On the second day Shmee was here, we went to the Noxubee Wildlife Refuge for the day. Armed only with Subway and bottles of water, we drove into the Refuge and were immediately greeted by a 7-foot alligator.
“There’s a gator,” Shmee said nonchalantly.
“Holy shit,” I replied as I pulled the car over.
“Are you getting out?” she asked.
“I think so. I want to take a picture. And he’s all the way across the lake.”
“Yeah, but his lookout might be right here in the brush. It could be some kind of alligator conspiracy.”
We took our chances, took our cameras, and didn’t get eaten.
Two days earlier, Chris and I had brought the kids to the Refuge to check out the wildlife. We looked long and hard for a gator, but didn’t see any. We, in fact, took the kids on the Beaver Dam Wildlife Trail which led us through some pretty unsettling swamp land.
“Do you think we’re going to get eaten by gators here?” I asked Chris.
“No, I think this is a walking trail.”
“But it’s completely overgrown with cobwebs and it doesn’t look like anyone’s been here for years. Do you think all the previous hikers were eaten by gators?”
“No,” Chris replied. “But I have to admit it does look like a good place to get sodomized.” (Cue the “Deliverance” music.)
We were swarmed by horseflies; we saw turtles, frogs, and a myriad of strange insects, but we didn’t see — or get eaten by — a gator.
So having Shmee spot the Mother Lode of gators the instant we entered the Reserve was pretty exciting.
Five minutes later, she spotted another one sunning on a log.
We discovered an area called “The Boardwalk” that meandered out through the water. It was a bit magical. I’ve never seen nature like they display it in Mississippi. (No, I didn’t get out of Indiana much.) It is as impressive to me as the first time I experienced the Arizona terrain. In many ways, it’s akin to another world.
As we were walking across the boardwalk, we stopped periodically to listen and observe. That’s when our outing became “Katrina and Andrea’s Excellect Profanity-Laden Adventure.”
When something popped or snapped behind us, we’d both whisper, “What the #*@& was that?!”
When a giant creature jumped out of the water and splashed back in before we could identify it, we’d both yell, “Holy #*@&! Did you see that #*%&$&# thing?!” We were fairly certain we saw a pterodactyl at one point. Some might argue that it was a very large heron, but I’m not convinced.
As we were drinking it all in, I remembered my friend, Mary’s, vision of the ocean. “Wouldn’t it be great,” she said, “to be able to lift all the water up and see what’s happening underneath? I mean, there’s an entire WORLD under there.”
And when I see large bodies of water now, I always think the same thing. It’s such a magical image. Such an intriguing concept. What was underneath that murky wonderland? It was obviously teeming with life. The silence of the moment was loud and clear, but the buzzing and humming of an entirely alternate world was palpable.
They were everywhere.
Both magnificent and graceful in their diaphanous dance, I was mesmerized.
“Look at them,” I whispered to Shmee as we broke from our latest semi-nervous cursing spree after a large splash occurred very near to us. “They’re beautiful.”
None of them would sit long enough for me to take a picture. But that’s okay. I’m not sure my camera would have captured the magic of the moment. I’m sure my words don’t either. But my memory does.
Later that evening, Shmee read me a snippet of an electronic conversation she had with her friend, Amy Oscar. Amy had recently written a beautiful blog post about dragonflies, and Shmee shared our experience with her. I’m paraphrasing this — which isn’t necessarily my strong suit — but you’ll get the gist of it. This, at least, is what I remember, what I heard…
Andrea to Amy: I was walking with my friend, Katrina, today in the Noxubee Refuge. She talked about how amazing it would be to lift the waters of the lake up to see what’s underneath. “There’s a whole world under that water,” she’d said. And it was true. Then she pointed out the dragonflies that were circling around us. I hadn’t even noticed them. They were flitting about, skimming the surface of the water, then flying away. It was then that I realized that’s what we so often do; that that’s what my friend had been doing since she arrived in Mississippi. She’s on the edge of a revolution, that one. She just needs to stop skimming the surface, to take the plunge, to discover the other world in the depths of the water. She’s about to break through. I can feel it.
I’m diving in, Friends. Watch out. And I’m not even afraid. Gators, be damned.