Mother Nature

Sometimes our world is a thing of beauty. These days it may be more difficult to stop and notice given the challenges and frustrations people are facing. I’m glad to be retired. Retirees have, generally speaking, the time and place to “stop and smell the roses”. Today was one of those days.

We had little on the agenda until later in the day. Our friends invited us for dinner and a sunset boat cruise, so we had the day to kick back. Normally we are on the go either to the gym or pickleball or golf or biking and we return home mid afternoon only to head out again in the evening. But today we did nothing for a change.

After a neighbourhood walk with Molly and a light breakfast, we took our reading material outside with our drinks (coffee) and settled into the loungers. It was hot and sunny with a gentle warm breeze. Typical of what we’ve come to expect. When you sit still for a moment you have a chance to clear your mind. Watch the clouds melt through the sky. Feel the sun on your skin like a warm blanket. Hear the birds (everything is mating!). It’s a cleansing feeling. Sigh.

I marvel at the little lizards as they scurry around the lanai (outside thankfully). There’s a bunny rabbit that’s been frequenting the side yard (don’t tell Molly!) and there’s plenty of food in the buffet. The birds are incredible; lots of different species. And everything is in full bloom. The colours of bougainvillea and azaleas and other tropical plants is vivid like 1960’s wallpaper.

At 3:30 pm we make our way after walking and feeding Molly. Our boat cruise and dinner is in Winter Haven which is a 20 to 30 minute drive. We arrive at Harbourside Restaurant where our group is waiting for us on the outdoor patio next to the canal and lake. The specialty of the place is seafood. Go figure. I have the early bird special which is grilled salmon with a baked potato and house salad. No disappointment here.

Our sunset cruise departs at 6 pm. There’s 8 of us so there’s four in front and four in the rear of the pontoon boat. The sun is still high and hot so I’m grateful for my sun hat. We set off to the canal and a tour that was very educational; our captain was well informed and shared her insights throughout the voyage. There are over 20 lakes on the “chain of lakes” system and they were connected by man made canals and locks in order to transport citrus fruit (the main industry in the area years before) to the railroad. These are fresh water lakes that vary in depth so smaller crafts with less draw are ideal. Hence the pontoon boats that are so popular. The citrus was transported on barges.

Aside from citrus the lakes are home to the former Cypress Gardens which is now Legoland (a family amusement park). But they kept some of the former assets such as the botanical gardens and the waterski show. The area around the park is a waterski haven and there are ramps and buoys to be seen. The jungle like shoreline is full of cypress and palm trees and many are loaded with Spanish Moss. Cypress trees are protected in Florida as they are slow growers and only grow well in water. One member of our group said that when buying real estate watch for homes with cypress trees as the trees will be under water in the rainy season. Yikes. Good to know!

In addition to the amazing homes and trees along the shoreline, the bird watching is intense. Our guide took us to the nesting areas and Mother Nature put on a show for us that made our night. Huge nests, many fashioned out of twigs and moss, were numerous in the trees. It’s mating season and so many of the nests had babies in them with one or both parents hovering nearby. The views were breathtaking and heartwarming. In one area there was an osprey momma sitting in her nest. The guide said by getting close with the boat we would anger the mom and she would summon the male. When the mom squawked we waited and within seconds the male swooped in and circled overhead. It was amazing to see how the male protected the nest and his partner. When we pulled away he stopped his circling and joined his mate in the nest. It was beautiful to watch.

The sunset is postcard worthy. As we cruise towards the sunset on our final leg back to the dock it occurs to me that life is good. Very good. I drift for a moment to think about how lucky we are to have such an amazing experience. To be on a cruise with the warm summer breeze caressing our faces and enjoying the best that Mother Nature has to offer.

We cap the evening off with an ice cream from Andy’s which is a local landmark. They even had maple walnut. Sweet.

Gator lounging on the dock
Thick moss
Lake house
Andy’s menu

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