Just the Two of Us

Dark Hollow Falls, Shenandoah National Park. Photo from Adobe Stock Photos.

Just the Two of Us

One day we made the winding, steep descent,

enchanted by the waterfall’s sweet song.

In pools below we swam to heart’s content,

the two of us together all day long.

One day we climbed up to the mountaintop,

where winter winds had dwarfed the ancient trees,

and we lay dreaming on a sun-warmed rock,

our skin caressed by every summer breeze.

One day we strolled among the ferns so green,

a fragrant carpet on the forest floor.

Below us stretched a peaceful valley scene.

We thought our love would last forevermore.

Oh, those were golden days I spent with you,

enjoying nature’s wonders, just we two!

(C) 2011 JOHN BILOUS. Ferns in Shenandoah National Park from Adobe Stock Photos.
(C) 2011 JOHN BILOUS Shenandoah National Park. Photo from Adobe Stock Photos.
A white-tailed deer fawn standing in a meadow in Shenandoah National Park. Photo by Paul from Adobe Stock Photos.

Copyright© 2023 by Cheryl Batavia


Dedicated to the memory of my first husband, Frank Wightman.

Surviving Hurricane Ian; Cardinals and Other Househunters; I Remember Grandma Washing Clothes

View of the street in front of our house the morning after hurricane Ian, Thursday, 9/29/22. The water was about three feet deep, but by the next day, the roads were mostly dry.

Hurricane Ian

Worst Storm in Florida History

Wednesday, 9/28/22

Ian was the largest Florida Hurricane on record. Slow-moving, it dropped huge amounts of rain and had storm surges of up to eighteen feet in coastal areas. Flooding was extensive. Wind speeds of up to 155 miles per hour and gusts of up to 190 miles per hour were recorded.

Southwest Florida was hit very hard, but fifty-seven of Florida’s sixty counties were affected before the storm moved up the East coast of the US.

View from our backyard, Thursday, 9/29/22. Most of the trees are gone from the wooded lot behind our house, and the yard was surrounded by a “moat.”

Hurricane Ian Information

Sunday, 10/9/22

Today is twelve days after Hurricane Ian. Most of the information here is from various sources, such as personal experience, observation, and word-of-mouth, though I watched hurricane news until the power went off on Thursday afternoon, 9/28/22. Our out-of-town relatives looked up news for us on the internet and gave us information over the phone after the phones started working.

I will be happy to get more in-depth hurricane news since our internet and TV came back on tonight. I know that much of the news will be tragic. Many people have had their homes and businesses damaged or destroyed, and over 100 have lost their lives. Of course, there will also be stories of people helping each other and stories of hurricane heroes.

View from our driveway, Thursday, 9/29/22. The water in the street was about three feet deep, covering the mailbox post and the bottom of our driveway.

Surviving Hurricane Ian

Nine Haikus and a Tanka

Tuesday, 9/27/2022

Flashlights, batteries,

storm shutters, propane, water,

ice…Are we ready?

Wednesday, 9/28/2022

Epic hurricane!

Both we and our house survived

the wrath of Ian!

Thursday, 9/29/2022

Downed trees surround us.

Homeless birds are house-hunting…

heart-rending chirping!

Children play outside,

jumping on their trampoline,

full of joy and life!

Helicopters pass.

No power, no phone service.

Internet is down.

Neighborhood kids wade

and row an inflated boat

down the flooded street.

Grown-ups are working

to bring order to chaos,

helping each other.

Heard in the distance,

generators and chainsaws,

fumes of gasoline.

Faint smoke in the air,

smells of wet wood burning and

supper on the grill.

A tiny flashlight

illuminates my paper

as I write tonight.

At last, loved ones’ calls connect.

“Yes, we are fine!” we tell them.


Jugs filled with filtered water and a propane burner in our lanai kitchen.

Advance Preparations

Tuesday, 9/27/22

Knowing we might not have running water, we filled the bathtubs with water for flushing the commodes and gallon jugs with RO-filtered water for drinking. We froze jugs of water to keep food cold in case of power outages. We also bought a bucket to carry water from the water tank outside.

Some items that are always in short supply during hurricanes are batteries and paper products, so we keep them on hand. For cooking on the lanai, we have a propane burner, tanks of propane, and matches in a waterproof container. We also have flashlights and a small battery-operated fan.

Gas shortages and long gas lines are common during storms, so we filled up our car’s gas tank. We fully charged our cell phones and have a charger in the car for backup.

