A small yellow flower peeping up from a bed of moss and last year's oak leaves is often the first glimpse of spring where I live. Carolina jessamine is a glorious twining vine that lives happily cheek-to-cheek with oak trees. It climbs high up, seeking the sun, and its first blossoms fall to the ground, calling my eye upward for the message: the light has come. Spring may not be here just yet, but it is close, oh, very close. Creating contrast for the jessamine at treetop-level is the clear blue sky so typical of this time of year, clean as a soul's salvation and as welcome. You can't see it in this picture, but you'll see it in the canopy of oak trees further down the page.
It was a day of contrasts, illustrated by the clear weather at home this morning that gave way to a low, moist fog, waiting to soften the edges of the view as soon as we stepped onto the beach. The fog didn't really pull back its long grey fingers until past noon. As we walked off the beach around 1 pm, it was still visible in the distance, settled between the rows of dunes separating the Atlantic from A1A. Because of the weather the beach was nearly deserted until afternoon, but we happened upon couple who share our simple joy in a good walk in a beautiful place, Irene and Joe, seasonal visitors. They were watching for whales, looking for sharks' teeth, and unsuspecting targets of Bandit's ongoing social outreach program. We met them both south- and northbound on their walk and chatted for a bit at both intersections, in contrast to most beach walks, where we keep our own counsel or talk to each other in the easy shorthand of the long-married. It's funny how chance meetings and conversations with strangers can deepen your appreciation for the smallest things, including the presence of a veritable paradise right in your own backyard.
Contrasts and simple pleasures lingered into the afternoon for us. The peace under the oak canopy was interestingly cracked and broken by the sights and sounds of aircraft, including several really loud passes by at least two sets of planes flying in very close formation, moving so fast it was difficult to catch sight of them through the branches and the Spanish moss moving in the wind.
Aircraft or not, the pileated woodpecker pair continued their work, indifferent to the disturbance, and as the afternoon wore toward evening, the barred owls called "Who? Who? Who cooks for youuuuuu...?" right over the whine of jet engines, taking not the least notice.
The cool damp of the morning fog had by this time given way to a spring day warm enough for the taking off of sweaters. The dogs found puddles of bright sunlight and stretched into afternoon naps. My dear old person and I strolled around the estate, noting the tiny hints of spring. Besides the Carolina jessamine, which fairly burst into bloom two or three days ago, we have camellias blooming at long last.
Those of you who love Ms. Moon's camellias will find no similar expertise here, for I have but one variegated camellia that doesn't take itself very seriously. But its blossoms carry the same promise of spring throughout their very tightly wound winter wait, and are as eagerly anticipated. We found one very tiny perfect fig leaf open on one of the fig trees, small buds on the cherry tree, and the first of the wild violets I love most of all, the delicate flower nestled among its heart-shaped leaves, waiting to be noticed.
Another small, non-botanical flower reached me today, too: my constant nagging about using social media to put a spotlight on GTM NERR is being kindly received, and it may be that I can lend a hand...stay tuned. For now, you can find all the news and events in the newsletter and PAY ATTENTION: whether you're a photographer or a walker or a fossil collector or take an interest in local environmental issues, or are a history buff, there's something in here for you. There are photo safaris, organized walks, visits to Marineland (the "Matanzas" part of "Guana Tolomato Matanzas") and lectures on specific topics...hell, there's even a beach walk, focused on understanding the delicate ecological subsystems we probably don't even think about on our many excursions to this very spot.
As the day fades gently into evening, the theme of contrast echoes once more, carried on the sharp edge of the cooling air. The pools of warm sunshine have disappeared into oak shadows and I need a sweater once again. Time to put chicken on the grill, time to wash greens for a salad, time to check with my dear old person and our dear boy about slicing strawberries. Time to go in for the night, my dears, and wish you sweet dreams and beautiful Sundays.