Anhinga

moon phase Week of 03/20/2005 Best days to prune.

After a nice vacation in Florida, I'm back to start the first week of Spring in Southwest Wisconsin. My old eyes needed a break from the drawing table, and a change of scenery always lets me see things in a different perspective. Florida, for me, is a place where life abounds and nature appears in many unfamiliar forms. Like a kid, I am curious and alert to all the new and exciting things to see around me. Each day brings new adventures and more to learn.

Anhinga

Vacation time always seems short, but I sweeten it by taking in as many wild places as I can. One of my favorite places in the world to spend time is definitely the beach. I love to stroll barefoot along the shell covered sand.

Take a walk with me as I turn my back to the noisy clamor of civilization and gaze to the horizon, across a sea of uncorrupted natural beauty. No houses, no cards, not people, not even a boat, only diving dolphins playing among the whitecaps, and a broad expanse of blue water that stretches to meet an equally blue sky—or an unforgettable sunrise.

The rolling tide makes a soft, soothing music as it greets the beach, while salt spray from the lapping waves cools my sun-baked bare skin. The waves always bring something onto the shore, and take something back to the sea. Sandpipers dash around to see what gets left behind.

Seven brown pelicans glide single file, just above the water. Their crooked necks end with long fat bills designed for fishing. Gulls and terns are overhead, flying up and down the beach on a constant patrol for whatever the next wave washes in. Their high-pitched calls seem full of anticipation, like they are asking the sea to bring them something good to eat.

Watching this timeless natural scene, I feel I am experiencing the true meaning of organics. It is about an environment where nature complements itself so that health is promoted, and harmony brings joy and prosperity. I am already eager to return to this setting by the ocean.

During my vacation I visited another of Florida's unique wild areas, the Everglades. Here a sea of grass spans from horizon to horizon, with black-water streams bordered by mangroves and palmettos. A lush green place that is teeming with forms of life very different from those in Wisconsin, the glades are home for hundreds of species of birds, some of which are found nowhere else. Sandhill cranes and Wood storks glide overhead on long, graceful wings. Beautiful herons—Great blues, Little blues, Little greens, and tricolored—stalk the shallows for fish, frogs and snakes. Yellow-crowned and Black-crowned night herons stand motionless in branches along the streams. Small groups of white Ibis wade together through shallow waters between the cypress trees.

Several varieties of egret abound in the sea of grass. Great White egrets, Snowy egrets, and the smaller Cattle egrets were once hunted for their brilliant white plumage, which stands out against the background of green. For the sake of decorations on ladies' hats, these white herons were once pushed to the brink of extinction. Now they are protected and have returned to populate the Everglades.

An Anhinga stands with his wings and tail spread, drying his feathers in the warm sun. Also known as a water turkey or snake bird, the Anhinga is an expert fisherman who swims low in the water. Often only his head and neck emerge above the surface. He dives and can swim long distances underwater, where he uses his needle-sharp beak to spear fish. The Anhinga seems to pose while he dries, affording me a good look at the striking black and white markings of his beautiful feathers. It's an image that will stay with me for a long time.

Upon returning north, my thoughts turn back from summer to spring. My first morning back home, I am greeted by the songs of a robin and a Red-winged blackbird in the yard. The spring has brought a pair of Sandhill cranes who call from the river bottoms. It's a couple degrees below freezing—and the March winds threaten to bring snow—but my heart is warmed by the promise of a Wisconsin spring, and I am glad to be back home again. While I'll miss seeing the summer birds of Florida, I would miss the changing of the seasons in my northern home even more.

All art ©2013 Organic Valley

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