We tried, early this morning, to go to Big Tree Park. I went a handful of times as a kid, twice as school field trips and a couple of other times because it was free and close; our dad sought out these kinds of outings when he had us on the weekends.
It's a modest state park set back on a road that connects two nondescript state highways, one boasting the flea market and the other the landfill. At 16, I drove down that road once late at night with the headlights off and a good-looking boy in the seat beside me. It wasn't my idea, but now it's my memory. The boy went on to have a decorated military career before losing a leg in Afghanistan, coming back to Central Florida, and struggling with alcoholism.
From the gravel parking lot, you walk down an eighth of mile or so of boardwalk to look at two wide, gray cypress trees, then you turned around and walk back. That was my impression as a child and young adult. I didn't think about trees and time then the way I do now.The giant pond cypresses are called The Senator and Lady Liberty, names that, considering they are 3,500 and 2,500 years old respectively, seem oddly anachronistic.
They are as old as the Roman Empire. Older than the Mayans. Older than corn in the land that's now the United States.
The Senator, the older of the two pond cypresses, burned almost completely in an arson fire last month. It was thought to be the oldest pond cypress in the world. I had brought Daddy Honey to see them when we were first married ten years ago, but hadn't yet brought the boys.
And though they will now never see The Senator, I wanted them to see the younger tree, still impressive in her own right.
But, the park was closed. The fire is still under investigation, a park ranger told me, and so they cannot go in yet to make the repairs they need to make.
We moved on to the day's errand, getting my address updated on my driver's license. Again, a failed attempt. In addition to providing my still-valid (to 2017) license, a signed affidavit, and two proofs of residency, I needed to have brought with me my original birth certificate, my original social security card, and my original marriage license. There is a new federal law that requires this, I was told.
I understood in that moment why people become libertarians. Woody, hearing my frustration, began randomly wishing bad things upon people who he believed had inconvenienced him in some way. Not wanting to raise an angry ranter, I changed my approach.
We threw up our hands, accepted the tone of the day, and stopped at Publix to split a foot-long sub and quarter of a key lime pie for lunch. `
If you're going to give up, I think you ought to give up mighty tastily.