In the pre-dawn wilderness, I embraced the silence, the perfect stillness in total darkness, the sense of being safely suspended in time, in space, or in nowhere.
Well, actually, I was comfortably situated instead within the safe confines of a screened-in lanai, all cozied up in a green wicker rocker, wrapped in a woolen shawl, at least several safe steps back from the Florida wilderness.
But if I either closed my eyes or opened my eyes, the same soft blackness of the last few minutes of night held me in Zen-like suspension. Then, quite suddenly and coinciding with the first blending of the purposeful daylight with the lazy, lingering night, a huge screeching cloud of white ibis fell from the sky, splashing into the shallow creek not twenty feet away from me, as if each were responsible for hitting a different target.
Startled, I watched as the birds hungrily devoured breakfast (fish? lizards caught unawares as their internal clocks waited for the warmth of the sun to wake and alert them to danger?). Unfettered conversation among the birds was loud and seemingly well-understood, although I understood nothing. As when I hear any foreign language spoken, its own swift rhythm tries to trick me into thinking that so many blendings of new sounds are paired with actual meanings.
It was only with the graceful arrival of a stately snowy egret, confidently claiming the whole body of water for himself, that the forty or so white ibis rose in unison as quickly and noisily as they had come. Calm and order returned to the area as I went inside to eat my own breakfast.
Later on, I pedaled my bike, weaving in and out of circles and side streets, most of which posted subtle signs reading, “no egress,” in hopes of discouraging interlopers. But undeterred, I quietly perpetuated my own fun, arranging personal garden tours in Naples, Florida, this different and sometimes-home.