Georgia gators on my mind

I’d like to go for my morning walk, but dawn is still 10 or 15 minutes away.  I’m waiting.

My neighborhood is surrounded by water.  Two small ponds flank the entrance.  Although we didn’t see our alligator friend for over a week, the lack of ducks kept us wary.  Sure enough, in the last few days, we’ve seen him plenty, sometimes in one of those front ponds and sometimes in the other.  This means he’s not adverse to getting out of the pond to look for food elsewhere.  Bill thought maybe he saw a second one, and I can’t be positive, but maybe I did, too.  We each saw the second one in the same pond, not in opposite ponds.

They’re still pretty small.  Certainly not more than 6 feet. 

OK, that’s bigger than my dog.  Not small enough.

Besides the small ponds up front, there is a small lake in the middle around which our neighborhood is built.  My house, on the inside loop of homes, is built on the lake.  There have been no ducks on the lake in recent weeks.  Houses on the left, across the street, are built on a creek deep enough to launch a small/medium boat.  That creek is a short distance from a river which borders the homes built on the right side of the neighborhood.  The river leads to the Atlantic Ocean – not too far away. 

My boys have canoed part of that river.  Alligators live there, and that’s likely where our friend came from.

I went for a walk yesterday morning before the sun was up.  It was very dark and as we approached one house, it looked like a large black cat was reclining on the driveway.  My dog was very antsy as we walked past this house, and I thought she was eager to chase the cat.  As we reached the far side of the property where the trees and underbrush come all the way up to the street and where a storm creek leads the 50 yards or so to the big creek behind those houses, there was a sudden flurry of movement and noise as some animal crashed into the underbrush.  There was also some noise, like a growling or a roar…but maybe that’s just my imagination.  Maybe.

The dog startled, and I nearly tripped over her as we hustled up the street, checking our backs every few steps.

“Do alligators make noise?” I asked my husband when I got home.  “They do when they go crashing through underbrush,” he said.

I did make a second loop past that house, but the sun was up by then.  It was not a cat on the driveway, but a large clump of Spanish moss.  Spanish moss falls from the trees all the time and looks like roadkill, even in daylight, until you get pretty close to it.

Later yesterday morning I was returning from an errand.  An older woman who lives in the neighborhood was working on the flowers by our front entrance.  This lady donates hundreds of hours every month to maintaining the plants up there.  As I passed the pond, I saw the alligator, hanging out in the water, so I turned around and went back to the woman.

“Miss Jean,” I said, in the Southern way, “did you see the alligator in that pond?”

She said she was aware he was there, and confessed that she was constantly checking her back.  And then she seemed to be looking to me for reassurance that these creatures would tend to keep away from humans.  This Yankee was not at all comforted by that Southern Belle’s anxiety.  She’s from Georgia – doesn’t she know that alligators are harmless until they’re 8 feet long?

*******

Billy woke up extra early this morning from a bad dream.  He was chasing Katie and she ran into the pond and was eaten by the alligator.

“Don’t chase your sister,” I said.

*******

I went for my walk before finishing this post.  No alligators.  But, by golly, if those flies weren’t out.  I thought they were gone, but apparently not.

Advertisements

The Battles Ahead

“We are all Catholics now.”

That’s from Glenn Beck, a person I don’t listen to often, for a variety of reasons.  Interesting clip, though, which I found via The Daily Eudemon.  That line is towards the end and echoes something I’ve been saying for months now regarding military chaplains and the now ended Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell policy of gays in the military.  The Catholic chaplains have a very large, very united, very explicit Magisterium to protect them from government pressure.

That’s not to say that the government won’t apply any pressure, or won’t try to use the typical American Catholic’s unorthodox attitude against it (see the HHS Mandate controversy as governmental SOP in how to divide and conquer the Catholic Church).  And it’s not to say that the government won’t win this battle, either.  But if the Magisterium, that is, the teaching authority of the Church as a whole (not just the American slice of it), remains firm (as I expect it should, since it is Divinely protected), then devout priests (and lay people) will have it to cling to, regardless of what happens in the American political scene.  The USCCB might lose, but the USCCB is not the Catholic Church.  A priest (or lay person) might be persecuted, but in the global picture, his side will win.  It is much easier to be a martyr foot soldier, if you know you are Right (with a capital R) and have confidence that your side will, eventually, be victorious.

Conservative, non-Catholic chaplains in the military are already fearing for their freedom of religion and facing perceived pressure to not be opposed to gay marriage.  Oh, the government hasn’t said – yet – that they must perform such weddings.  But some are getting the message that to be openly opposed to gay marriage would be harmful to their career.  And they have no Magisterium to shield them.  While American Catholics can point to the USCCB, who, frankly, is unproven and unpredictable in battle against the government, and say, “They aren’t where the buck stops,” few Protestants have an international church that is as clear and consistent in its teachings as the Catholic Church.  2000 years of saying the exact same thing over and over again has a lot of weight.

