by Kristen Twedt
My dad taught biological sciences for over thirty years at a south Mississippi junior college. We canít go anywhere, like the beach or the piney woods or even the neighborís back yard, without hearing extensive commentary on the evolutionary adaptations of a pitcher plant or the propensity of male cats to mark their territory with urine. He constantly marvels at the wonders of nature.
He would laugh at the title, but my dad is a Southern horticulturist. Give him some water and a decent pot of fertile soil, and heíll cultivate from a withered stub or microscopic seed an azalea or camellia or some exotic hibiscus with blooms the color of an August sunset. In the dead of winter, he babies his Christmas cacti, stores daylily bulbs and sorts the frozen seeds that, come late spring, will find themselves buried in the long rows of his garden, emerging as sweet corn, pink-eyed purple hull peas and butterbeans.
Healthy foliage shrinks from my touch much like a hermit crab jerked from its spot on the sand. I did not inherit my fatherís green thumb, but I do recall our illuminating walks on the beach. We stalked miles of vacant sand along the Gulf of Mexico, the only fools strange enough to subject ourselves to February winds and muted skies to stroll the wintry waterís edge, just looking. Such beauty goes severely unappreciated. Low-slung clouds, plump with the empty promise of snow hang against a chiseled granite backdrop. Gulls plummet from the nether regions of an icy ceiling, curious to see what misguided creatures would leave the warmth of human nests to zig zag from tide pools to seawall, and back again.
What we were doing might have appeared senseless to some. We filled our lungs with the frosty salt air, searched for oddball shells and collapsed upon driftwood benches. We concerned ourselves with appearances about as much as our carefree passing of time. I listened to my paternal companion rattle off the ďkingdom-phylum-class-order-family-genus-speciesĒ of critters that I might have otherwise mistaken as plain old seaweed. Pelicans, a rare sighting back then, paralyzed us, held us motionless until the baggy beaks and outstretched wings took flight. With Live Oak sentries standing guard and the expanse of shimmering brine spread before us like a holiday platter, we stockpiled the spectacular vista of our Southern sprawl, saved it up for days when the heat and humidity of summer would steal our desire to return.
Others may bemoan summerís end. They greet autumn with the sullen look of a child who missed his supper. I anticipate winter with thoughts of Aurelia and Tursiops and an emerging wisdom that rivals the bliss of youth and hints at my fatherís fascination with life.
Like the pelican fixtures in a Coastal landscape, I thrive in the South, content to perch every season here in my natural home.
BIO: Kristen Twedt is a weekly columnist for The Hattiesburg (Miss.) American. She also has a web site with terrific writing and information for writers. Click here to visit Kristenís site, and write her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Erma Bombeck Writers' Workshop
National Society of Newspaper Columnists
The Net Wits
The Hattiesburg American
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