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Articles Lodging on the Santa Fe River, Alachua County, Florida

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08

End of Summer at the Santa Fe River
November 8, 2010
            From October 2, when I arrived by train from Spokane, until November 2, we had nothing but glorious days. No rain. Not one drop of rain. No clouds. Not one cloud. After three weeks of this Los Angeles like weather, finally I began working on the inside of the Gainesville house. Day after day of 80 degrees, cool, breezy mornings and evenings, and scorchingly hot unabated sun in the afternoons could not last, but alas, one must tidy the house. I feel like an ant or a muskrat or beaver working away in the depths of my chambers: moving this bit of sand or this stick isn't much different from dusting and sweeping and rearranging furniture.
            I arrived election night and listened to the Republicans "shellacking" the Obama regime. I turned off the radio before hearing that Scott is now governor of Florida. The nights were still warm those few days ago, so I opened the futon and slept on the porch overlooking the river.
            I'd worked hard the days before coming to the river, so my sleep under the stars with no moon was deep and restfull. So tired was I that after my morning swim I scarcely did anything beyond listening to the Obama speech from the rocking chair sitting in the sunny corner of the living room.
            Life goes on, of course, whether we have Reppublicans, Democrats, Hitler, or Jesus ruling us. At least, here in the US we only vote people out of office and do not behead them or put them in front of a firing squad...at least not yet, or not now.
 
            I did go to sit on the rock beside the Ichetucknee the night after the election. It's that time of year when the sun's glare on the rippling silver water blinds me. I can't understand what atmospheric differences create that light, but it's true and characteristic. Sun glassses don't help clarify, they only take away the glare. I come to appreciate the dazzling light, to accept it. What I'm taking in does not change much from year to year, although the seasons change it all. When I swim with mask and snorkel, flippers upriver these days, I'm pleased to see green plants again under water; they are like sea maiden's hair filling different heads and hiding fish in them like flowers that ornament a Hawaiian girls luxuriant hair. I thought we'd lost those plants forever, but see...Nature renews itself.
            I took the  trouble again to unlock the hydrobikes and mount one with my wine glass in hand at sunset. Leathergy, inertia, or boredom has kept me from this joy for months. Now that I have my river back to myself, maybe that's why I'm energized again. The dogs join me on the Columbia county bank, galantly tackle the swim across the confluence of the Santa Fe and Ichetucknee rivers, and romp downriver along the Suwannee County shore. We come to the spring there on the Gilchrist county side and see a toddler hand in hand with his...looks like dad, but find out it's granddad who built that house above the spring. "Pumps more water out when water's low," the owner/grandparent tells me. 
            Water sure is low in the Santa Fe, and clear. So clear I can see the big bass chasing the fingerlings, and their shadows on the sandy river bottom.
 
            These don't change year after year, season after season.
 
            I'm sitting in the rocking chair on the porch with John Cheever's stories completely distracted by the migrating birds and domestic cardinals in the maples. The leaves are stil green. Tiny yellow/green finches peck at miniscule insects; they are a flock. Another gray bird with a crest, some kind of tohee or nuthatch? mingle among the branches, giving me one eye from time to time. Familiar brilliant scarlet cardinals and their rust colored mates and fledglings coexist with the transients. This is the season for it.
 
            What finally does change though is the weather. From the night I arrive at the riverhouse, the skies are mostly cloudy. Only briefly does the sun break through, but it's still warm. Then the second night I'm sleeping on the porch, the rain comes...the last rain of summer. Rain pelts the metal roof. The dog dish has a forth inch of water in it the morning after the rain. The big rain comes the day I invite Inge and her daughter's family out for dinner. I've been planning it for a year, and we've had perfect weather for a month, but the day they come it's tornado warnings and a torrential rainstorm in the middle of the day. 
            Sakes, it's only weather. Anyway we survey the confluence, investigate the dens of animals under the limerock. Gray weather makes this post Halloween venture seem scaary with the gnarly black roots twisting through the rocky landscape and the animals living beneath mysterious. Little Lena is only five, but she is not daunted by the misty rain nor the rocky landscape. She eagerly jumps from rock to rock, "Look Mommy there's a fish" and hops on the hydrobike as a passenger as the parents float down the river.
 
            I'm prepared that the front bringing rain also brings the end to summer temperatures. I close down the screened room with blinds and shutters, snuggle under the quilt, even pull on socks and a stocking cap to preserve my body heat during the first long, cold night in this heatless house. In the morning, I wait until golden light has reached the tops of the trees before tenderly stepping into the 30 degree morning air.
           
            Like the sweep the Republicans made through the House of Congress, so the rain swept away traces of warmth and gray clouds. "The people have spoken," I hear the victors brag. So now those who could say only "no" have their chance to see what they can do about our lagging economy, the war, the deficit...and soon we'll see the results.
            Meanwhile, I pull the kayak to the headsprings, launch it, float down amid the verdant grasses so clearly apparant in the undisturbed spring waters. I pass as well flocks of ducks quacking their disapproval of my intervention into their homeland, a triad of white herons, solitary blue ones with their 8 foot wing spans allowing them to circle and circle above me, coots in clusters, and I pass only two kayakers struggling against the current. The river is mine again.
 
            I load the new red Toyota for the trip home, but then I do take that late afternoon swim in the cool waters of the Ichetucknee...and linger...linger so long that it's not worth leaving. It's the second day of winter; summer's over here. I gather what limbs have fallen for a fire beside the river, heat my dinner and bring it down to the fire. It's going to be a long cold night in this heatless home. I think of all those mamals who endure long cold winters and wonder how they do it.

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