The burden of protecting religious freedom in America falls on the Catholic Church.  If the government can get the USCCB to submit to its demands, whether that be the HHS mandate or gay marriage or any other issue, true freedom of religion will cease to exist in the United States.  And compromise equates with submission.  There is no middle ground here when the government mandates things contrary to Church teaching: either we obey our God or we obey our government.

I started watching (again) a documentary on Dietrich Bonhoeffer, a Protestant theologian in Germany during WWII.  I only watched about 15 minutes the last time I tried (before falling asleep), but last night got about halfway through before going to bed.  A good deal of the movie so far shows how the Protestant churches fell in line with the Nazis from the beginning for a variety of reasons, and how the Catholic bishops in Germany reached a “Konkordant,” an agreement where each organization would basically leave each other alone and not say anything bad about the other.

I suppose it is easy to look back now and point out their naivete.  The point is that if the government can marginalize religion, remove it as a player in the political scene, then it becomes free to violate all human freedoms, not just religious ones.

My bishop had his pastors read another letter this past Sunday, and my pastor concluded the reading by asking that we be aware and informed of what is going on.  The bishop asked for prayers for the Catholic groups who have filed suit against the government and the HHS Mandate, although our diocese is not one of them.  I fear too many Catholics, even those who attend Mass every Sunday, do not see the big picture, don’t know the issues, or listen to the media who portrays the HHS Mandate issue as a freedom to use birth control issue, and not a freedom of religion issue.  The government is banking on this.  If the bishops do not have the support of the lay people, it will be a much harder battle.

Just ask any lay Catholic who has been fighting these issues for decades with no help from the bishops.

Semantics

New Mexico fire grows, forces evacuation
Yes, of a ghost town:
 The evacuation of Mogollon, a privately owned ghost town, was ordered Saturday due to extreme wind.

There is no clarification in the article that there were x-number of real, live residents in this town.  In my mind, a ghost town is one that is wholly deserted, inhabited only by “ghosts.”  If you mean a once-booming, now with a dwindled population, town, then the phrase is metaphorical.

But I don’t sense that the writer understands that.

Unless, of course, the writer truly feared for the safety of the spirits wandering the streets.

*******

Another one in a different article talked about the potential closure of many USPS centers, ones that processed mail – sorting it and designating it for the right zip code.

It called them “mail-procession centers.”

No word yet on what sort of music they play as the mail formally makes its way through the facility.

*******

Any of you use Wordly Wise books?  There’s that one section with 4 sentences and the student has to pick out the one where the word is used incorrectly.  They should use those texts in journalism school, don’t you think?

S’Nuff

“Mom, can we have s’mores for dessert?”

“Sure.”  These weren’t sit around the campfire s’mores, just 7 seconds in the microwave s’mores.  Not as much fun.

“How many can we have?”

“Eat them until you puke…or we run out of supplies.”  I’m in pantry cleaning mode.  I don’t need an opened bag of marshmallows hanging around.

Besides, despite 8 kids digging into one bag of marshmallows, one box of graham crackers and one package of 6 Hershey bars, they were unable to finish it up.  Some things can only be consumed in small doses.

Oh, how I long for the days when thumb sucking was a SERIOUS ISSUE

It’s interesting that I saw this story today, since I am pretty much dealing with the exact same situation.  It’s especially difficult to say that, as a Catholic, Mass attendance is not optional, when fellow Catholics are more than happy to make excuses for missing it every once in a while.  You know, for a really good reason.  
I like how the Catholic administrator tells the girl that sometimes you have to make “sacrifices.”  Some girls would have to sacrifice a dance competition or, I don’t know, a weekend at the beach.  This girl has to sacrifice her Mass attendance.  Not that she would have to sacrifice an hour’s worth of interesting programming to go across the street to the cathedral’s earliest Mass.  No, she has to sacrifice her mortal soul.
Dance competition disappointment vs. eternity in hell.  Hmm.  I guess they’re roughly equivalent.
Yes, that was sarcasm.
{sigh}
For us, the difficulty is Scouts.  We seem to be the only Catholics in the troop who have an issue with missing Mass.  Fortunately, the Sunday evening Mass at a church in town is an oft-used option.  But when the trip extends through a federal holiday (Monday), it gets tricky.  I hate being the bad guy.  I hate to wag a finger at other Catholic parents and say, “How could you let your son go and miss Mass?” – which is the message I send, even if I really don’t care what their parenting choice is and don’t want to imply that.
“A Scout is always reverent.”
I just wish the Catholic version of reverent was respected.

How do you spell relief?

Am I showing my age if I recall the commercial that spelled relief: r-o-l-a-i-d-s?

Do they even make that product any more?

