Autum in the Everglades means the return of wading birds. Photo MJL
Seasonal changes come subtly in South Florida. The harshness of summer evenings gives way to placid autumnal nights with a gradual progression that can only be counted in the smallest of degrees. The coming of the northern song birds, the arrival of the Turkey Vultures flying like Indian gods high in the sapphire heavens, the bluing of the day time sky, the sharpness of the night time sky the gradual browning of Cypress leaves; all indicate that summer is coming to a death as must we all.
I took my afternoon walk yesterday and noticed the subtle, almost imperceptible changes coming about nature in the last few weeks that indicate summer is in its death throws and fall will soon be upon us. I looked to the north and spied a massive cumulonimbus cloud formation with an anvil top that spread and boiled upward of 50,000 feet into the afternoon skies of southern Florida. As this angry aftermath of a humid, summer day moved higher it manifested glorious internal lightning flashes, like a scene from Fantasia, high up in the cloud as it went about its life business. Such is the essence of summer in Southern Florida; heat, humidity, flashing, booming, danger, cover and safety. They seem to follow every afternoon of the mean summer days. It occurred to me as I saw this awe inspiring spectacle that this was almost certainly the last of the big clouds I would see from the summer of 2007. This was a straggler, a late comer, a reminder of weeks and months past or perhaps an oracle of months future. I completed my walk and made my home.
After supper I stepped outside into the humid, hot air to allow myself a sample of the demon so I can know the sweet angel of winter when she arrives. Without summer we cannot have winter. Without death we cannot have life. Without evil we cannot have goodness. In South Florida winter is when we come out of hibernation; when living moves outside again. I poured myself a large glass of George Dickel Sour Mash Whiskey, a few ice cubes and some tonic water. I pulled out a La Gloria Cubana Serie R Maduro cigar that I have had aging in my humidor since 2001 for its last journey. Slowly unbanding the body, snipping the cap and toasting the foot gave me time to consider who I was with and what I was doing when I bought this particular cigar in 2001. I was in the Little Havana area of Miami with some of the closest friends a man could ask for. We had just had a long, lingering lunch at Café Versailles and made our way over to the El Credito factory store for some cigars. I picked up this box with the intention of allowing it to age for a year. I smoked one from the box that afternoon and made careful mental notes of the taste, construction and quality. I came home and stashed the remainder of the box in my humidor. The date written on the box is September 8, 2001. With the events of the next week unfolding I forgot about these cigars. This summer, I found these chocolate brunette cigars, stashed away on the bottom of my humidor; aging away towards a more perfect form. I smoked one this summer on the field of battle at Gettysburg and contemplated sacrifice. I smoked another during a raging Everglades storm in July and considered life in all its wonder. I smoked one last night; with amazement at how wonderful these have become and pondered how right it was for things to become better with age. Smokey, rich, smooth and tasteful the aged cigar moved deftly around the flavor of the whiskey; enhancing and accenting the sweetness of the sour mash while adding its own sensual flavors. I cast my eyes toward the cloud formation from the afternoon to the north. It had blossomed into an adult storm cell. With an awesomeness of maturity it was pounding down rain, lightening and all manners of hell fire on the people in Miami. Summer is over in South Florida, as it must be. I lit the last cigar of summer. As the thick, sweet smoke lingered I considered the summer of 2007. It was a good summer as mean seasons go. Any summer without hurricanes is a good summer. Life changed for me but I cannot complain, I have my family, health and work. Change is good. Autumn is around the corner. The Silver Palm leaves rustle in the wind. the Woodpeckers flit about like colorful specters. The summer is dead. As I watched the storm rage away I decided to keep the rest of that box of cigars for another day; a better day, a day of victory. A day I pray comes sooner than later. I thanked God that this year we were spared the wrath of the monsters of the Caribbean Sea but cannot help but be reminded of 2004 and 2006 when we suffered the lash of the sea dragons on our homes and lives. Life is great and gets better. In my middle years I have come to understand the truth that maturity is a good thing. Life progresses as it should.
Fur Felt Stetson Fedora, La Gloria Cubana Maduro cigar and a dirty handgun. Life is good! Photo MJL