Springtime usually comes quietly to North Florida. The past few winters have been very mild, with not even a hard freeze, but there are clues that spring has begun. Fresh, new green leaves on the trees and a yellow dusting of pollen on car windshields tell me that chilly days of the past few months will soon give way to beautifully comfortable sunny days. Early blooming azaleas have been flowering for a few weeks already and more varieties will join them as the weeks merge into March.
Yesterday afternoon was a lovely day for a walk. The clouds were heavy, but there were glimpses of the sun later in the day. I've lived in this area for 15 years now but have never walked Black Creek Trail, which parallels Highway 17 for 8 miles in Clay County and starts at the southern tip of Fleming Island. I didn't walk the whole trail, just the southernmost end, but I enjoyed the beauty of that stretch of woods and the water of Black Creek.
A tangle of vines twisting and turning ever skyward, clinging to tree trunks, climbing higher and higher towards the sun. In a few months these woods will be thickly covered with leaves of the strangling vines of poison ivy, green briar, and kudzu.
This tree isn't threatened by climbing vines. The Hercules Club tree's trunk is covered with knobby growths, many of which project a sharp, sturdy spine.
This tree trunk is adorned with the greyish green polka dots of Crustose Lichen, a symbiotic relationship of fungi and algae which work together to provide food and protection in a biological partnership.
"Leaves of three, let it be." Although there was plenty of poison ivy along the trail, these sweet pink shamrock flowers blooming above their own leaves of three were an unexpected surprise of color amongst the dried leaves that littered the woods. Their leaves of three are harmless.
Black Creek Trail heads north toward Fleming Island Plantation, continues on past Eagle Harbor and Pace Island, and ends in the town of Orange Park. Perhaps one day I'll walk another stretch of the trail. The southern portion of the trail ends at the waters of Black Creek.
The sun was shimmering on the waters of Black Creek at the end of the trail, creating sparkling stars which peeked between the roots of cypress trees lounging in the lapping water. The trees' knees stood like pyramids, and sun rays played hide and seek among the trees.
You never know what you might find walking in the woods. This unintelligible sign was unable to convey it's meaning, and I wondered at this unusual plant. A bottle tree, perhaps?
I was delighted to find a few shy violets peeping out from last year's discarded tree leaves. When I was a child, violets were a sure sign that spring had arrived.
This leisurely walk along Black Creek Trail brought to mind a quiet reminder that the seasons of life often bring a tangle of thorns and new growth, unexpected moments of beauty and absurdity, deepening roots and shifting shadows. There is a time to reach towards the sun and a time to look ahead. There is a time to just be still and listen to the sounds of life in the rustling of leaves, the lapping of water at a creek's edge, the beating of your heart. Life is a trail that leads ever forward. Find beauty in the ordinary. Accept the unexpected. Look to the Son. Just Live.
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Local customers, enjoy the reduced price of $7 a bar, 4 bars for $25, or 12 bars for $70. Please contact me for either pick up or meet up delivery, and I will refund the shipping.
Up to 12 bars of soap from The Lathered Lamb will fit in a flat rate padded envelope.