We stretched our friendship by another day. The gators stretched themselves wherever they wanted.

March 19th, 2014, 1pm

It really must have been cold everywhere except Florida for the last few months… Every relative and almost every friend I have has visited the Sunshine State (and our apartment) in the last three weeks, it seems. Which has been some hectic, but mostly, overwhelmingly, beautifully wonderful.

May making room for those I love (and those I will) be ever a bigger problem in my home and heart than the ache and bitters of loneliness.

When we left St. Louis six months ago I knew I would never see most of the dear ones we left behind there again (this side of dying). It is how it is, don’t we all know.

But one of my best mates from that chapter of our lives (who happens to be British) packed up his family and came to visit this week and we’ve had a fantastic time with them. Today he and I struck out in some kayaks to paddle a stretch of the Hillsborough River that I’ve heard is home to a lot of alligators.

Turns out, that’s a true fact, friend.

In a little over an hour, we saw eight gators, none of them shorter than six feet, and a couple that might have been as big or bigger than my 11.5 kayak. I couldn’t make myself paddle more than 15 or 20 yards from them as they sunned on the bank or a section of exposed downfall.

Hillsborough Gator

There were turtles by the truckload sunning in sets (or, perhaps, turtle gangs?) and at one point we found a half-sunken log packed out with turtles on one end, and a cold-eyed gator on the other.

As we moved from sighting to sighting, gliding just over the hydrilla and murky wonders in the river shallows we paddled in and out of pools of sunlight ourselves. Cypress knees flanked us on both sides, two uneven rows of long pointed wooden teeth, and still we pressed on, upstream in a slow afternoon current.

I was sad to double back and head for home, but so very grateful for good friends. And adventures I don’t expect to have, but do.

Shu, David Wade and Christine said thanks.

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Michael Dechane

I forage and forge stories worth sharing.

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