We didn’t put our storm shutters up because predictions until the last minute were for a storm with maximum winds of 46 miles per hour. We don’t have a generator; the noise and the gas fumes are a problem for us.

Meat department of a grocery store. On a couple of days, they ran out of ice. One day I shopped there, and they were out of milk. Today they were out of eggs and sour cream. In the first few days after the storm, there were lines outside of some grocery stores.

Living Conditions

Charlotte County, Florida

Thursday, 9/29/22-Sunday, 10/9/22

Traffic has been extremely heavy. There have been long lines at gas stations, and some stations were out of gas. Grocery stores sell out of items such as ice, meat, eggs, milk, and paper products faster than they can restock the shelves. Some restaurants are open. They have faced shortages, but they have adapted and are serving large crowds. Schools are closed until further notice. Mail deliveries resumed after a few days. Garbage pickup will resume soon.

We had no electricity or running water for over a week at our house. Power returned on Saturday, 10/8/22, and the internet came back on Sunday, 10/9/22. About 95% of customers now have power. Cell phone service was off for a day, then was erratic, but has gradually improved.

Major roads were quickly cleared and traffic signals were in service. Secondary roads are mostly clear, but not all traffic signals are operational.

Floods in our neighborhood subsided in a day, but there may still have been flooding elsewhere for a while. We think the numerous canals in our neighborhood overflowed. Robert found a dead fish in our yard after the water went down. Phew!


Male cardinal. Photo by Aaron Doucette from Unsplash.

Cardinals & Other Househunters

Sonnet

Friday, 9/30/22

Oh, bright red bird perched on a scrap of vine

amid trees fallen in a hurricane,

your chirping reaches from your heart to mine.

Oh, little homeless bird, I feel your pain!

The female cardinal soon joins her mate.

Now side-by-side in silence, feeling calm,

their top priority is real estate.

Away they fly in search of their new home.

Although the cardinals are out of sight,

their joyful melodies drift in the air.

May their new treehouse be exactly right!

I hope that they are safe and happy there.

May displaced humans, squirrels, and raccoons,

and all househunters find their dream homes soon!

Male and female cardinals. Photo by Aaron Doucette from Unsplash.

Power company bucket truck working in our neighborhood.

Cleanup & Recovery

Thursday, 9/29/22-Sunday, 10/9/22

There are several staging areas nearby. Electrical crews from many Florida counties and multiple states, Federal Emergency Management Agency, FEMA, Rubicon volunteers, The Florida National Guard, sheriff’s deputies, and state police from many Florida counties are some of the people working here.

All of the cleanup and recovery efforts have been well-coordinated, and the various agencies have accomplished an amazing amount of work in less than two weeks since Hurricane Ian struck. A Rubicon volunteer I talked to told me that they will be here until Thanksgiving, clearing roads and assisting Floridians with emergency repairs.

A huge thank you to everyone for their efforts to return Florida to normal after Hurricane Ian!

This was how I did my laundry on the second day after Hurricane Ian.

I Remember Grandma Washing Clothes

Friday, 9/30/22

The second day

after Hurricane Ian,

with no power or running water,

while it was still cool outside,

I set up a table on the patio.

Carrying water in a bucket

from the water tank,

Robert and I filled and refilled two basins,

one to wash and one to rinse.

I washed twelve pairs of underwear,

five nightshirts,

and two pairs of socks.

I hung the clothes on hangers

to dry in the sun and the breeze

Then I watched the clouds

forming in the sky.

If it rained,

the clothes would have to finish drying

on the lanai.

It took me a couple of hours

to wash the clothes.

All that time, I thought of Grandma

making soap from lard and lye,

and boiling it in a big kettle over a fire.

About 1956, I watched Grandma do laundry.

She washed her clothes

in a wringer washer in her basement,

then hung them outside to dry

on the clotheslines.

When they were dry,

she carried them upstairs

and sprinkled them with water

before she ironed them.

There were no steam irons then,

and there was very little wash-and-wear.

Grandma did her laundry

in many steps,

and she climbed many steps too!

Grandma was born around 1903.

She and Grandpa

purchased and remodeled

her childhood home

when she was in her fifties.

When Grandma was living

in that same house as a child,

they pumped well water

with a pitcher pump in the yard…

no wringer washer

in the basement,

no indoor plumbing,

and probably no electricity.

