Posted by: floridanature | March 5, 2009

Spring Arrives; Not with a Bang, but with Tiny Secrets

The seasons are changing now in Florida, a reality most snowbirds and newcomers often fail to acknowledge. Casual visitors to our odd, elongated state carry with them the memories of a continent where the four Hallmark seasons are clearly defined.scarlethibiscujpg

I’m convinced a great part of Florida’s inability to grab tourists and newcomers and to enlist them in our larger community has to do with this. Florida is not only subtle when it comes to seasonal changes: With over 50,000 miles of river, almost 7,000 lakes and a marsh-swamp habitat that covers at least 30 percent of our landscape, it is also driven by the sacred stories of biology.

Geology, like that found back north in foothills and valleys and mountain ranges, seems majestically obvious. A wetland—by spring or winter—seems, well, mysterious, a place that hides its secrets well. The Chamber of Commerce folks, used to tooting horns to over-hype almost everything to do with growth and development, must have a tough time with the cryptic ornamentation that brings our Springtime to life here.

fern on a stick: bald cypress

fern on a stick: bald cypress

Like seasonal transformation out in the woods, my own backyard also reflects the nuanced arrival of Spring time: Tiny bright green needles begin to burst from the trunks and branches of the two bald cypress trees next to the pond. They will be full of this green, soon, and by doing so, will become iconic of a more ancient geological time. Indeed, a newly reforested cypress looks for all the world like a giant fern on a very large and elegant stick. It endures, a retro vision of how all the world used to be.

In my pond, the skinny blades of the river iris (purple flag) are beginning to bulge with their own Spring growth, wrinkles in the green growing larger almost every day. Soon, the spectacular purple iris blossom will burst to life. By then, the leopard frogs and Southern toads who live down in the benthic mud in the pond bottom, will emerge by night and begin their courting songs. The two small black racers who live inside this enfenced sanctuary will move around more, breeding, making more little snakes to hide and to enchant.

riveririsIn the little garden, the habanero pepper plants, knocked back by the freeze, will again grow, adorn themselves with white flowers, and soon enough, will produce bright orange peppers, the source for my home-built salsa. (Which I will decant into small bottles and label with my made-up brand: “Mi Salsa es Su Salsa”).

The citrus tree is also full of its own tightly-woven white blossoms, andin another week, they will begin to open and effuse the yard with their own enchantment. The mockingbirds and the cardinals will build there nests here, as they have always done, and the sweet little Carolina wrens will fly into the screened porch, gregarious and adventurous, looking to assemble a nest or two as close to the human space as they can. New sulfur wings and zebra longwings, incubated by the warmth, arise again. Despite all I have seen and have done in the world, I marvel at how much joy these visions still bring.

And soon, the swallow tail kites will return from Brazil, ranging out ffrom the Wekiva wilderness as they do, riding the updrafts, swooping with their their V-tails, reminding us of the genetic determination of every migrating bird, reminding us—just in case we forgot—of the way the aesthetic of such flights evoke the very best kind of poetry. A great Greek philosopher was once known for his way of defining the natural world—of life—with one subtle phrase: “”Everything Flows” (Panta Rhei).

And that, my friends, is at the very crux of our seasonal changes, at the crux of our water-driven peninsula. At the heart of the never-ending growth in our souls. To keep it from flowing—to keep it safe, constricted, and dormant—would stagnant it, just as it does to those sad humans who steadfastly protect themselves from flow, from learning, from having the courage to fully face each new day in this allegorical Florida Spring.

Wisdom, a very wise poet once wrote, requires that the soul always remain liquid. Like the soul of a river, it must always flow. And that flow is not only downstream; it is outward, embracing every artist, every poet, every child who ever gave themselves over to its divine and everlasting promise.

As Fr. Thomas Berry once wrote: “A river sings a holy song, conveying mysterious truth that we are a river—and if we are ignorant of that natural law, we are lost…” And, so in this new Florida season, we again have the blessed opportunity to celebrate our singularity, to immerse ourselves in the flowing river that is our life.



  1. I happened upon your site while looking for Wilson’s Landing Park info. I thoroughly enjoyed reading this and will read your other writings as well.

    Have you thought about writing a book, or, perhaps, have you already written one?

    Thanks for the enjoyable read.


  2. Thanks much, Madeleine. I appreciate your kind words, and your interest in both the blog essays as well as my books.

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