonderful time in their retirement in deed-restricted communities have taken over the swamplands with their houses and condos, many of them also lovers of the natural beauty of the place. But it's still not as crowded as California and the yards are often long, the yards uncurbed and rimned with sand, the driveways filled with fossil seashells dug from the interior quarries. It is still a place I love despite its changes.
|Myakka Lake, Florida|
I used up batteries and storage chips as we floated past the ibis, roseate spoonbill, bald eagle, pairs of sandhill crane, wood stork, pelicans, grebes, egrets both great and snowy, herons blue, tri-color and Great Blue. The wild boar, let loose by early settlers, rooted by the lakeshore while deer clung closer to the edges of the clearing. Another alligator, this one in the water, appeared. We circled it. It swam under us. We were properly horrified and fascinated at the same time. Towards sunset, all of us seemed to be looking for a drink. We putted back to our "crash landing" at the dock, Fred still in full snooze.
In the tarot, the Fool is without preconceived notions or plan. He is not particularly prepared for what's around the corner. His attention is likely on what is just under his nose and not necessarily what is just beyond his feet. There is information all around him. If he is fortunate, he learns something on his journey. If he is more fortunate, he has a helpful companion to warn him of danger and encourage him along the way. If he is even more fortunate, he experiences the terrible beauty of the world and all its wonders. He is subject to surprise.
|Victorian Trade Card Tarot|
(c) Copyright 2010 Marcia McCord
I expected to see all the wonderful birds and hoped to photograph them. I had hoped for some alligator shots and was delighted when we had lots of opportunities. What I didn't expect was the warning handed out at the Myakka State Park entry.
Apparently, the black vultures (not the same bird as a turkey vulture with the red heads) are particularly fond of snacking on anything made of rubber particularly towards sunset. They eat your windshield wipers and edges around your car windows. The park cannot be responsible. They just want you to know.
We speculated on how we would word the insurance claim. We weren't sure our account and the warning provided by the park would be enough to explain the situation. I took a photo of the vultures waiting for sunset, perched in a tree, seemingly selecting their car from the shady parking lot. I felt vaguely like a dupe on a snipe hunt but animals do some pretty crazy things. They are almost as crazy as tourists.