I remember

that Grandma was very proud

of her collection of antique flat irons

made of solid iron,

the ones that you heated

on the woodstove

before you ironed your clothes.

She probably used those same irons

as a child living in that very house.

How Grandma would laugh

if she could see me now,

carrying well water in a bucket

and washing clothes outdoors

in 2022!

Cheryl Batavia in the outdoor laundry. Shades of 1903, but without the washboard and the flat irons! Photo by Robert Snyder.

Positive Notes on Hurricane Ian

Saturday, 10/8/22

Downed trees from the vacant wooded lot next door blew against our house.
Tops of fallen trees against the window.

Farewell to Trees!

Although we didn’t put storm shutters up, and trees blew down against our roof and windows, there is no damage except for some minor gutter repairs. It truly was amazing, and definitely terrifying, to watch Hurricane Ian slam into our house for about eight hours!

This house in our neighborhood has storm shutters just like ours, but they actually put theirs up! The fence was no match for Hurricane Ian.

The Power is On!

Thursday, 10/6/22

One result of living through Hurricane Ian is a new appreciation for electricity. Nearly everything we do requires an innovative approach without power. I was so happy to take a shower! No more carrying endless buckets of water! No more schlepping ice! No more writing poems by flashlight!

Moonrise over the remains of trees that blew over against our windows during Hurricane Ian. Friday, 10/7/22. We have a crew coming this week to cut up the branches and carry them to the street for FEMA to pick up.

Welcome, Autumn!

One great development is that Ian ushered in beautiful autumn weather…sunny days, cool mornings and evenings, and the bright harvest moon!

Hello, Birds!

Saturday, 10/8/22

Mockingbird. Photo by Pexels User from Pexels.
Male cardinal. Photo by Aaron Doucette from Unsplash.

Cardinals have been the predominant birds in our immediate neighborhood, but since the storm, I have seen several mockingbirds. I love both birds, but the mockingbirds are wonderful singers. Today the weather was gorgeous, and I had lunch on the lanai. For nearly an hour, mockingbirds performed a concert for Robert and me. They have a stunning repertoire!

There are two large oak trees on the other side of the vacant lots behind our house that survived Hurricane Ian. I think the cardinals may have found a new home there.

We have also seen a colorful blue jay a few times.

I hope they all stick around!

Blue Jay. Photo by Aaron Doucette from Unsplash.

Helping Each Other

The jatropha in our backyard after Hurricane Ian uprooted it.

One of the nicest things we have experienced during the aftermath of Hurricane Ian is people helping each other, both their neighbors and total strangers.

Our neighbors are very busy and hard-working and have plenty to do, but they have offered to help us. Our kind neighbor replanted two Jatrophas that the storm ripped out of the ground. We are watering them and hoping for another miracle.

What an inspiring family!

Our jatropha before the hurricane. Read about our jatropha miracle.

gulfcoastpoet.com/2022/09/04/ode-to-a-young-jatropha/
Robert on our front porch the morning after Hurricane Ian visited us. Thursday, 9/29/ 22

Spending Time Together

Robert and I have enjoyed working together to overcome the challenges we have faced from Hurricane Ian. We liked chatting on the lanai over our morning tea in the cool mornings and talking about the events of the day in the evenings. Having a few late lunches together in a cool restaurant was pleasant when we had no air conditioning at home.

Occasionally, we took time out to play a game of Scrabble. A couple of times, I even won! At night, we played by the light of a tiny flashlight hung from the ceiling fan with a piece of string.

It’s great to spend time with the ones you love in the good times, but it’s especially great in challenging times!

Our dining table looks out to the lanai and our outdoor kitchen. A great place for a game of Scrabble!

Final Thoughts

A lot of people are probably wondering whether the intensity of Hurricane Ian is the result of climate change. I believe it is, and I think that we will continue to have increasingly severe weather events if we fail to reverse global warming. We all need to do our part.

Wherever you are, I send you best wishes for health and happiness. Be safe, and remember that life is a little sweeter when people help each other. ❤


Copyright© 2022 by Cheryl Batavia

Ode to a Young Jatropha

Zebra butterfly gathering nectar from a Jatropha Integerrima flower. Photo by Siala from Pixabay.

Ode to a Young Jatropha

A Florida favorite we revere

delights in winter sun and summer rains.

Jatropha blooms in scarlet splendor here

and blooming daily, honeybees sustains.

Beloved by spritely zebra butterflies,

a cheery view outside our windowpane!

