Monday, September 3, 2007

Gator Girl and the Prehistorics

"Don't be scared," said the guide as the alligator lunged towards my kayak, the huge prehistoric head right next to my hip. "I'm not scared," I said quietly, "I'm petrified," I whispered as the gator swam past us, gliding parallel to my little tub toy of a boat. The waters of the Myakka river, rightly designated wild and scenic, are a feast for gators and birds--I just didn't want to be the main course.
"Whew," said the guide, "I'm sure glad he didn't get scared and try to climb over our boats."
The next day at an orchid sale, I heard someone loudly calling, "Hey Gator Girl!" It was one of my newly met paddling buddies. My behavior on the river--shock masquerading as aplomb--earned me a new moniker.
That was my first time on the river. I came back to the studio to paint this piece Myakka: the subtlety of Gators. Most of the time, in the dark reflective waters, you can't see who's swimming under or beside you. Eyes head and nose dot the surface and often sink like submarines as we approach.
Myakka, unlike other aspects of Florida, never disappoints, always enchants. Herons abound--Great Blues, Whites, Tri-colored (my favorite), Green and more; heavy bodied woodstorks whose wings whoosh loudly as they loft, goofy and gorgeous roseate spoonbills, bold ospreys, and so many more birds.
I no longer go with a guide, most often with one boon paddling companion in a canoe--I admit that I like the higher sides, especially when a gator decides we're too close and lunges up out of the water, mouth agape. A rare occurrence, especially if its not mating season when the big boys bellow "Stella" in their own version of Streetcar Named Desire.
There have been days where I've seen the spectrum of life-- big eyed baby gators with striped tails and once, a 12 foot gator corpse being feasted upon by vultures who usually amuse with their hopping, dum-de-dump, de-dum-de dum gait.
Recently I counted 14 gator heads in the water around me, and stopped counting when I got to 48 vultures in the trees and on shore with no carrion in sight or scent. I just kept moving, in case they mistook me for dessert.
This piece is sold, and in a private collection of someone who lives in the northeast and has never been on the river.
See more from this Enigmatic Paradise series at http://www.bethsurdut.com/

1 comment:

snarlah said...

Sounds like a great project by a talented and excellent writer. We belong to a mutual admiration society.