Thursday, June 7, 2012

In search of Beeeezzz

Two roads diverged in the wood, and I, I took the one less travelled by, and that has made all the difference. 
-Robert Frost

When I was structuring the concept for this year-long experiment in being childlike, I wanted to do more activities that either reminded me of my youth or made me feel youthful. I brainstormed an initial list. Not factoring the childlike activities I already do as a parent with my kids like amusement parks, I came up with with 29 things to do. That is woefully short of 365. It seemed one play date a week was a more realistic goal. Last week, the activity was a midnight movie sneak preview at the drive- in. This week I checked out books for myself at the library for the first time since high school. My eyes were bigger than my stomach. I checkout 18 books because the librarian said I could check out as many as fifty. It was such a huge stack, I needed help carrying them to the car. That is what I intended to write about today, until the storms rolled in yesterday.
I had grand plans to take my son and his friends, who are moving to California next week, on one of my favorite Sunshine State excursions. The choice was between Tarpon Springs to see the sponge divers at the authentic Greek fishing village. Visit the manatees in Crystal River. We also considered taking in a mermaid show at Weeki Wachee. It drizzled. It thundered. It poured. So as a consolation, we decided to take the boys on one last drive across Florida’s signature bridge, The Sunshine Skyway. On the other side, we would stop at a produce stand. The lychee fruit trees are ripe this time of year.  It is the only place I know that sells them. Otherwise, you have to be lucky enough to know someone who will let you pick off their tree.
We grabbed $10 worth of the exotic oversized grapes and asked the clerk about the source of the stand’s organic honey. She called the owner from the back. With a drawl thicker than the Everglades mangroves, the owner said “beeeezzz.” You wanna see beeeezzzz?” He said if I was willing to give him a ride, he would show us some. 
And so the adventure began. Mike Morgan, a 58 -year old native cracker, wore his dark sunglasses despite the heavy grey fog as he transformed what looked like a neighborhood to our unfamiliar eyes into an enchanted island.  Questionable bridge shortcuts, a parrot rescue and more mango trees than I knew existed in the state. On the backwoods tour, we saw a Banyon tree so enormous it has grown through the house and a road called “Universal” in the middle of tomato fields. Mike said that the land was originally the site of a movie studio in the 1940s. Who knew?
Finally, we made it to the beeeezzz. He took us to his 500 acre farm in Ruskin about 15 miles away, where he has struck a mutually beneficial arrangement with the bee keepers. The bee boxes stay on his property and feed off his crops while he gets his pollination for free. Mike, who calls himself a simple country boy, is more like an ambling contradiction. A farmer with an affinity for mermaid statues. He carries a well worn “man purse”. It really is a purse. I got up the nerve to ask him about it. He showed me the contents: his phone, wallet, a couple of knives and a tooth brush just in case he doesn’t end up at home. Now I know why he was so quick to jump in our car. He is always ready to travel. He may not know a stranger, but he knows all sorts of stuff about having fun. 
"Beeezz  don’t work in the rain." Mike crooned not once but several times. They were quiet and staying dry inside their little neatly stacked boxes. So we didn’t see much of that, but we did test out my four wheel drive on the dirt paths through the fields. They had just harvested more than a million pounds of watermelon. There were still huge melons leftover as far as you could see. Mike explained the leftovers weren’t ripe at harvest or they suffered some other imperfection. The boys hopped out in the rain to pick. He suggested that they break them open and just eat them in the field. If you have never smashed a watermelon, I highly recommend it. In fact, it is addicting.
 We practiced the best smashing techniques: long distance tossing, straight up in the air, straight down on the ground and mid air collisions. Meanwhile, the drizzle turned to a  tropical storm like drenching. Already soaked, muddy and sticky from watermelon juice, we picked as many mangos from a nearby tree as we could carry and headed back. It was awkward to say goodbye to Mike after our 3 hour detour. I felt like we had been through one of those days you will never forget. How do you just say thanks, nice to meet you? 
Before we arrived home, I had to make a pit stop at the grocery store. We all piled out of the car and the boys carefully avoided the puddle surrounding my car. Not me. I jumped full force into it, taking all three of them by surprise. 
This week my child like activities list has grown beyond my wildest expectations.
*get a library card
*sought to see something new, found something completely different and new. 
*made a new friend who I have absolutely nothing in common with
*took a detour
*smashed watermelons
*played in the rain
*puddle jumped
It is hard to say what the best part was. But I really enjoyed experiencing my play date as an adult. It is a lot more fun to be able to drive yourself, have your own money and not have a curfew.
I leave you with this question. When is the last time you had a play date?

TWO roads diverged in a yellow wood,
And sorry I could not travel both
And be one traveler, long I stood
And looked down one as far as I could
To where it bent in the undergrowth;        5
Then took the other, as just as fair,
And having perhaps the better claim,
Because it was grassy and wanted wear;
Though as for that the passing there
Had worn them really about the same,        10
And both that morning equally lay
In leaves no step had trodden black.
Oh, I kept the first for another day!
Yet knowing how way leads on to way,
I doubted if I should ever come back.        15
I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.

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