LONGLEAF STORIES

full circle in the hundred acre wood

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THE STOCK MARKET CLOSED ATt 3:00 CST. Time for exercise. Buck wanted a true, heart-pumping workout, so he prepared to head for the weight bench and treadmill. Lacing his jogging shoes, he looked up at me, my hand on the front doorknob, “You just want to get out there, don’t you?”

He knows me so well.

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Looping Maggie’s whistle around my neck, grabbing my camera and a peppermint drop, I stepped from the cool dark cave of the house onto the screened porch. A slight breeze stirred the thick hot porridge. Maggie had heard the little bird chirp sound made when an exterior door is opened and greeted me, ears up, tail wagging and ready to go.

Just a few steps on the dirt road, away from the house shade, the full power of an August afternoon in panhandle Florida wrapped me up in a smothering blanket of heat and humidity. Magnificent in its way.

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Skinks and six-lined race-runners made the woods loud, racing around in the palmetto fronds and underbrush. Every now and then one of them would cross the road. Maggie was hilarious. Her legs turned into pogo sticks, as she bounded around in four-legged springy jumps. Seems an odd way to try and catch a lizard, and indeed, it was 100% ineffective, but dogs are entitled to their bizarre forms of entertainment, same as we are.

August is the last full month of true summer. There’s a sense of “too much” in the woods today, the grasses too tall, the twining vines taking it to the limit, the lush overgrowth at the edge of hysteria, verging toward the cellular overgrowth of cancer, sticking out its tongue at the approaching moderating voice of autumn and the denouement of winter. Even the dragonflies and other insects are obnoxious, loudly buzzing and popping their way around my ears.

The boggy areas are full of the white hatpins of the pipewort family and fine-leaved white top sedge is in bloom there by the roadside. The tall spiky stems of Chapman’s Blazing Star have begun to open purple flowers from the top.

I have learned that the bitter black berry I tasted when young Walt visited was gallberry. Now I see them everywhere, but am no longer tempted to put one of the plump shiny berries into my mouth.

Yellow St. Andrew’s Cross shrubs are springing up from seemingly bare ground, perhaps from underground runners.

Cheerful, sturdy looking yellow balduina flowers have begun to make their welcomed annual appearance.

Huge armfulsl of a white flowering plant have scattered themselves across the open pinelands. They look a little like Queen Ann’s lace, but I think they might be false hoarhound. Who named the wildflowers? I remember hoarhound drop candy. Is there true hoarhound versus false?

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By the time I get back to the house, it’s time to fix supper. Maggie is wet and muddy from wallowing in the stream bed, and my face is bright pink and slick with sweat.

Later, in the relative cool of the evening, we stand on the porch in the dark, listening to the deep musical bass notes of an owl’s song.

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