When we arrived at Jonathan Dickinson State Park a week or so ago, I watched five little boys play at Square Pond (which really is square). They'd run up the bank, scoop up sand, shells and dirt, then run down to the water's edge and toss it all in.
Before too long, it was the kids getting scooped up, by worried dads on the look out for alligators.
Boy. There's no need to worry today. There are no alligators.
And there is no water. A drought drank it away. And left behind a mud flat where a pond used to be.
Sad. But, wait. What do I see? Animal tracks on what used to be the bottom of the pond. Everywhere. Turning the mudflats into Disneyesque storyboards.
Over here are the tracks of several raccoons, perhaps scrambling along to make it home before sunrise. And there, see the footprints of a single stately egret? He's slowly striding across the mud in hopes of finding one more fish out of water.
A small rodent in pursuit of gnats and mosquitos leaves behind little dotted tracks that curlycue about. And look, see these tracks? They belong to a fox, who has set his sights on that small rodent.
And over here, the most grand tracks of all, are about the size of my fist. I think they belong to a cat. A big cat, not the milk-and-cookies kind. And, because this storyboard is mine, I'm going to say the tracks belong to an endangered Florida panther.
By the time I finish my own walk across the mud, I've created lots of mini-stories in my head to explain the dozens more bird and animal tracks criss-crossing the mud.
They all end the same way, with a cleansing rain returning life to the pond, and with it, little boys with hands full of sand.