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Felicitous spring

Florida people can be annoying. Spring is upon us, and by May the weather is getting hot farther south. With spring’s arrival, I am enjoying the splashes of color – green, yellow and orange – from the return of colorful license plates from hot and muggy Florida and just hot Arizona. The white and blue of Texas plates are a year-round thing. Texans have extended their permanent range into Colorado due to global warming, undoubtedly.We have friends and relations living in both Arizona and Florida. While both groups inquire with sarcastic humor about the snow in winter, Arizonans are understandably mum about our semi-desert dryness here on Colorado’s high prairie. Our Florida loved ones can be somewhat insufferable on the subject, though, because they’re right.”It’s so dry here,” my sister Kate once commented. “How can you live in that awful desert?” asked another Floridian, familiar with our sometimes droughty climate. What can we say? It is dry here, sometimes worryingly so. Florida is lush. They have water everywhere. If you visit the rare someone who doesn’t live on a lake, just wait for one of Florida’s frequent cloud bursts and you’ll discover that actually they do. Such a wealth of water there.I love fishing and once went out on Florida’s inland waterways in a fireman buddy’s fishing boat. I caught six different species of fish that day. Amazing! I felt like Darwin at the Galapagos. “Why does that fish have so much brilliant color? Is it poisonous, trying to attract a mate, or as in humans – both? Look at the teeth on this one!” I exclaimed. And, “Wow, this one just coming out of the water on my line resembles a rubber boot.” A disguise for ambushing prey, no doubt.I tease ’em a little when in Florida. Dad once took me out for a drive. We passed an unremarkable hillock. “That’s Mt. Dora.” Dad explained that at 150 feet, Mt. Dora is the highest point in Florida.”Wow, Dad, the summit of Mt. Dora is 6,500 feet lower … than the bottom of our well!” Dad doesn’t particularly like Florida. He’d rather live in Maine on the old family farm. Dad is 84 years old and lives near my sister. “Sorry about you not liking Florida, Dad,” I said, looking around at retirees in a crowded shopping center. “But at your age it seems to be the law.”They all know I enjoy Florida when I’m there. Fishing, jogging at sea level without even opening my mouth in the thick air, and swimming like a real man are part of the fun. Some people pay to swim with the manatees. Real men, I discovered, dive from their canoe into the lake and swim with the alligators. Real men also climb, nay fairly levitate back into that canoe when the alligator is pointed out by concerned yet amused family members. Yes, Florida is great fun to visit.Our high Colorado prairie is not riotous with green growth like Florida, nor majestic like the Rocky Mountains just to the west. It is a subtle place and imperceptibly soaks into those that love it. The grasses aren’t brown in the fall. After a felicitous summer, they turn russet and red, golden and purple-blue. Each species turns a different color like the leaves on deciduous trees after the first frost.Those of us lucky to be able to slow down enough and lift our heads up from life’s busy ditches that we must dig notice that the animals change too. The first meadowlarks and bluebirds of spring arrive, followed by robins and then hawks and falcons intent on hunting springtime’s young and dumb new gophers.Fall brings chickadees and chipping sparrows for the berries and seeds the prairie has produced. Shadows change. The brilliant summer sun gives way to a lower, gentler light and shadows show the land’s wrinkles and dips. Leaves fall and whisk away in the gusts of a changing season. Snow covers the land and shadows are blue to the snow’s pure white. Enough snow can even make the ranch scrap pile behind the barn look pretty good. The firewood is in by then, cut and stacked. The piney scent of a curl of wood smoke promises warmth and crackling cheer inside, when chores are done. Things slow down. They have to when winter comes, and the rhythm of the seasons moves on.Our Florida friends are right. It is dry here, and Florida has its charms. However, the subtleties of the prairie have infused us. Our high prairie isn’t a brass band or a circus of dramatic sights like more celebrated places might be. The prairie is a pure note held, a tune quietly sent on the breeze. The prairie isn’t an action movie with car chases and explosions. It is a novel enjoyed quietly outside in the fresh air on the deck. Its charm is in its subtlety, and those who appreciate that deserve to.Every now and then our prairie gets it just right. The winter wind becomes a zephyr and then stills. The spring snow comes straight down in a silent tumbling rush, and then it rains gently and for a long time. The sun shines through and illuminates a soggy, new, bright green world jeweled in dew. Every now and then there is a spring like this one, where I wouldn’t trade the prairie for any other place, where I feel rich as a Floridian. So rich that like in Florida, we have things called puddles. Water in low spots in the bright green grass, lying around carelessly unguarded on the ground. Water in the west that no one is fighting over. A felicitous and wealthy spring indeed.Tom

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