Our balmy winters we gratefully prize.

Jatropha, welcome! May you long remain!

Jack Frost, unbidden, killed you to the ground.

I gave up hope, and soon declared you dead

when armadillos came and dug around,

But Robert watched and watered you instead.

In spring, you rose; in winter, you grew tall.

Jatropha, you were never dead at all!

Photo of an armadillo by Victor Miyata from Pexels.
Our little Jatropha. The shadow is of me taking the photo.
Robert with the Jatropha whose life he saved after it froze to the ground. Photo by Cheryl Batavia.

In just three short months our Jatropha grew from the roots to nearly six feet tall and wide. This winter, I will begin to prune and shape it.

Last spring, we planted another Jatropha in the front yard to replace a tree that died in the freeze. The nursery said that it was not uncommon for frozen Jatrophas to regrow. Our little shrub was newly-planted and vulnerable. Older Jatrophas in the neighborhood had minimal damage, and quickly recovered.

The last freeze in South Florida was in 2010. Freezes happen about every 10 years, and most tropical plants do survive. Let’s hope climate change does not make freezes more common here.

Copyright © 2022 by Cheryl Batavia

To my Blogging Friends,

Before moving, my son spent ten days with us. During his visit, I spent too much time outdoors in the heat. What started as an allergic reaction to soil molds became a sinus infection. Though I almost never have a headache, I experienced five weeks of severe daily headaches, some days all day. I also suffered extreme fatigue and brain fog.

When I realized I had a sinus infection, I called my doctor’s office for an appointment. My doctor wouldn’t see me and sent me to the walk-in clinic because my symptoms resembled covid. I was in the clinic for three hours being tested for covid and the flu. Both tests were negative. I got some antibiotics, and I am finally over the sinus infection and recovering my energy.

As I am able, I will begin spending more time on WordPress. I am glad to be back! ❤

Morning Reflections

Ocean Dawn. Photo by William Farlow from Unsplash.
Foggy Morning. Photo by Yannick Pulver from Unsplash.
Ruella Daybreak. Photo by Cheryl Batavia.
A New Day. Photo by Gordon Beagley from Unsplash.

Morning Reflections

1. Ocean Dawn

Exquisite stillness…

Dawn breaks over the ocean…

Tranquil, bright morning.

Each day a new beginning,

each day a limitless sea!

2. Foggy Morning

Fog obscures mountains.

Burning sun will soon reveal

lofty horizons.

Inspiration surrounds us…

Your mountain is calling you!

3. Ruella Daybreak

Daybreak approaching…

Purple ruellas unfold,

inviting the bees.

Ruellas live for today.

Tomorrow, others will bloom!

4. A New Day

Morning dew sparkles

on spider webs in sunshine,

delicate but strong.

Slender threads of existence

adorned with glimmering hope.

5. Morning Sun

The day starts slowly,

sunlight building its courage

to face the new day.

Up over the horizon…

Upward to blazing midday!

Morning Sun. Photo by Courtney Cook from Unsplash.

Copyright© 2022 by Cheryl Batavia


Project News

One of the projects I am working on is submitting my five self-published books to traditional publishers through an agency. The Company is launching two new magazines and sponsored a literary contest.

This poem, “Morning Reflections” as well as the last post, “Serendipity” were entries in a magazine contest that did not get published. There is one more poem which won a special mention and will be published in the magazine soon. I will share the poem after it has been published. I entered a short story contest in the other magazine, but didn’t get published. I will post a story on my blog in the near future.

Another exciting thing is that a small ad for my book, Hanging Out With Wild Animals, will appear in an upcoming issue of the New York Times Magazine. I will share it with you after it comes out. My books will be featured in a variety of other media outlets in the US.

I will post updates about future developments. I am also working on a book series of poems from my blog. That is a long-term project, and I don’t have any plans to publish those books any time soon.

In addition to Robert’s ongoing dental appointments and the ultrasound therapy I am doing for him at home, Robert is having outpatient surgery on Wednesday, which will involve a couple more appointments and a few days of recovery time at home. I think I am too old for all of this activity! I am still trying to keep up with emails, but may continue to be somewhat erratic for a while.

Spider’s Psychedelic Masterpiece

This morning I was mesmerized by a spider web constructed very much like this one. Photo by Alexy Demidov from Pexels.

Spider’s Psychedelic Masterpiece

Suspended in space,

densely coiled gossamer disk,

buoyant in the breeze.

