Content Tagged ‘Satellite Beach’

My grandfather’s essay

May 3, 2017 | 9 Comments

Animals in life, literature

May 21, 2015 | 15 Comments

I’ve always needed or at least wanted animals in my life. My memoir is crawling with them. As a daydreaming boy I loved reading stories about animals and ecosystems—maybe the genesis of my passion for nonfiction. I got in trouble at school for reading a book about turtles during class. At home, my bedroom floor was covered with animal skins, including that of a zebra an uncle shot in Africa. Atop my walnut dressers: an incubator stuffed with domestic duck eggs and aquariums shimmering with snakes and fish caught in nearby lots and ditches. Sometimes a free-ranging iguana or parakeet passed through.

I gave up the reptiles eventually. They were, well, too reptilian. Birds possess a warmth, maybe emanating from their feathers. There seems a reciprocal consciousness, even an interest, in their eyes.

Satellite Beach, Florida, where I grew up, was an earthly paradise, situated atop a scrim of sand between the Atlantic Ocean to the east and the Indian River, a broad estuary, to the west. Until my father’s almost-fatal heart attack in 1967, when he was 49 and I was twelve, he took us fishing and skiing in the river. I was grieving for the loss of the first home I’d known, our Georgia cattle ranch, but I took solace in nature. In winter, migrating ducks rode the river’s dark face, and lying in my bedroom at night I thought of them—each bird alone but all together and wholly immortal in their vast rafts. When I finally raised wild ducks in middle age, in Indiana, I felt them carry a piece of me into the sky when they took wing.

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Emotion becomes an essay

February 13, 2014 | 19 Comments

Every winter I find myself turning briefly to the Romantics, and I partake of Wordsworth and Keats, there on the treadmill in the basement, staring at an old mass market anthology, yellowed and torn. But it’s been sustained, my poetry reading, this cold and snowy winter.

It began with seeing a couple of surfers in mid-January. I was down in Florida, staying at my sister’s condo on Melbourne Beach, a few miles down Highway A1A from where we grew up in Satellite Beach. My wife and sister had left, and there I was alone with the dog. My schedule was to read Anna Karenina, and then work on planning my Spring classes, and then take the dog for an hour’s walk. Sometimes I got out rather late. Like the day at 4 o’clock when, in a silent empty subdivision, I witnessed two boys roaring toward the beach on skateboards, their surfboards under their arms, and I tagged along and watched them surf.

The episode triggered a confused longing in me for my own beach-town boyhood—but also a surging hope: gladness that kids were still growing up partaking of oceanic gifts. And also I felt a comfort in this new human wave that’s rapidly overtaking me; it will seem fitting and proper when I dissolve into that bottomless, fathomless sea of DNA from which they’ve arisen. At least I hope so.

The emotions I felt from seeing those surfer dudes, the embodiment of my own beach boyhood, were such a welter of loss and love that I wanted to capture the experience of witnessing them at play in the waves. But for three days I didn’t know how. What form might such a piece take? I kept thinking, How can I let that moment pass? Not make something?

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Meet a character in my memoir

April 15, 2013 | 20 Comments

To the memory of Freckles, sheep super mother, and my teacher. In my decade as a grass farmer, as a shepherd, my lambs came in the middle of April. They dropped heavy and wet and wriggling onto the pasture. The spring grass was shiny and emerald green, as billowy as a blanket across the ground, and for a time made southern Ohio look like Ireland. Every morning, such sweet newborn lambs they were, coming into my arms dazed and ethereal. …

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