Odds and Ends and the Start of a New Term...

We enjoyed a productive summer around these parts, for the most part. My daughter attended day camp at Neptune Beach Elementary and had a fun time at junior lifeguard camp (a common rite of passage out at the beaches) later in the season. The kids learned aspects of CPR and other life-saving techniques, and they swam in the ocean and came home happy and tired each day. She is off and running for fifth grade and will be playing soccer on Saturdays at UNF this fall.

My son is doing well with his letters, numbers, and shapes. He enjoyed water days at his daycare center, and he loves Italian shaved ice. Luke is learning how to hold his own with the big kids on the street in neighborhood basketball games, and he loves watching Goosebumps with his big sister.

I'm excited to begin a new term at Florida State College at Jacksonville today. I have new curriculum in a pair of classes, and my course on the philosophy of horror is almost full. I can't wait to explore those texts with our students! We are reading Bradbury and King extensively, with articles by Oates, Barker, Barron, and Dickstein. 

I have spent fourteen years jogging various nature trails in Jacksonville. In all of that time, I've never seen an alligator on the trail unless it was within sight of a major body of water. 

In the last three weeks, however, I've had two such encounters!

Three weeks ago, I jogged out to the birding platform at the Round Marsh. I stretched and had a little quiet time for meditation before heading back up the trail. I was a half mile into my run when I glance up the path and see a large creature lumbering toward me. It was about a quarter of a mile away, so I wasn't sure about what it might be.

Sure enough, it was an eight-foot alligator. That sucker was covered in lime-green duckweed. It was up doing the gator walk, but it stopped and hunkered down when it saw me. 

There was no way that I was getting around it, so I had to backtrack and take an alternative route. It was exhilarating, to be sure, but I couldn't help but feel a bit nervous on the return journey.

For those familiar with the area, I encountered the gator just west of the Willie Browne Cabin.

Last Wednesday, I stopped at the Jacksonville Arboretum for a run and I encountered a little three footer at the entrance to the Live Oak Trail. It cracked its mouth open at me and stared me down. I took two steps backward and it kept on trucking--right into the heart of the woods! 

I've walked a lot of Florida trails. I've even been off trail at the GTM Preserve (with the aid of rangers), but I've never seen an alligator in the middle of the woods. Frankly, it's a scary thought. It makes sense they would be there, of course, but it's not a common occurrence. I was shocked when I met the big one, but then seeing that little guy last week was really odd. 

Oh, well...back at it today. 

My wife is doing well at Fletcher, and I enjoyed a productive summer at the word processor and in the classroom with students at FSCJ. I think we completed some quality work, and I am excited for the fall term here at the College. Our new president, Dr. John Avendano, strikes me as an intelligent, inspirational leader. I was very impressed with his candor and attitude last week at Convocation.

I don't often jog with a camera (or a phone, for that matter), but I might have to start bringing one in order to document my encounters with Florida fauna. This is an amazing place to live and in which to spend time outdoors, and I am thankful for the chance to get out and enjoy it...

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