Monday, October 01, 2012

September in Florida is the Bee's Knees

News Herald File Photo

PANAMA CITY BEACH — Standing on the overgrown edge of a parking lot one afternoon this week, I spent a few minutes watching a bee with oversized golden pods on its legs collecting pollen from a patch of dandelions.

“That’s the bee’s knees,” I thought, and decided to Google the origins of the term when I got a chance.

The sun was headed to the west, filtered through pine limbs and hanging vines lining a creek beside the lot, casting everything in gold. A sense of autumn was in the air, crisp and immediate, and I wondered what I was supposed to be learning from that moment.

Put away stores to get you through the cold months? “Winter is coming”?

Take time to stop and consider (if not actually smell) the flowers?

I’ve been pretty good about the latter one recently. No matter the speed at which the world zooms by, and the desperation with which we are pushed to keep up, it is absolutely necessary to your mental and physical health to take a time-out on a regular basis.

That’s why I was standing by the wilderness just beyond the pavement, after all: fresh air, sunlight and a moment’s quiet. Nature and reflection.

It’s September in Florida, and there might not be a finer time to be here.

Walk the dogs and grin at the birds jockeying for a spot at the bird feeders along the tree line, the Monarch butterflies (or their look-alikes) flittering about.

Sit in the gulf shallows — the water is perfect right now — and feel the waves washing over you.

Float in a swimming pool and stare at a cloudless blue sky until it seems like you’re falling upward.

Wade on the shoreline after dark, picking up sea shells, avoiding the tiny crabs that rush to avoid you. There are dozens of butterflies floating on the tide, more as far as you may walk.

Pause to locate constellations, drawing imaginative connections between the stars. Mars flickering close to the horizon doesn’t seem so much angry as simply wearing season-appropriate colors.

(Is it autumn on Mars, I wondered, and yes, the Planetary Society assured me that Saturday is Mars’ autumnal equinox.)

While I’m online, I look up “the bee’s knees.” According to various sources, the origin of the term is muddled. In 18th century England, it was used in reference to something small or insignificant; in 1920s America, that was reversed as it described something or someone who was outstanding in some way, like “the cat’s pajamas” and similar slang. It is also thought to have been a Cockney term for “business.”

I let these thoughts tumble together in my brainpan like bees in flight, like shells on a flattening wave or the first flurry of a Martian dust storm.

All of these things, no matter how small, are important to someone.

Peace.
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This was my most recent "Undercurrents" column for PanamaCity.com and The News Herald.
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