Sunday, July 12, 2020

Seagrapes In Summer

I read that a heat dome is descending over the middle of this country and many more people across the US will soon be enjoying temperatures well over 100 degrees. There is deep within me a rather unpleasant feeling that a misery shared is a misery halved. Long time readers of this excessively verbose page know that I go on at length about how I like summers in Florida with fewer people, more dramatic skies and waves of warmth.
Yes, well I have come to the conclusion that too much of a good thing is not so terribly great. I walked out of the house at four thirty in the morning to take Rusty to check the mail and was greeted by a wave of heat in the face, a damp blanket of warmth that had me breaking out in sweat before we had even started our walk. Rusty's mail checks consist of wandering around the streets near our house where the trailer park neighbors walk their dogs twice a day in unvarying patterns and leave scents for Rusty to pick up. For some people this heat is life threatening, for others it is one more economic burden in what is already a tough year. For me it is merely a  nuisance and I feel lucky. Over heated but lucky.
I try to walk Rusty at dusk or nearly in an effort to catch a break but my photographic exercises are rather limited if the sun has gone down enough to lower temperatures slightly so I have resorted to contemplating the seagrape which grows in abundance alongside the roads close to my camera and far from the muddy puddles that fill the backwood trails at the moment.
I used to live with seagrapes when we had a house on Ramrod Key but I grew weary of them. These vast green dinner plates which have the toughness and consistency of the hide of a large predatory animal turn red yellow and brown and fall to the grown in endless snowdrifts of leathery dead leaves. They are the devil to rake, impossible to sweep and fill garbage cans easily and completely on those  days for garden debris pick up. I got sick of chasing after the seagrape bushes shedding leaves faster than I could scrape them up.
Nowadays I have no seagrapes to call my own and they have  been restored in my fickle mind to their preeminent place as interesting plants.  The thing is you can eat them too and in my yard I was lucky to get a few purple grapes every year as most were gobbled up by the wildlife. They are that delicious. Well let's not exaggerate: they taste good once ripe. The fruit has a huge pip inside the  grape-like flesh so part of the pleasure of eating them is rolling the seagrape through your teeth stripping the stone of the clingy flesh. They taste a bit like regular grapes. Eating seagrapes is a mild pleasure so if you think you are missing out on some wild Florida hallucinatory experience rest assured you are better off buying cotton candy flavored grapes at the supermarket. I nearly choked when a colleague offered me a grape without telling me of the enhanced qualities of the fruit. I like my flavors traditional.
Actually there is a fruit called miracle berry and I've had that and what a wild ride that was. The cotton candy colleague brought some little red berries to work along with some fruit and we spent a little time amusing ourselves eating lemons like they were candy. It takes an act of faith to take a huge bite out of a lemon after you've chewed the little red Miracle Berry but what a mind bender it is to taste the sugar and none of the sour. I mention that by way of a diversion from seagrapes.
Seagrapes are so textured and come in such a broad array of colors I like trying to isolate the colors and shapes in their endless variety.
Happily for me but not for the roadside bushes Monroe County sent a crew to trim the shrubbery recently when I wasn't there so it came as a surprise to see lots of brown leaves. The result is a Fall spectacular of dead leaves shining in the evening sun.
I am terrible at cutting and pruning and prefer my plants to grow in abundance and confusion but hurricane season requires preparation and clearing of roadside obstructions and protection of overhead wires. besides no one wants an untidy roadway do they? I do but I count myself a minority of one.
Shreds of flame and color everywhere if you look.

One last seagrape...
One last glimpse of clouds pressing down and then its back to suburbia and civilization and comfort. 
Oh well.