Thursday, March 27, 2008

Your wild life

I'll Fly Away (sold), was inspired by a Saturniid moth in my  Hawaii studio
Here in Florida, a place I’m convinced was never meant for human habitation, we just love to tell each other stories about the critters we’ve seen. When this rustic sphinx moth the size of a hummingbird landed on my front porch and sat on my arm for three hours, well, the neighbors came over to take a look and take pictures. Just the other day I stood in the middle of my street listening to a woodpecker ratatatat Morse code over the drone of traffic on 41. A landscape guy came out to his truck as I turned in circles trying to find the bird. He knew right away why I was doing my dance and told me as he put away his tools how sad it was that he had to bury a little owl he found when he was working in some other part of town. So I told him about the Barred Owl in my back yard and the Caracara hawk I saw feasting by the side of the road on Bee Ridge extension and…see what I mean? Here we are, paving paradise into that big hurricane attracting parking lot, and mostly what we want is to see and hear the very creatures that we’re moving in on and moving out.
Now one thing I’ve noticed is that when someone tells a story about a wildlife encounter, especially one that has an alligator, the story tells more about the person than the gator. Just about everyone here has a story, and in the telling, I learn about Florida, human nature and the human heart. Fostering the telling brings people together to celebrate this unique place, weird and wacky as it can be. In my opinion, a lot of people move here and just kind of use the place, not really interacting with the wonder of it.
When I taught that Writing for Radio class at the Peace River Center for Writers, and no one showed up with a story idea, I asked everyone to write about gators. A song-writing environmental lawyer and his guitar –playing buddy picked up a gator—not too small but not so big that it didn’t just fit in their beer cooler-- and drove it over state lines just to be able to say to an unsuspecting friend, “Want a beer? Help yourself. There’s some in the cooler.” After an old man with two hearing aids likened the gator in his trailer park to an old boot camp buddy, the stories rolled out pretty smoothly, with lots of laughter, surprise and recognition.
I could stand up and tell other people’s stories, which I’m happy to do, but mostly, I get a charge out of fostering storytelling. Though I can’t resist a good Liar’s Contest, it’s the true stories I’m looking to hear in a way that people can share with each other. My student with the two hearing aids said to me. “I’ve figured you out. You like to wind people up and watch them go!” He’s right.


Linda Blondheim said...

At last, a blog about Florida. How wonderful to read your quirky posts. I am a Florida native and landscape painter here in North Central Florida.

Linda Blondheim

Lynn said...

Beth Surdut is anything but "quirky". Though I am glad you found her, and am sure you will be endlessly entertained and delighted by her wit, humor and talent, she is never peculiar OR unpredictable. I have known Beth for over 20 years. She never ceases to amaze me with her courage, wisdom and artistic brilliance. Those attributes are always there, and have never ceased to delight, and humble me.
Lynn Sharp Spears; Director, Performer, Designer