Meet NOPE

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Meet NOPE, A five-ish-foot rat snake that I pulled out of the tick farm's toilet a couple of days ago. Yes, the toilet, hence his name.

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(Pardon the staining; it's due to the iron content in the water. Really)

This is the SECOND time I've had a snake in the toilet. For all I know it was the same snake.

Meanwhile, this little coral snake ran across my path the morning I fished NOPE out of the toilet:

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The next morning, this (much) smaller rat snake was waiting on my doorstep:

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And for a final insult, a 2-inch-long scorpion nearly landed on my foot when I was taking a shower that evening. It's almost like I live in the woods or something...

The Tick Farm is Now Inhabited

Just shy of the sixth anniverary of my making the offer to buy the Tick Farm, I completed my first week of full-time living (and working) surrounded by 30 acres of dense woods.

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...This is the first mailbox this place has ever had. I wonder what the first junk mail I get will be..

A (very) late goodbye

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I should have written this seven years ago. Of course, there never should have been a need to write any of this to begin with.

In late 2008, in the immediate aftermath of my separation from my then-wife, I was sort of adopted into another family. The following two years were perhaps the most joyous of my life, finding acceptance, incredible personal growth, the only sense of family I've ever known, and a deep, enduring love.

But what goes up must come down, and quite spectacularly at that. The very short version of that sordid tale is that I was unfairly forced out, and promised to not initiate contact with anyone, especially the children.

Over those two years, I came to become an integral part of the day-to-day family life. I grew close to their children, especially the youngest, Brigit. She was the quiet one, with the potent combination of her mother's sense of justice and her father's calculating intelligence.

The final conversation I had with Brigit (on the day I was forced out!) was about suicide, and how she'd been thinking a lot about it but didn't want to go through with it because it would hurt her parents.

Four years and three months after that conversation, Brigit took her own life. That love had been turned to a deep abiding hatred, expressed in a carefully calculated, spectacular fuck you to her parents. She was just fourteen years old.

I often use the mantra, "Where there's life, there's hope." I'd always held out hope that one day I'd be able to see the women that Brigit and her sisters would grow into. When I heard the news, that last hope of an eventual reunion crumbled, crushed beneath the pain, anger, and the utter pointlessness of everything that had happened.

Seven years later, I finally broke my promise to stay away.

I got to see Brigit's (now-divorced) parents, and finally discuss the hurt and pain that happened all those years ago, and my own role in it.

I got to see the women that Brigit's sisters have grown into.

And I got to finally sit in front of Brigit's memorial, with its just-budding dogwood tree standing over still-cold earth, and let the words and tears flow.

I'm sorry I wasn't there.

I'm sorry I failed you.

I'm sorry I kept my promise.

Goodbye, Brigit.

...I hope your death was worth the price you've forced us all to pay.

The photo that saved my life (maybe)

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When stopping to take this photo, a brake line on my truck blew.

If I hadn't stopped for this photo, the next stop would have been at the intersection of a major US Highway a couple miles ahead. I would have either plowed into another car, or through an intersection. Either way, badness.

Moral of story? Always stop and smell the roses. It might just save your life.

(Taken along CR232 in western Alachua county -- this stretch of road was one of the reasons I fell in love with the area over a decade before I eventually moved up here)

The Year is Dead; Long Live the Year!

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Taken at Lake Alice, on the University of Florida campus in Gainesville.

The sun didn't peek out until close to 9am, but it was lovely watching the lake come to life; two flocks of ibises, a couple of cormorants, several turtles, a goose or two, a great blue heron, a snowy egret, a red-tailed hawk building a nest, and two Chinese students in their pyjamas all made appearances as I watched the fog slowly brightening over the placid waters.