I had a brief trip back to South Florida getting out of Europe before the terrible cold snap of last week and returning just in time for a new one.
It is always odd getting off an airplane from a cold climate into the nearly tropical damp air of Florida. I fled Florida when I was old enough to legally do so and I hate what much of the completely uncontrolled growth and development have done to the natural environment but I always loved the natural side; the Everglades National Park is a truly wondrous place and I find in even the small corners often a sliver of wild left in a highway median or storm drainage all sorts of animals/plants and insects that refuse to be developed out of existence.
Family health issues took up most of my time but my mother lives in a community that developed around the existing wetlands, interspersing houses and golf courses between the ponds and creeks, grasslands and dry, piny scrub. I could sit on the back patio and watch cranes, grebes, ducks, egrets and ibis and many other water birds as well as lizards, frogs,alligators, snakes, armadillos and even a fast moving bobcat during the few days I was there.
And at night, the powerful smell of night-blooming jasmine and the incessant chirping of small frogs, hissing of crickets and occasional deep bass calling of the bull frogs kept me up and soothed away the feelings of aging and mortality that seem to accompany me more frequently now that I am almost 50 and near ones are falling ill or just falling down.
I was looking for one old friend in particular.
When I was young my brother, sister and I would regularly try to find and catch lizards and frogs.
My favorite was the Florida Chameleon--really an anole, a lizard capable of turning from bright green to brown.
They are reportedly much fewer now, outcompeted by the introduced and more aggressive brown anole and the ferocious appetites of the now numerous escaped green and red iguanas.
But I eventually found what I was looking for. If you stop and look and wait, the shy things will eventually move and can be seen; and even the quiet, unmoving things seem to slip out of their cloak of invisibility.
Home again, a suitcase full of tortillas, spices, baking and cooking necessities and a few woodblocks and printmaking supplies and a backlog of mail, prints to finish and the sound of frogs still in my ears.