1. 1.
    traveling from place to place, especially working or based in various places for relatively short periods.
    "the peripatetic nature of military life"
    synonyms:nomadic, itinerant, traveling, wandering, roving, roaming, migrant,migratory, unsettled
    "I could never get used to her peripatetic lifestyle"
  2. 2.
  1. 1.
    a person who travels from place to place.
  2. 2.
    an Aristotelian philosopher.

Friday, January 29, 2010

NN/SOTS: First to Be Last

Much Madness is divinest Sense--
To a discerning Eye--
Much Sense--the starkest Madness--
'Tis the Majority
In this, as All, prevail--
Assent--and you are sane--
Demur--you're straightway dangerous--
And handled with a Chain--
(a poem by Emily Dickinson, c. 1862)

SAM the doughy-butt bureaucrat--that's what he calls himself now--and I needed some serious recreation, and we found it last Saturday at Wakulla Springs, south of Tallahassee. After visiting the lodge and walking the grounds for a while, we waited with several other people on the dock where some pontoon boats were tied up, ready to take the next scheduled tour. SAM was sprawled out in a corner, trying to catch a few rays while I stayed busy with the camera. We were not paying any attention to how the small group of people had suddenly swelled to a crowd of about forty people and also to how a line was forming in response to one of the ranger-guides stepping into one of the boats. Then I heard a kid yell to his parents, "Hurry up, guys, I'm up here. We're gonna get the best seats!" SAM grabbed my arm and pulled me to the end of the line, not looking at all pleased. "Relax," I told him. Somehow I knew that my favorite maxim would come through for us again. As the French like to say: Le premier sera le dernier! And vice versa, don't you know?

A second boat and guide were added to accommodate the end-of-the-liners. We knew that we had found the mother-lode with this man. He introduced himself as Luke and proceeded to tell us, "This ain't no Disney World! This is the reeeaalll Florida!" I wish that I had taken video of him while he explained various aspects and highlights of the tour, but I was too busy trying to capture the various creatures he pointed out to us.

Luke slowed the boat to show us something really special--manatees. He explained that there are several of them living year-round at the Springs. There were actually two of them here when I took the picture, but only one of them surfaced near enough for me to sort-of focus on it. I am not that good at taking rapid-fire shots, the boat was moving ever so slightly, and I might have been just a little excited to see so much wildlife in one place. Most of my pictures did not turn out as well as I would have liked. They're a little fuzzy, but then so are my attempts at French pronunciation.

I thought that one of the most fascinating and mobile birds we encountered was the Anhinga. It always seems to be hanging itself out to dry.

The book I used to identify the birds once I got home--Luke knew them all, but I could not recall--the Reader's Digest Book of North American Birds, remarks that coots will swim over to join ducks or other waterfowl and perform pirouettes while stabbing at the water with their beaks. This strange dance is not for entertainment but to take advantage of the food stirred up by the other birds' feet as they paddle about. Their behavior is referred to as commensal feeding. I wonder if the coots also somehow know my favorite maxim.

Please visit for more of this week's posts linked to her Nature Notes/Signs of the Season meme.


  1. Get out of here! I love Luke...I'm in Tallahassee...We used to go to Wakulla Springs every summer..

  2. Such neat critters! I especially like the first photo with the gator and turtles but the manatees would have been fun too.

  3. We love Wakulla!!! It is such a wonderful place! One of our happiest moments in time was: We went one time and it started storming, so we ran in and had dinner, then watched the movie "Swamp Thing" which was filmed there, in the lobby with another family...while it stormed....what a fun evening!!!

  4. What a treat to see the real Florida and not just the Disney version. Looks like my kind of place as I am much more attracted to the natural rather than the superficial. :)

  5. We visited Wakulla Springs a few years back and loved it. We even stayed at the old hotel. It truly is the "real Florida" of old.

  6. What a great tour, I love the critters and the birds. Wonderful photos!

  7. Emily Dickinson is one of my faves... she always managed to say so much with so little space.

    Sounds like you got the good tour guide! Great shots...

  8. Darla, then you know what a treat he is. I'm glad to meet a Tally gardener. Thanks for commenting.

    Tina, both encounters were really special. I wish I could have been more on the ball with focusing the camera. But you get the general idea...

    Luke told us some funny stories about various films that have been shot on location at Wakulla, Julie. You need to come back and take a tour this time. I guess you didn't get to go on the boat?

    Hello, Stine! I'm that way too. When the kids were small, I took them to Epcot while their dad was attending a seminar, thinking it would be more "educational" than the other Disney venues. Our son kept pointing out the fake bird sounds coming from speakers in the bushes, and I knew it was a pointless trip.

    Susan, we went so far as to get a brochure about the hotel but haven't ventured to stay there yet. We're still thinking about it.

    Thanks, Eileen. We had a great time that day.

    Claude! It's great to see you here again. I should have known Emily would draw you out of hiding. If you ever get to visit Tallahassee, make the effort to see the springs with Luke as your guide. He's a treasure.

  9. Great photos. The springs you have to see them live in person, no? They are amazing ... and the Wakulla is an first magnitude ... a real gusher! Have a great weekend!

