(A prefatory note: It has long been my habit to chronicle various minor adventures by means of emails sent to those on the “List of the Living”. Thus far this blog has been reserved for longer works, but just yesterday I was roundly berated by friends for continuing my bad old email habit. It was brought to my attention that anything worth saying is worth saying well, and that such words of wisdom should be in a format that allows for the proper display of graphics. So it is that I offer this snippet of frippery to those too busy texting while driving to have time to read a longer article.)
Spring finally came on February 6th after a brutal Florida winter during which the temperature actually dipped slightly below freezing on several occasions. Oh, the horror!
We welcome such nips because an occasional freeze is the only thing that keeps hordes of pythons from slithering north from the Everglades to devour our beloved poodles and house cats. There are already enough coyotes to provide that important service.
Here in Hogtown we have no groundhogs to prognosticate upon the weather, so I consulted with my porch snakes to discover cold noses tentatively protruding from their hidey holes. It was a good sign, so I stepped outside to analyze the azaleas. The buds were as swollen and pink as the posterior of a baboon in estrus so I concluded that winter was over and it was time to go fishing.
No one was able to join me on such short notice. How I pity those whose self imposed shackles prevent the prioritization of the more important things in life, for it is a well known fact that no God, imaginary or otherwise, will deduct from a man’s allotted days those days spent fishing.
So it was that I loaded the Yak atop my trusty Subaru, then set about packing the requisite gear. While rooting through the fridge in search of bait shrimp I discovered an ancient baggie filled with what appeared to be dust, but which was actually desiccated mushroom debris.
These were “special” mushrooms, not just because they were Psilocybe cubensis, but because they had been grown in elephant poop. One might wonder how that could be possible, for elephants have been generally scarce in Florida since the passing of the last mammoth.
Perhaps you may have heard of the legendary “Elephants’ graveyard“? I will never divulge the location, but suffice it to say that many long lived species come to Florida to decline and die. So it is that Republicans go to The Villages, circus freaks to Gibsonton, and aged elephants to Sarasota.
It had been many years since I last took that “special voyage” to the Land of Oz, and I had forgotten all about the lost baggie. There was little reason to think that the dusty debris therein was still potent, but its discovery seemed a portent from the aforementioned imaginary Gods, so I brewed up some tea with honey and lemons then downed it with lunch.
The freight train left the station earlier than expected, so caution had to be exercised on the long drive west to the Gulf coast. No problem, for the Weazel is a man of experience and kept a steady hand on the wheel.
I arrived at the #4 bridge boat ramp in the mid afternoon halfway through a rising tide cycle. It is a beautiful place surrounded by marshes, tidal creeks, and islands for as far as the eye can see. It is also a very difficult place to launch from and to explore because of extensive mudflats that are fully exposed at low tide. My last several trips had been disasters during which I was stuck in the mud for hours waiting for the tide to return.
But this day was different. The previous low tide had been exceptionally high, and the high tide at sunset was predicted to be exceptionally low. This minimal tidal differential meant that the water was barely moving, a most unusual phenomenon in a place where the tides otherwise rush ceaselessly to and fro. The mud flats and oyster bars were completely covered so there was no problem paddling anywhere I might wish to go.
The wind along the coast is almost as ceaseless as the tide, but on this special day the wind stopped dead still and the water became as glassy as a pond. I have been to the coast hundreds of times over the years and this was only the second time I have ever observed the ocean to be perfectly flat.
On warm cloudy winter days Ceratopogonid sand flies can be a terrible problem so I shampooed with DEET then covered up. They troubled me at the ramp, but as soon as I was on the water the sun came out and they disappeared as if by magic.
I paddled effortlessly, drifting as though in a dream, transfixed by the beauty and silence. There were no airboats, no motor boats, no people whatsoever. The only sound was that of an occasional car on the highway far away.
Even the birds were silent. Groups of skimmers, sandpipers, and pelicans huddled on sandbars while ducks and cormorants made desultory dives but never returned to the surface with dinner. The only movement in the sky was that of a solitary eagle that swooped low to look me in the eye.
Nature seemed suspended, nothing moving, not a single disturbance on the water. The water was so flat that if a fish had moved half a mile away I could have seen the ripples. It would have been easy to see the snouts of diamondback terrapins, so I was dismayed that there were none.