Pulsating neon colors

iridescent in sunshine.

In the morning sunshine, each damp strand of the spider’s web became a tiny prism, shimmering in the breeze. The colors of the web were vivid like those in this soap bubble. As the web dried, the colors slowly faded. I wish I could have captured the moment in a photo. Maybe one of the photographers out there has such a photo. I found only pastel-colored webs online.


Copyright© 2022 by Cheryl Batavia

Welcome, Orchids!

Orchids on the lanai.

Welcome, Orchids!

Orchids…

sunshine yellow,

rosy pink, white, crimson…

old friends reappear and linger.

Welcome!

Orchids

delight my days!

Luminous elegance,

vivid on our shady lanai…

Cherished!

Orchids

encourage me.

When TV news is grim,

I glance out the glass door. Orchids

bring hope!

My favorite yellow orchid has three stems covered with buds, but no blooms yet. Pink and crimson orchids are beginning to bloom.

Allergies limit our gardening and prevent us from having indoor plants, but orchids love being on the shady lanai and bring lots of joy. Orchids require very little care, bloom a couple of times a year, and blooms last for many weeks. In cold climates, they can be grown indoors.

Copyright© 2022 by Cheryl Batavia

At One with the River

Photo from Pexels/Pixabay.

At One with the River

Time of river…

River of dreams

blissfully reflecting

sky blue, trees green.

Feeling peaceful,

gently flowing past

heron sentinel,

sunshine in mind.

Consciousness of stream,

underwater wonders,

fish inquisitive.

Joyful making memories.

At one with the river, time flowing by…

Memories making joyful.

Inquisitive fish,

wonders underwater,

stream of consciousness.

Mind in sunshine,

sentinel heron,

past flowing gently.

Peaceful feeling,

green trees, blue sky

blissfully reflecting.

Dreams of river…

River of time.


Copyright© 2022 by Cheryl Batavia

Animals at Homosassa Springs Wildlife State Park & Poems about Some of the Animals

My daughters, Katey and Ellen in front of Pippa, the Hippo’s, cage. Pippa is the only exotic animal at Homosassa Wildlife State Park. The beloved sixty-one-year-old hippo was granted official Florida citizenship by the governor of Florida when the zoo transitioned to a wildlife park for Florida animals many years ago.

The majority of the animals at Homosassa Wildlife State Park are rescued animals that are unable to survive in the wild: manatees injured by boat propellers being rehabilitated in the manatee rescue center, animals who were hit by cars, birds unable to fly because of impaired vision or injuries to their wings, endangered squirrels and other rare animals raised illegally in captivity and confiscated from their owners.

The whooping cranes were from a program to reestablish these endangered birds in Florida. The female whooping crane has impaired vision and cannot fly. The male found her at Homosassa Wildlife State Park and joined her in her enclosure. He could fly away, but he stays. Whooping cranes mate for life, and this is a very touching pair!

The tropical bird enclosure, like most of the enclosures, is open at the top. It has a stream running through it and is shaded by lovely trees. I saw egrets, once hunted almost to extinction for their mating plumage, flying into and out of the enclosure. They are free to visit, or maybe they are choosing to live there.

The marine fish seen from the underwater observatory under the main spring migrate seasonally, as do the manatees in the Homosassa River near the hot springs. Public boat travel is restricted in this area to protect these migratory animals.

American flamingos, extinct in Florida for over 100 years, were discovered about ten years ago living in the Florida Everglades. No one knows for sure how they got there, but they probably came from Central or South America. We are thrilled to have them living in the wild in Florida once again. I don’t know if the flamingos in the tropical bird enclosure are rescues or are part of an effort to reintroduce them to their former range.

Alligators, hunted almost to extinction for their hides, are now protected and are once again plentiful in Florida. Programs now collect a few young alligators from their nests, raise them to a size where they can defend themselves from predators, and release them to ensure their continued success in the wild.

The black vultures, handsome lively birds, live at the park by choice, but they are a welcome clean-up crew. We saw them stealing what appeared to be fresh-cut grain from the hippo after they ate the insects from his back. We saw them visiting the black bear and perched in the trees.

The red wolves are endangered and are part of a captive breeding program to reintroduce them into Florida.

Florida Panthers, proud symbol of Florida, are endangered and seriously inbred. Panthers from Texas were brought in a few years ago to refresh the gene pool. Along Route 75, “Alligator Alley,” that runs from east to west through the Florida Everglades, high fences have recently been erected to protect panthers from traffic.