  10. I learned something today about coots and I have never seen one. I just read that there were about 100 manatees killed by the cold snap and they are worried about the continued stress of them....Michelle

  11. This was a wonderful trip down memory lane. It's been years since Buck and I have been to Wakulla. He knew the late Ed Ball and said one bit of advice Mr. Ball gave him was this: "If you ever find a piece of land with a natural Spring on it, buy it." Your description of the anhingha "hanging itself out to dry" is fantastic.


  12. Mr. S, I'm used to little trickles when it comes to springs. Wakulla truly is the queen of them.

    Hi, Michelle. I guess I had never seen a coot before either. I just thought it was an odd-looking duck. The manatees are such gentle, slow-moving creatures. Boat motors on Florida's waterways are their greatest hazard, according to Luke.

    Elizabeth, thanks. It's a good thing Mr. Ball's heirs saw fit to let the park service take over the resort. The different state agencies are doing everything they can to find a balance between preserving the natural beauty of the springs and making it available for public enjoyment.

  13. This poem is one of my favorites,W2W; if we were all "sane" and went along with prevailing philosophy, there would be no progress, would there?

    You're so lucky to have such interesting wildlife close by--I love the manatees! Your description of Luke reminds me of a couple tours I've taken. I visited the Jack Daniels Distillery in Lynchburg, Tennessee one time with my daughters and a friend. Our guide had such a dry wit; to this day, the girls and I still talk about how much fun we had there.

  14. Your guide looks like a real character. I love shot of the Anhinga. Our cormorants do the wing-drying trick too. Thanks for the ride on the wild side.

  15. What a great looking place. We will be making a first ever visit to Florida. Twins spring training. I'm noting other places of interest. This looks like one.

  16. Rose, I've been wanting to visit the distillery for years and never made the detour. When I do, I wonder if I should ask for the Wry Guy as guide? But then they might think that I'm asking for the Rye Guy. ;>)

    You're welcome, Sarah. I guess the cormorants and anhingas share the same oil-free feather characteristic. With all of that flapping around, they do have to put a lot of extra effort into staying warm and dry.

    Good news, TB! I'm guessing you mean Sarasota is where you're going? I'm not a big baseball fan anymore. We used to root for the Cardinals when we lived near St. Louis and enjoyed an occasional home game. Proximity means a lot when it comes to keeping up with a favorite team. You won't be disappointed in Wakulla or any of the other springs you might happen to visit. The birding opportunities are fantastic!

  17. Ah! What a beautiful place! That shot of the Anhinga with it's wings half-spread it so cool. It's been long since I've seen huge birds like that. That reminds me that I should visit the zoo in near future...

  18. Oh I've never seen the manatees. It would have been wonderful to see them with your own eyes!! I've only seen them in a picture book.
    The black Anhinga looks very majestic. Is it a big bird?
    And I like Emily Dickinson's poems. They are so inspiring!

  19. Hello, Chandramouli! It's good to see you commenting--and posting, I see--again too. I took more pics of the Anhinga than any other critter. It kept attracting my attention with its almost constant movement.

    Sapphire, I've only seen manatees in an aquarium before this trip, so it was a treat for me. I just wish I'd been more adept with the camera. Moving targets are certainly challenging. Yes, the Anhinga is quite large, probably similar to a Great Blue Heron in size. You're so right about Emily. She is one of those rare poets who can cut right to the heart of a matter yet not be so explicit that she slaps you in the face with it. She should be required reading in any writing class.

  20. OMGosh, a gater that thinks it is a turtle! That is too funny! I would so love to see the Manatees in the wild. They seem to be such gentle creatures. Tours such as this are wonderful as you get to see some wonderful things in nature…

  21. It's always nice comin here when you're takin us around on a tour! We've still snow on the grass (in the truck bed, on the roof and arbors, etc., etc.) here and it ain't warmed up much either. So, I'm kinda stuck inside most of the time.

    A friend of mine used to call me an old coot, I knew it were some type of duck, but what I didn't know was my cloggin must've looked like pirouettes to him.

    You can see the cows eatin kudzu now.

  22. Isn't that the strangest thing, Skeeter? All of them lying together in the sun like it was Kindergarten nap time. We certainly saw some surprising things that day.

    TC, the thought of you doing pirouettes while clogging...Gasp! Here I go coughing again. I hope I warmed up the day for you just a little.

  23. Love that first photo! Wonder how much danger the turtles are in?

    I remember hearing a few weeks ago about the manatees in Florida. Something about them not doing well in this unseasonably cold weather. Hope that changed.

    I haven't seen a coot since I left Alabama. All I ever knew about them is that they weren't good to eat. Good for them:)

  24. You have outdone yourselves. Luke sounds like the best catch of the day.

    How nice to know there are still places that haven't been Disneyland-ified into sterile movie sets. Don't know if you've ever been on the old ride in the original Disneyland (Anaheim CA) where the tour boat through the "jungle" rides on a submergred track and the animals on shore are animated models of stuff like alligators. Or was that the Pirates of the Carribean ride? Both.

  25. Marnie, I think the gator must have cast some kind of spell, or maybe the turtles did. They seem to be peaceful and content. There must be something in the water...

    Next time we go on the tour, WS, I'm angling for Luke again so I can get some video of him. He was more than happy to have his picture taken. His unique style has got to be seen and heard to be believed. I've been to Epcot at Disney World, and that was enough un-nature for me and my family. Luke may practice his routine, but you can't make uncaged, wild animals behave like these did.