No fish were feeding so I didn’t even try to catch one. Under such circumstances of stillness nothing was willing to move, neither predators nor prey, for to do so would disclose its location. Fish feed at times of turmoil when water movements distract their prey, much in the manner of a panther that waits for a rustle of wind before beginning to stalk a deer. I was content to simply drift and dream.
What little effort I expended was devoted to the internalization of the islands and channels. On a map it looks easy enough to find one’s way around, but at water level sitting in a kayak the whole place is a maze of unimaginable complexity. I chose a centrally located group of three small mangroves that I dubbed, “Los tres”, then circumnavigated them at a distance so they would serve as a future landmark in my otherwise befuddled mind.
I continued on to beautiful Cedar point where storms have thrown up a ridge of oyster shells. It looks like a white sandy beach from a distance, but there is little or no sand in this submerging low energy part of the coast. The entire armpit of Florida is made of mud and rock with a sprinkling of oysters.
I paused to reminisce about an old girlfriend I had once taken here.
She was much impressed that I had hooked and lost an enormous fish, then canoed into the eye of a storm. We arrived at the point with moments to spare, otherwise we would have continued on to Galveston. The wind was so strong that I had to partially fill the canoe with water to prevent it from being blown away.
Carol was a brave woman who fed wild bears cookies from between her lips, then later took her own life when the time had come. If it had not been for the damnable oysters and lack of a blanket I would surely have gotten lucky!
I was certainly lucky on February the 6th. On that beautiful day when the water was flat and my head was spinning from shrooms everything went right (other than the fishing!)
As the sun got low I headed out to the Corrigan reefs, then back around to the southern end of Cedar point where I paused to enjoy the golden light.
I arrived back at the ramp at dark, fearing that I would be devoured by bugs but there wasn’t a single one, a fact that was even more miraculous than the cessation of both tide and wind.
There were a few other fishermen returning in their skiffs. No one had gotten a single bite, but all marveled at the beauty of the day. One old man said he was recovering from a stroke. It had been torture for him to live for the last several years, but he considered this glorious day to be a gift from God for all his travails. His story brought tears to my eyes.
Perhaps some of you have never taken psychedelic drugs and have only heard about the “bad trips” that sometimes make the news. These constitute a tiny fraction of such experiences.
It is hard to think clearly, especially in regard to novel concepts or circumstances, so to avoid the effort we often fall back on habitual responses that dull the senses and prevent us from seeing and appreciating the beauty that surrounds us.
When brain gunk gets stuck in your head like a greasy hairball it is time to break out the Draino, or in this case to use mushrooms, or some other psychedelic (they are all quite similar), as a cathartic. If all goes well,”away goes trouble down the drain!”
So it was with the Weazel at the end of that glorious day. The trip was effectively over but I retained a warm glow of peace and happiness that was somehow transferable to others. I have no explanation for this phenomenon but I have experienced it many times. Over dinner at Cedar Key, and later at the Four Corners bar in Bronson, I was treated with extraordinary kindness by others with whom I had nothing in common, or who might even have been hostile. Was it something in my eyes?
I was reminded of a night almost fifty years ago when three young long haired Hippies high on mescaline walked into Green’s Place bar in Pascagoula Mississippi. The bar was full of vicious redneck chemical plant workers who had never before seen a Hippie and were not inclined toward such nonsense. I had recently fallen in love with my future ex wife and was all aglow plus high as a kite. The rednecks all wanted to fight but all we could do was giggle. The Beatles had recently released “Hey Jude” and I was amazed to discover that it was on the jukebox. Our love and laughter was so infectious that by the time we left everyone in the bar was singing, “Naw ne naw naw Hey Jude! Judee, Judee, Judee, Judee, Judee!” As we were walking out the door a new groups of Necks came in and they wanted to fight too, but the newly enlightened patrons said, “Don’t you trouble them folks, they’s Hippies and good people too, just like Christians only better cuz they love everybody!”
Whatever it is it works. We haven’t achieved world peace yet and probably never will, but it is always good to occasionally open your own mind to the personal possibility of peace, love, and happiness.
It worked for me on that beautiful day!