Posted by: floridanature | August 29, 2008

The Gators are Coming! So are the Angry Squirrels

I walked down to Lake Monroe last night to see the river rise. It didn’t disappoint me, as it has now washed over the south bulkhead around the enlargement in the St. Johns that is a lake.

Couldn’t get to the sidewalk that trails along the “River Walk” of Sanford between the nice, fancy swings and the lake since it was under water. So too was the road that winds along the shore.

I zigzagged along the edge, trying to keep from getting wet. The river was actually flowing downstream atop the street. The yellow line in the middle looked a bit eerie under a foot or so of tea-colored river water. Down the street—upstream—four mallards were swimming atop the inundated center line, in the midst of water lettuce and hyacinths. I looked for gators, but am guessing they were somewhere else, just fulfilling their gator destiny, likely terrorizing our citizenry, etc. They are lower than us on the food chain, if only for a little while, and are rightfully pissed about that.

A few homeless guys were sleeping nearby on some concrete picnic tables that were above water, and back in the road, two largemouth bass—one almost five pounds—floated, dead.

I slogged past a Fox News truck with one of those tall, skinny transmission towers unsheathed, and a video camera on a tripod facing the lake, no one there to operate it. The operator was safely inside the truck, just shooting some extended “B roll” of the flood, as if something mysteriously might rise up from it since the camera was on and running. Comes out of the same philosophy of leaving a camera trained on people—sooner or later, someone will utter a soundbite worth keeping, perhaps something profound, or since this was Fox, something profoundly inept. Nature, bless her heart, is thankfully more inscrutable and less predictable.

I looked at the Orlando Sentinel, our local paper—or what remains of it— online earlier this morning. And I saw this nifty killer graph at the top of one of its flood-coming stories:

“Now it’s time to brace for roving alligators. And killer ants. And massive mosquito swarms. And angry, frazzled squirrels.”

Okay, I understand the editors were trying to be ironic. Nonetheless, it sounded as if George Romero had stopped making zombie films and was now writing for our daily newspaper. I briefly tried to picture an angry, frazzled squirrel, and wondered absently if it was now running with the roving band of alligators and killer ants, all edgy and ready to do damage.

Been hearing from friends around Florida. A lot of men worry about property damage, economic loss, another blow to the Florida public “image”, and so on. Four very smart women, three of whom actually live on the river or tributaries of it, approached the “flood” with far more aplomb. Two have had a tributary sweep through their yards for a few days now, while a third who lives on a larger tract of land has 53 of 54 acres underwater. Only a high spot where the house is located remains dry. Her take on it was incredibly brave and refreshing: She enjoyed the peace and solitude of living on a newly formed island, and understood the energy the river had to remake itself, to become wild and unrestricted by the conceits of man once again.

A fourth woman, who lives inland, a scientist with an appreciation for the spirit and art of our strange Florida wilderness, worries that folks regard a “flood” as a terrible and dangerous affair, rather than seeing it as another incarnation of a natural system. The river, she told me, surges rather than floods. I’m betting that’s how the Native Americans, long here before we made them vanish, likely saw it as well.

The seasons of Florida were always wet and dry, and not the four marketable Hallmark events known back on the continent. We see “floods” because we build roads and houses in places where the Timucua would have only camped. We somehow have lost the language needed to more realistically describe our natural world. We’ve compromised the river’s wateshed with hard surfaces, and by doing so, keep rainfall from soaking in the ground.

T.S. Eliot nailed it a while ago: “The river is a strong, brown god; sullen, untamed, intractable.”

I’m trying to picture this as a headline in our paper, but the image of an angry, frazzled half mad squirrel keeps getting in the way.

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Responses

  1. That was a damn good story. Wildlife under stress can do most anything, as can us people. Keep up the Good Work !


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