Insisting Upon Tomorrow
I spied the tiniest of turtles, little more than a hatchling. For long minutes, it moved not at all, flotsam with its head protruding above the surface of the pond.
I thought about the odds that the creature had conquered getting just this far and, then, spying a juvenile gator about 50 yards distant, I reflected on the slightness of the chance that it will make it to adulthood.
A great blue heron lighted not far from us.
While recognizing that the turtle almost certainly was a cooter and not a snapper, I nonetheless tabbed it Snap, believing that by assigning it a name, I would somehow up its survival odds.
A day earlier, I was a guest at a wedding at the SageField Farm, located eight miles northwest of Bonifay on County 177A. Along the way, I passed lots of dilapidated properties, some of them collapsed, and occasional fenced cattle operations where houses on rises resemble J.R. Ewing’s crib, only on a smaller scale. Winners and losers.
The wedding took place on a lawn not far from a “barn” that was built especially for special occasions and whose concrete floor you could eat off of — as, in fact, I did when, at the reception, I knocked a caprese kabob off one of those dollhouse plates with a beef-and-seaweed-on-a-cracker thing.
The bride and groom exchanged vows they had written themselves — I once edited blog entries written by the bride when she was a student at the University of Florida — after the pastor read remarks right out of the catalog.
(I have no particular objection to the beautifully optimistic 1 Corinthians 13: 4-8, the passage that begins, “Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy … .” It’s just that, for me, it’s been worn slap out.)
To each other, the stars of the show pledged loyalty and love without limit. They attested to their religious faith. And they stood before an admiring audience as exemplars of an abiding belief in America and its place in the world.
Both have enlisted in the U.S. Navy; she is on her way to becoming a JAG Corps attorney.
But, as solid and as self-assured and as committed to paths as bride and groom appeared to be, I was overtaken by a sense of their vulnerability. They were as Snap to me.
The world is a bruising place and the course of recent events has only exacerbated uncertainty levels. Carl Hiaasen, Tim Dorsey and Dave Barry working together could not invent such story lines — I almost typed “sorry lines.”
But, I remind myself that love is enduring, love is flexible, love is resilient. And, incredibly durable and encouraging survivors and relationships live among us.
Bob Jones married his high school sweetheart, the former Malinda Usina, 63 years ago.
Scads of people throughout the Florida Panhandle and the peninsula beyond know Jones, who for 54 years has been the executive director of the Southeastern Fisheries Association, a commercial fishing industry advocacy organization that coincidentally serves the interests of the countless people who rely upon others to catch their seafood for them.
Jones was a miserable hotel manager in Houston when his father-in-law, a longtime legislator, got him the SFA position.
In his first weeks on the job, he traveled the entirety of Florida’s waterfront, beginning in Pensacola, introducing himself to association members. He soon abandoned the business suit he wore to the first few fish houses he visited.
A lesser man would have thrown up his hands and moved on when governance of marine fisheries was removed from the state Cabinet and the legislature and placed in the hands of a highly politicized seven-member board.
Today, the Florida Fish & Wildlife Conservation Commission comprises a real estate developer, an attorney, a golf course designer, a vice president at a senior living community, an energy company vice president, a real estate investor and the wife of a former FWC chairman.
Not exactly people who like to get their hands smelly.
But Jones, at age 85, marches on. As I write this, he is in Charleston, South Carolina, meeting with representatives of state and federal agencies that enforce fisheries regulations.
I am 20 years his junior. A young warrior, he calls me.
He prefers not knowing when his earthly end will come. That way, he can continue to entertain the “myth that I will live forever,” he has written.
He has written, too, his obituary: “Bobby Jones Sure Did Love Malinda Usina.”
Love persists and resists and insists upon tomorrow.
At the pond, I disturb a collection of adult turtles that scramble from the shore into the water.
Hearing the commotion, the gator turns and heads in their direction.
Keep your head up,