The aging dike at Lake Okeechobe has undergone extensive renovations this year. Nutrient-rich water released from the lake has caused red tides in the Gulf of Mexico and blue-green algae overgrowth in our rivers, sickening people, killing fish, dolphins, endangered manatees and endangered sea turtles. From now on, water will be released from the lake into bodies of water in much smaller amounts. The water from Lake Okeechobe will once again flow into the Florida Everglades as it was intended to do. I think Wildlife numbers will increase there due to this restoration.

I hesitated to provide detailed background information in this post. After all, I only spent half a day walking around the park and reading signs. That is the source of most of the information given about the park. I am not a biologist or expert on the environment, just a retired elementary school teacher and amateur poet who loves animals and cares about wildlife and the environment. I have done some research on wildlife to write my enviromnent-themed book series about Florida animals, Hanging Out with Wild Animals. You can read more about the books on my website.

It is tragic that so many animals have been injured and driven to extinction by human settlement and human activities, but the animals who live at Homosassa Wildlife State Park, though disabled, help to raise public awareness of wildlife and environmental issues. As the sign says, they are “ambassadors of wildlife.”


Animals at Homosassa Springs

Wildlife State Park

Endangered whooping crane. Photo by Amber Langeloni from Pixabay.

Love Birds

Male whooping crane joined

flightless female whooping crane

in her enclosure.

He could choose to fly away,

but he loves her, so he stays.

River otter. Photo by Jack Bulmer from Pixabay.

River Otters

You’ve got to be quick

to capture river otters

with your camera.

Appearing, disappearing

through plants on water’s surface.

Bald eagles. Photo by Jonathan Cooper from Unsplash.

Bald Eagle, National Bird

It’s been a long time

since these two injured eagles

soared Florida’s skies

American flag above ,

they watch as life passes by.

A school of snook viewed from the underwater observatory at the main spring of Homosassa State Wildlife Park. Photo by Ellen Maher.

Migrating Marine Fish

In the wintertime,

marine fish, like manatees,

migrate to hot springs.

Manatees and marine fish

thrive in seas and fresh water.

Florida bobcat. Photo by Meg Jerrard from Unsplash.

Bobcats & Florida Panthers

Florida bobcats

now coexist with humans

in suburbia.

Florida panthers, pride of

Florida, are endangered.

Flamingos in the tropical bird area. Photo by Ellen Maher.

Egret and roseate spoonbills. Photo by Kurt Anderson from Pexels.

Tropical Birds

Sparkling waters flow

through green paradise,

home of tropical birds.

Pink flamingos and spoonbills,

night herons, and sleeping swans.

Red wolf. Photo by Lucie Sa Vi from Unsplash.

Red Wolves

Endangered red wolves

roam a spacious enclosure,

delighting humans.

Procreation their purpose…

red wolf repopulation.

American alligator. Photo by Katey Batavia.

Alligators

Alligators live

in a pond that’s metal fenced…

Visitors are safe.

Prehistoric predators…

fearsome reptiles captivate.

Black vultures. Photo by Ellen Maher.

Black Vulture Family

Handsome black vultures

choose to live at the preserve…

welcome scavengers!

Perching on the hippo’s back,

they eat insects, then share his food.

Pippa, the hippo at Homosassa State Wildlife Park. Photo by Katey Batavia.

Pippa, the Hippopotamus,

Age Sixty-One

Grandfathered from days

when exotic animals

were in residence.

Citizen of Florida,

world’s oldest captive hippo.

American black bear. Photo by Katey Batavia.

Ambassadors

of Florida Wildlife

Most animals here

are unable to survive

living on their own.

Protected, they now serve

as ambassadors of wildlife.

Rare, endangered squirrel now unable to live in the wild because it was illegally raised in captivity. Photo by Ellen Maher.


Copyright© 2021 by Cheryl Batavia


For more information:

floridastateparks.org

Find a Park:

Ellie Schiller Homosassa Springs Wildlife State Park

Swimming with Manatees

Katey Batavia & Ellen Maher in their wetsuits and ready to board the pontoon boat.

Swimming with Manatees

During the summer, manatees

wander widely in warm seas.

Manatees throw fall and winter parties

in warm springs near seventy degrees.

Hundreds of manatees socialize in Kings Bay

near Three Sisters Springs on November days.

