By LORRAINE V. MURRAY, Commentary | Published April 11, 2018
I stepped onto the porch this morning and heard the unmistakable cry of the fish crow, which sounds like “uh-oh.” I was immediately transported to the days when my late husband and I explored the marshes of Cedar Key in our humble boat, which we called the Sea Moose.
During our many journeys, we discovered the truth of Thomas à Kempis’ words in “The Imitation of Christ,” when he wrote, “There is no creature so insignificant and small which does not reflect the goodness of God.”
Instead of fishing, we used the boat as a sightseeing vessel and floating restaurant for our lunches. And we laughed whenever we heard the distinctive “uh-oh” emanating from nearby trees because it sounded like an avian warning.
Deciding who would become captain of the Sea Moose was easy. My husband perused weather reports and oversaw oil changes in our car. A practical man, he was a shoo-in for captain.
He charted our course, checked the tides and kept the boat in good repair. As first mate, I sliced tomatoes for lunch, wrapped up the smoked mullet and iced the beer.
Taking his duties as captain seriously, Jef purchased a large box where he stashed life jackets, a first-aid kit and a guide to sea creatures. In rough waters, he might have worried about our staying afloat, but he soon mastered the art of concealing disturbing information from the first mate.
“Jef, don’t the skies look stormy?”
“No problem. We’ll be home in no time.”
“Jef, there’s a boat heading full speed toward us.”
“Don’t worry—we have plenty of room.”
One afternoon, Captain Jef navigated the boat into shallow waters, dropped anchor and tossed in a few cigar minnows. In minutes, we saw the first pelican flapping his way eagerly in our direction.
Soon the sky turned black with the giant-winged birds, who evidently can spot a handout a mile away. The pelicans encircled the Sea Moose and begged for treats with their mouths gaping open optimistically. As we busied ourselves flinging minnows overboard, we did a quick head count and discovered the free eats had attracted about 100 birds.
As we continued on our journey, the water ahead of the boat started swirling mysteriously, so we stopped to investigate.
When two heads popped out of the water, I thought they were adventurous island dogs going for a swim. A closer look, however, revealed sea otters, who were probably astonished to make our acquaintance. The sleek, brown fellows filled their lungs with big gulps of air, dipped below the surface and paddled quickly away.
The Sea Moose moseyed along until we reached a favorite sandbar, where the captain again dropped anchor. When we spotted a baby horseshoe crab nibbling on what looked like a white poker chip, we consulted our book about marine life. A little research revealed he was dining on a keyhole urchin, a close cousin to the sand dollar.
Suddenly, clusters of urchins began drifting toward our boat like floating communion wafers. Jef scooped some up and checked for movement in the tiny, hair-like tentacles in their mouths to determine which ones were alive.
We tossed back the living ones, and collected clusters of the others for souvenirs. By then, both captain and first mate had worn themselves out, so with our treasures safely ensconced in a bucket, we headed back to shore.
As we passed other boaters on the way, they called out the standard, friendly question of fishermen everywhere: “Any luck?”
“Some,” we replied.
There wasn’t time to explain we hadn’t been fishing for supper but had certainly reeled in some memorable experiences.
We didn’t realize that the crow’s “uh-oh” would, for the rest of our lives, transport us to that afternoon in the marshes, when we enjoyed a unique catch of the day … an array of God’s creatures, large and small, each one reflecting his bountiful goodness.
Artwork by Jef Murray. Lorraine’s email address is email@example.com.