It doesn’t matter.  I have a new way to spell relief: s-i-g-n-e-d-l-e-a-s-e.  And while I’m not there yet, I have just come to very agreeable terms with a homeowner and expect to have a signed lease soon.

It was the very first house I saw on Saturday morning.  I could have been home for dinner.  But then I wouldn’t have found that great Spanish restaurant my mom and I enjoyed, so it’s ok.

18 days from now, the packers are coming to box up my stuff.  Oh, I have so much to do in so little time.

The next month or so is an interesting time with multiple stages of stress and relief.  The stress of securing a new house is almost over.  In a few weeks, the stress of packing will be over.  Of course, there are the stresses of having a baby, cleaning and clearing our current home, and settling in to our new home.  But far and above all these issues is the mother of all stresses and there is only one way to spell relief from that one:

c-h-a-n-g-e-o-f-c-o-m-m-a-n-d

29 days to go.

Things that Bite

A week or so ago, the kids and I entered our neighborhood which has a small pond on either side.  “There’s an alligator!” one said.  I wheeled around to get a better look, and, sure enough, a large reptile lay sunning on the opposite bank.  “Um, stay away from there,” I suggested.  Our house is diagonally across the street.

When I told Bill, he asked if I had told any of the other residents who might take action.  “Oh, he was only about 5 or 6 feet long,” I said.  “They aren’t territorial and dangerous until they reach 8 feet.”  I don’t know how he’s managed to live in this part of the country for this long without that vital knowledge.

*******

Sand gnats are a local pest.  I never realized just how awful a tiny little gnat could be.  These gnats bite and leave itchy welts like mosquito bites.  They start showing up in March and love the same weather that we do: moderate humidity and mid-70 degree temps.  But once the humidity and temps start going up, they disappear until the fall.  Unfortunately, they are replaced by deer flies which are worse.  You can run away from sand gnats.  The flies chase you.

The general rule is that the flies are out from Mother’s Day to Father’s Day, then, they too, die off.  This year, they started being a problem in April, long before Mother’s Day.  The flies are not nocturnal, so I have learned to head out for my morning run (now my morning walk) before the dawn’s early light.  Once the sky begins to show a hint of color and you can begin to see without the aid of the streetlamps, the flies begin their attack.

Around here, the pre-dawn light begins by 6 am, so if I’m not out by 530 am, I will get bitten.

*******

I never really felt that general knowledge of alligators was necessary, because I had never lived in an area where they also lived.

Unlike the annoying deer flies, alligators are nocturnal.

*******

We were supposed to have been moved by now – by March, actually.  When Bill was extended, the first thing I said was, “I can’t believe you’re making me live through another gnat and fly season.”  There are a lot of things I have enjoyed about this area, but they are the biggest detractors.  Once those pests are gone, it is usually very hot every day.  I love sitting outdoors, sipping my morning coffee while the sun rises or eating dinner al fresco.  But I don’t like sweltering…or being eaten alive.  I have spent much less time on our back deck then I would have preferred.

*******

The morning after the kids spotted the alligator, I went out for my morning walk extra early so I could do two miles before 6 am.  It was very dark, with no help from the moon between the few scattered streetlights.  As I passed the pond, I heard some strange noises.  That was when I remembered the alligator.  And that was when I remembered they were nocturnal, especially when hunting for a meal.

That was when I started doubting my ability to judge the difference between 6 feet in length and 8 feet in length from across a pond.

And started doubting the veracity of my sources on how “harmless” alligators were before reaching 8 feet.  Really, what’s so magical about 96 inches?  What if the creature is 95 inches?

I considered putting my dog between me and the pond, and I hurried past with no incidents.  On the second lap, several early morning car-commuters were in the area, so I felt a bit more secure. 

I wasn’t able to get out early the rest of the week.  And the alligator has not been seen again.

*******

Since returning from Tampa, I noticed no complaining from the kids about the flies as they played in the back.  And Bill took the kids out for a bike ride and nobody mentioned being attacked.

This morning, I went out a bit later, and noticed that the sun was coming up even earlier, as it does this time of year.  By the time I had completed two miles, it was quite light, and I had only had a few lethargic flies meander by me.  I saw no large lizards by the pond nor heard any unusual noises.

As an added bonus, the humidity was moderate and the temperature was in the low 60’s, although expected to rise by more than 20 degrees today.  I guess the early start to fly season has meant an early end to fly season.  How lovely.

I’m not ready to rest easy about the alligator quite yet.  I’ve not seen a single duck or goose hanging around the front.  Nor have I seen them in the larger pond in the back.  Bird excrement is unpleasant, but at least it’s a sign that no predators are roaming the streets, day or night.  I shall have to talk to some neighbors to see if anybody else has spotted the thing.

For now, I’ll enjoy an extra half hour of sleep and a full two mile walk while we still have spring-like mornings.