I took my mom fishing this morning. Niether of us know squat about it and haven't caught anything in years (nothing of a size to keep that is), yet there's something simply nice about rising before the sun and driving out to the St. Marks lighthouse to drown bait and watch the sunrise.
The lighthouse is at the tip of a nature preserve that stretches for miles in every direction. It's peaceful, tranquil, quiet. Play a few John Denver tunes and you'll think you've stepped into a Nature's Valley granola bar commercial. Yet, this is the wilderness. We have seen alligators floating in the waters and even once a tall limbed bobcat pawing his lanky way along the side of the road. The reserve is so accessible by road it's easy to forget this simple fact.
We waded out into the gulf and cast our lines. My dog Angus, a stout little Westie, had a good time swimming in the ocean and chasing crabs along the shore. No fish were caught but many minnows were fed. By ten in the morning the temperature was already creeping up into the nineties so we decided to pack it in and get some breakfast. On our way out we stopped in at the park restrooms, right next to the rustic building is a quarter mile path through the forest which leads to an observation deck overlooking a lake that is slowly turning into a swamp. We've been there countless times before. It's no big deal, but neither of us wanted to leave so soon, so we went to check it out. Cue the smurfiness...
Nothing had changed. The swamp had grown a bit more swampy but that was it. I looked out over the green expanse and said to mom, "so, how many alligators do you think are down there?"I think she said something along the lines of "more than I care to know." Earlier that day we had mentioned alligators, she had dreamed about them the night before, and how we really should bring with us some form of self-defense. She wanted a knife (as in a Crocodile Dundee sized knife). I had been thinking about this and liked the idea of a knife that could be screwed onto the top of a pole to create a spear. Or if that couldn't be found at least an alluminum baseball bat.
Please note that none of us ever think this way.
She looked down into the black mud and noted places where it looked like a sack of something had been dragged out of the lily pads. Gator tracks we cheered happily. We have spotted more nature! Then it was time to go. The three of us headed down to the path and were almost ready to hike back to the car when I noticed some tall weeds being pushed over in forest ahead of us. We stopped. Something big and black seemed to be coiled on the side of the path. Once the creature noticed that we were no longer moving, and perhaps guessing that it had been spotted, the blackness uncoiled and a huge seven or eight feet of alligator came tromping out of the underbrush. It turned and looked at us.
"Okay everyone, back to the observation deck."
Cue the smurfiness, double-time.
We were hoping the big lizard would ignore us and continue on his merry way, instead he slowly trundled his way after us. We went back up onto the deck and there I realized that the big lizard had us trapped. Unless we wanted to cut through a quarter mile of swamp (and probably encounter more alligators) there was only one way back to the road and he was on it. Even the observation deck itself was something of a trap. There was only one stairwell going up into it and the deck was about fifteen feet off the ground. I could have leapt off it but my mom - being in her 70's and having had problems with her legs since she was treated for cancer a few years back - was in no shape for running let alone leaping. So I went down to face the alligator.
Not far away I spotted a fallen tree, not thinking that anything (especially rattlers) could be hiding under it, I picked up a huge hunk of trunk (crawling with fire ants btw) and threw it in the alligator's path. From watching skinks and anoles hunt insects on the deck at the house, I knew that lizards like to rush their prey, so I wanted to make sure he had something to haul himself over first. Then I went back and ripped a limb off a tree. Amazingly, I was able to rip a limb off a tree. It wasn't much of a cudgel but it was better than nothing. The lizard saw this, and for a moment, especially after tossing down the trunk, he laid flat to think this over. Evidently, brandishing a branch that still had a bright swash of leaves on one end, I didn't seem like much of a threat, so he got up and started trundling forward again.
Adrenalin is an amazing thing, especially when your fight or flight response only has one option. It's not a rush so much as a high caliber burn. I started growling at the alligator. I wasn't thinking that I should growl at the alligator in hopes it might scare him away. I no longer existed. I was no longer human. I was growling at him because he needed to be growled at. If he had come up to the stump I would have roared at him. If he had opened his mouth to attack I would have shoved my branch down his throat and leapt on his back and gone totally great ape on him. I would have King Konged his scaly ass and not stopped until I had ripped his spine from his back and/or had my arm torn off at the shoulder.
Thankfully, my dog came to my rescue. I think Angus knew, more-so than my mom or myself, that the reason the alligator was coming after us was he because he seemed so small and tasty. Angus had been whimpering nervously up until this point, but then he broke in with that fierce westie bark and it caught the alligator's attention. The lizard was about one lizard length away. He looked up at the observation deck, then back at me, figured he was outnumbered, and slunk back into the swamp.
Holy Shit. Forget the smurfiness, we hauled it triple time back to the car and were laughing about it (albeit somewhat nervously) by the time the rubber hit the road.
One thing that really gets me about all of this was just that strong a sense of premonition came before it, not just for me but my mom and myself. This isn't the first time it's happened. Once when I was a teenager, my friends and I began to joke nervously about the dangers of driving in snow just a few minutes before loosing control and swerving off the road, a crash that would have been disastrous if we hadn't slowed down a bit beforehand. Then as a twenty-something, before I took to swimming on a regular basis, I once became overwhelmed by an urge to hit the university pool, something I hadn't done in months. It was the middle of the afternoon, storm clouds were forming above. I had been out working on the lawn, looking forward to a date with a girl from school, and had simply decided that I'd rather go swimming than take a shower. I went out to the car and lightning struck a tree on the lawn. It traveled into the house through the plumbing, and if I had been in the shower at the time I probably would have been electrocuted.
The most logical answer is that deep in our subconscious we have a department of predictability that occasionally sends us warning signs in the form of nervous jokes and strange urges to try to keep us away from danger.
Other times you really do have to wonder about destiny, not in the majestic sense but in having had ones future already written out for ourselves, possibly in its entirety or at least a few minutes ahead of the present. The future couldn't be too solidly set, otherwise we wouldn't be able to make decisions and change our course of action. Right now, people tend to think of the future and the past as not existing. There is only an eternal present. The past is a manifestation of memory, and the future is a constant prediction controlled by what this conception of the past can tell us.
Whatever it is, you really have to wonder.