Published in the Rains County Leader on Tuesday, May 14, 2019:
Florida requires that, when developers put in new subdivisions, they leave a certain percentage of the land in its natural state. We were blessed to have a retention pond right behind our house and a screened-in porch – better known as a lanai by the natives – where we could sit and watch the wildlife. Some of the wildlife, like the alligators, was a little too wild, but the large variety of birds was fascinating.
One in particular caught my eye. It was a rather large black bird with a long neck. It would dive under the water and stay for a long time. Then it would surface and stretch its neck straight up so it could swallow whatever tasty bit of marine life it had snagged before disappearing into the water again. When its tummy was full, it would climb out of the water and sit on a log or rock where it would spread its wings and sit for a spell before flying away.
No one in our household of transplanted Texans could shed any light on this bird and its unusual habits, so I went to the Internet. I found a wildlife site that had a place for questions, and I described our visitor. I received a prompt reply that I was watching an Anhinga or Snakebird. The reason it spread its wings after a swim was that, unlike other aquatic birds, it didn’t have any oil on its feathers. It had to spread out in the sunshine so it could dry off enough to fly.
I have felt somewhat like a Snakebird lately, especially Wednesday of last week. It has been so wet this spring that everyone I know is checking their feet for webbing, and companies that make mildew removers are making a fortune.
When I left home Wednesday morning to go to Bible Study, it was sprinkling a little bit, but before class was over, it was raining the proverbial cats and dogs – or maybe it was moles. As a friend and I stood in the covered driveway hoping for a break in the torrent, we saw one of the furry little critters scurrying from a patch of grass toward the sidewalk in search of a dry place. It had either been flooded out of its burrow or had fallen from the sky. We watched it struggle to climb the curb at the edge of the driveway, and when that failed, it turned and hurried toward a promising looking dumpster. As we watched it disappear under the huge trash receptacle, we accepted the inevitable, said goodbye, and made a mad dash for our cars.
The hooded jacket I was wearing was water resistant, so I wasn’t too wet when I got behind the wheel, but the outside of the jacket was dripping, and I could feel the cold creeping through the layers onto the back of my neck. I wanted to go home and put on something warm and dry, but I was meeting David for lunch at the Senior Center and then going to the school for mentoring. It was going to be a long afternoon.
When I got to the Center, there were a surprising number of cars in the parking lot. I had to park across the lot by the genealogical library, and there was a river between me and the door. The parking lot isn’t what you’d call even, so usually there are puddles separated by strips of dry land. That day there was no dry land, so after another mad dash, my shoes were squishy and the feeling on the back of my neck was damp as well as cold.
I lingered over lunch as long as I could, but I only have a thirty-minute time slot to see my mentee. The rain was still coming down, and the parking lot was even deeper. Resistance was futile, and since I’ve been known to fall on my face when I try to hurry, I sloshed through the water, wetting the bottom several inches of my pants legs in the process. At the school, I found a parking spot close to the covered walkway at the school, and the rain had finally let up by the time I left. I avoided getting totally soaked, but it took two days for my shoes to dry.
Thursday and Friday were better days, but the rain began again in the wee hours of Saturday morning and continued non-stop for most of the day. David and I hibernated in house pants and sweat shirts, not even venturing outside to check the mail. And then came Sunday.
The sky was cloudy when Kitty rousted us out of bed, but by the time we left for Sunday School, sunshine was peeking through. One the way home, we were treated to full sun, and the forecast predicted no more rain until Saturday.
It’s still too wet to do much outside. I could tromp around in my rubber boots, but there’s too much standing water for yard work of any kind. For now, I think I’ll follow the example of my friend, the Snakebird. I think I’ll find a nice place to sit, turn my face to the sun, spread out my arms, and dry my wings for a while.
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