Wes and I returned home last night after a fun week while visiting my family in Florida for Christmas! Each day brought new adventures, from taking boat rides in the pond while watching the gator and numerous birds hanging out by the water, walking trails, wading in the ocean, to riding dirt bikes and four-wheelers!
My dad joined Wes and I for a hike around one of my favorite walking trails near their home. It’s a reclaimed wetlands area that the birds and gators love and always offers great photo-ops and a chance to do some awesome birdwatching! It’s hard to imagine that my dad recently finished his Car-T cancer therapy treatment and is able to do things like walk around this 5-mile trail with us, and we’re so very thankful for his amazing progress! We saw a large gator and numerous birds, getting several reference photos for future paintings. At one point dad and I quietly snuck up on what we thought was a flock of birds, taking photos of them and trying to figure out what kind they were. As we drew closer we realized it was a flock of dried pickerel leaves blowing in the wind and enjoyed a good laugh at ourselves for being fooled! Later we were standing near Tayler Creek and a deer that had walked up beside us realized the creek was straight ahead, so all of a sudden she took off running at a high rate of speed, leaning over to one side as she rounded the corner and came within a few feet of my dad as she ran between us and the creek! “WOW . . . what an amazing experience that was!” we all exclaimed as we watched her slow to a halt and join a few other deer under oak trees nearby.
I’ve ridden four-wheelers my entire life, so I’m right at home zipping around pastures and through woods on one. However, having never ridden a dirt bike, I was a wee bit reluctant to ride my nephew Tyler’s. Nonetheless, since I tell them, “If there’s a chance you can get hurt, it will probably be fun!“, I had to practice what I preach and try it. As soon as I gave it gas and lifted my second foot off the ground, off I went, feeling like I had ridden one my whole life, and had an absolute blast ripping around the pasture and over small dirt hills!
Next, it was time to ride the four-wheeler, so after riding it alone for a while, it was time for Wes to ride with Haydyn driving! Wes won’t ride with me anymore after I almost decapitated him with a clothesline while forgetting to tell him to duck, but he trusts Haydyn’s abilities much more than mine obviously and off they went!
Haydyn rode with me driving while we raced around the pasture along with Tyler and his friend Cody on another four-wheeler and dirt bike, then I rode with Haydyn, and was quite impressed with the awesome driver she is! Afterward, my dad and I had a race around the pasture before I rode with Tyler driving over to a creek nearby. It seems like just yesterday Tyler and Haydyn were still in diapers and now they’re driving Wes and me around on four-wheelers . . . time sure does fly!
Christmas day brought beautifully warm weather which was a gift to my brother Marshall and me since we love warmer temperatures! So we enjoyed Christmas dinner on the screen porch, serenaded by birdsong and the sound of gentle breezes blowing through the trees while watching the Painted Buntings come to eat at the feeders, and it was truly delightful, to say the least! That evening we enjoyed sitting around a campfire while singing songs and retelling funny stories from the past.
The next day my entire family spent the day at my favorite state park while walking the boardwalk trails leading through beautiful old cypress hammocks and swamps. Even though we never saw an alligator, we saw numerous birds and enjoyed watching a Red-shouldered Hawk sitting on a tree limb close by, eat a water lily, which is something we had never seen them do before! Later on, the kids had a ball playing on the playground and I just had to hang upside down for a few minutes on the monkey bars, followed by a yummy supper together that evening. It was another fun day indeed!
Our last day in Florida was spent with an afternoon at the beach, and even though it’s only been a little over a year since I’ve been in saltwater, as soon as I crested the sandy hill leading down to the beach, my sandals were off in a flash and I practically ran, for I could hardly wait to step out into the salty water! My feet were instantly at home on the soft warm sand, and as I stood there, legs enveloped by the cool saltwater, looking out into the distance where the sky meets water and all else disappears, for a few moments time stood still and all was well with the world! I love times like these which instantly recharge my batteries! We walked the beach whilst looking for shells with the kids and my brother and spotted numerous small Man-0-War scattered across the sandy beach, their beautiful translucent blue skin looking like glass sculptures lying on the sand. All of a sudden Wes and Tyler noticed a big dark thing wash up onto the beach and Tyler ran over and picked up the most amazing beautiful shell in perfect condition that I’ve seen found at any beach in all my years of going!
Even though we didn’t get to swim, I had to wet my hair and left the beach quite content with saltwater in my hair, sand on my feet and shells in my pocket! After walking up from the beach we explored the Navy Seal Museum which was most interesting and had several boats used by the seals in the past, which we could climb into and explore. One big boat, in particular, the kids and I had fun pretending we were zipping along large waves at a high rate of speed, jumping over them and crashing down as we went!
The next day after saying our sad goodbyes, Wes and I boarded a plane and I watched as my beloved Florida grew smaller and smaller until disappearing beneath clouds, as we flew back home to the Smokies.
Wes and I wish each and every one of you a happy, healthy and blessed New Year!
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~ See Our Miniatures In Person This Week ~
86th Annual International Exhibition of Fine Art in Miniature
Until January 5, 2020: The Mansion at Strathmore, Bethesda, MD
In the Tradition of Audubon Exhibition
Until January 5, 2020: Cincinnati Museum Center, Cincinnati, OH
Society of Animal Artists’ 59th Annual Art & The Animal Exhibition
Until January 5, 2020: The Briscoe Western Art Museum, San Antonio, TX
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Until Next Time . . .