These marine mammals enjoy each other’s company.

They don’t compete for territory.

Vegetarians, they live on sea grass…

How peacefully, how gracefully their days pass!

Nursing calves swim beside their mothers.

They have no predators, no fear of others.

Though manatees bear the scars

of encounters with boat propellers,

they still seek humans as their playmates.

Snuggles and belly rubs are appreciated.

As I climbed down the boat ladder,

a manatee waited in the water.

A thousand pounds of curiosity

and sweet manatee eyes greeted me.

The moment we came face to face,

I knew there was hope for the human race.

At that moment it was clear to me

that people could learn from manatees.

How happy life would be

if we could live in harmony

with nature and our fellow creatures.

Manatees are charming teachers!

A friendly manatee. g7b148…-Suo02Vj
Ellen meets a manatee at Three Sisters Springs in Kings Bay, Crystal River, Florida. DCIM\100GOPRO\GOPR0196.JPG
A manatee asked Katey for a pat. Note the harmless algae growing on the manatee’s back. DCIM\100GOPRO\GOPR0250.JPG
Time for my belly rub, Katey! DCIM\100GOPRO\GOPR0156.JPG
Cheryl. Photo by Katey.

West Indian Manatees

West Indian Manatees are endangered marine mammals whose closest relatives are elephants. They require a minimum water temperature of sixty-eight degrees. Interestingly, they have no front teeth, only molars for chewing tough sea grass. They swim gracefully at speeds up to 20 miles per hour. At 1,000 to 1,200 pounds, they have no natural enemies, but many are injured by propellers of fast-moving boats. Boaters can protect manatees by observing posted speed limits in manatee areas.

Personnel at Kings Bay in Crystal River tag and monitor injured manatees. They are transported to a manatee rescue center in Homosassa Springs for rehabilitation if they are unable to recover on their own.

Florida has numerous hot springs where manatees spend the Fall and Winter months. Kings Bay has a constant year-round temperature of sixty-eight degrees and some manatees are year-round residents there. Other springs may be a little warmer, about seventy-two degrees.

When you swim with the manatees, you are instructed not to disturb resting manatees. As you would get to know a strange cat, you should let them approach you. Ellen had a manatee hug her arm. A manatee wanted Katey to pet it and give it a belly rub. One manatee swam up against me, and another manatee put its nose against my mask and gazed into my eyes. These are moments we will always remember!

Manatees have been called “sea cows” because they graze on sea grass and other aquatic plants. Very lonely mariners in the early days are said to have mistaken them for mermaids. There is another species of manatee in Africa.


Copyright© 2021 by Cheryl Batavia


For more information about swimming with manatees and boat tours, you can contact:

http://www.PlantationOnCrystalRiver.com

floridamanateeadventures.com

Cicadas & Snowbirds


Cicada. Photo by Shannon Potter from Unsplash.

Cicadas & Snowbirds

Late September now…

Cicadas singing swan songs,

summer’s last hurrah!

Still rainy in Florida…

raindrops dripping from palm trees.

Photo by Roberto Vivano from Pexels.

Hurricane season

giving way in October…

Birds migrating south,

nesting and raising their young

in Florida’s bright blue days.

Photo by Marisa Howenst from Unsplash.

November. Snowbirds,

fleeing winter’s snowy blast,

also migrate south.

Their nesting days are over…

Grandchildren come to visit.

Photo by Tima Miroshni from Pexels.

Holiday visitors flock

to warm, Florida beaches

in sunny December.

On the beach with grandchildren.

Radio plays “White Christmas.”

Beach in Fort Myers, Florida. Photo by Sarah Granger from Unsplash.

January days.

Bermuda shorts and sweaters

on the golf course.

Delightful weather!

February…still golfing!

Florida Golf Course. Photo by Mick Haupt from Unsplash.

In March and April,

snowbird thoughts turn northward

to dogwoods in bloom.

Snowbirds take their flight

to their summer homes up North.

Dogwood Tree. Photo by Jonathan Hana from Unsplash.

May…hot and sunny.

Cicada chorus and rain

June through September.

Hurricane season waning.

Cicadas sing finale.

Cicada. Photo by Stephen Walker from Unsplash.

Copyright© 2021 by Cheryl Batavia


Katey and Joe Batavia visit their Snowbird Grandparents, Renee and Gabe Batavia. Boynton Beach, Florida, circa 1996. Photo by Cheryl Batavia.