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Country drive

North central Florida gets hot in the summertime and the entire southeastern region lies under an oppressive heat wave. I met my builder early this morning at the house to review things. By 10 am and fifteen minutes pulling hose and setting up the sprinkles, I was drenched in sweat and my tank top clung to my back. I dragged a ladder to the oak trees in the back to hang the cheap bird feeders I bought. Thus begins my Avian Welfare Program. While there is an abundance of food choices on the property evidenced by the large and diverse population of birds, I want those birds to make my future yard their Club Med.

The lawn needs to be mowed, if only I had a lawn man or a small tractor, but without a secure garage and no trailer hitch on my little Teacake (Lexus IS 250), the Pensacola bahia grass gets to go to seed and the wild blackberry canes get to attempt a comeback. I will need to stake the olive trees before I hire the lawn service, so they don’t mow down my bushy Arbequinas which seem to be thriving in the heat and sandy soil. What are not thriving are my two 30 gallon trees purchased for future planting. The Chickasaw plum has burnt leaves hanging off most of its branches.

When I was growing up in Cutler Ridge, I lived across the street from Cutler Ridge park and pool. When I was a small child there was a line of “cherry trees” from the swale out by the street to the northeast corner of the 15 ft chain link fence around the pool. We would climb those “cherry trees” and eat them in the summer time. They weren’t cherries. They had to be Chickasaw plums, a small, olive sized red plum with a pit easily confused with a fat cherry. One day, the parks people cut them down and the cherry trees were gone. The were replaced with what is now known to be a horrible invasive tree called Melalucas. We called them paper trees and I recall spending a great deal of time setting their Charmin toilet paper textured trunks on fire.

I left the house and drove out SR 232 turning north to head into High Springs. I had a momentary concern for the post Tropical Storm Debby flood waters as I turned west to head out to US 47 – an intersection to forever be demarcated by “The Dive Shop” which is now shuttered and abandoned. There is nothing more incongruous that a wall sized red and white diver flag painted on a building on a flashing light intersection surrounded by peanut and corn fields. It was where the scuba divers stopped before heading to the caves and springs. I passed pecan orchards and chestnut orchards and listened to some good old-fashioned country twang. I rarely listen to country but I heard a review of a country singer in 2008 and was so impressed by her big voice and big lyrics, I bought her debut album. It is girl Country torch songs and love ballads worthy of Loretta Lynn and even Patsy Cline. The is just something sweet and defiant in Sarah Johns words: “We’ve got a diesel duelly and 20 acres out in the boonies…We’re raised beans and babies in a little house smack dab in the middle.”

I am no country girl. But there is a strong argument for love in its simplest forms. A house that is a home, a patch of dirt to grow some of what you eat, a lovely breeze across a porch and a moon rising in the eastern night sky. Birds on the feeders and deer tracks across the morning dew. Add a hot cup of coffee or a crackling fire in the fireplace and you get me close to heaven on earth.

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