Missing Jessie

Written by Laurie on December 27, 2010

When I moved into a condo complex in Florida, one of my new neighbors wasn’t paying rent and wasn’t really welcomed by many in the community. He was not a victim of the economy, and he could make a claim that his ancestors were here first. So, perhaps in his mind, he believed he had squatters’ rights.

Some of the retirees might not have liked him because he was much younger. They worried and wondered what he would be like when he grew up. Others were more charitable and provided food.

He began to look forward to those hand outs, and, as he ate well, he grew bigger. While the rest of us enjoyed the swimming pool by the club house, our neighbor was content to spend his days floating around in the retention pond, keeping an eye on the birds and sunning himself in the grass.

I didn’t know his name, and never got close enough to ask .

So, I christened him “Jessie” after the main road in our development. I was curious about this strange critter, and would look for him whenever I took my morning walk around the grounds or on the way to the pool.

Sometimes, all I would see were his two yellow beady eyes looking at me as he floated on the surface of the pond.

The little dogs and their owners did not take so kindly to a young alligator living in the pond. They instinctively knew that, someday, Jessie would think of them as dinner.

The summer tourists, on the other hand, were thrilled to actually see a real Florida alligator. Jessie was the subject of many pictures and home videos.

As the summer progressed, Jessie went from about 18 inches to nearly three feet long. I knew his days were numbered as a member of our community.

One day, he wasn’t in the pond. I was sure he had moved or been removed.

Then, we spotted him swimming in the brackish water of one of our canals. I secretly encouraged him to keep swimming and find a new home.

Instead, he popped up next to our boat looking to be fed! After all, the “do-gooders” had taught him that man was his best source of food.

Apparently, his time in the canal did not work out , and he decided to stick around the pond feeding. The tilapia that were fattened up each night for him by one of our neighbors who fed the fish were a welcome and continuing food source.

Late in the summer, when I returned from a short trip, I went looking for Jessie. He was not in the pond, and nobody had seen him in the canal.

I finally asked the maintenance man who said that one of the dog owners called the Fish and Wildlife folks and Jessie was removed. I would like to think he is in the Everglades with the rest of his kind, swimming and fishing in the canals along Alligator Alley.

If truth be known, I, too, was getting a little concerned about Jessie and walked very carefully when I got near his pond.

But, after he was gone, I began to miss him. Maybe it was the thrill of being so close to something so wild. He brought a little of Old Florida into my back yard.

If I could have five more minutes with Jessie, I would want to know that he ended up in the wild, and not at a handbag factory. I would want to see those beady eyes cruising a pond and enjoying the life alligators have had in Florida since the time before man.

More stories from: Featured Story,With an Animal

Holiday Flowers That Inspire

Written by Braiden on December 16, 2010

By now, those of you who are part of the Five More Minutes With community know that one of the ways in which I relax and savor life is by arranging flowers.

Then, my talented husband photographs the resulting bouquets in his office/studio.

So here are a couple of seasonal bouquets I’d like to share with you today. . .I especially love the top photo. . .the asymmetrical arrangement and the way the lines cut across the velvet backdrop.

This is so dramatic, with the red flowers and sticks, the gold tendrils, and the earthy lilac vase. A study in contrasts.

Finally, here’s a long, tall arrangement I snapped at the health club, to show what a professional holiday arrangement looks like.

More stories from: Editor's Notes

Contemplating Beautiful Statues

Written by Braiden on December 9, 2010

On a recent trip to La Conner, Washington, we happened upon this statue along the small town’s main drag. I was drawn to its elegant lines, the calm look of happiness on the man’s face, the way he stared heavenward. So I snapped his photo, not quite sure what I’d end up doing with it.

Then, last Saturday night, during a concert of Seattle’s Early Music Guild held at St. James Cathedral, once I saw the beautiful saints spread along the walls, I knew I’d group all the photos and post them here for you.

Even if you aren’t religious, these statues somehow speak to you–they are simply so spiritual.

But here’s the the one that captured my interest and heart the most. . .the Mother Mary is simply resplendent in her candle-filled coffer. Seems especially appropriate during this holiday season.

More stories from: Editor's Notes

Do You Have a Lost Love?

Written by Braiden on December 2, 2010

The holidays spark memories of the olden days, happy times from the past, and, inevitably, people we have loved and lost whom we wish were still in our lives.

Here’s a poem that was recited during a workshop that was part of a recent culinary conference I attended as part of my other life. The workshop was led by Diana Wentworth, author of nine books, including the “Chicken Soup for the Soul Cookbook;” a motivational speaker; television personality; and all-around nice woman who followed her heart (much as I have done lately) and discovered a whole new (and fulfilling) career.

On a brilliantly sunny day in Palm Springs, Diana read several inspiring poems to a rapt audience. “A Remedy for Insomnia,” by Vera Pavlova, particularly resonated with me, so I wanted to share it with you today as we enter the last four weeks of the holiday season.

Perhaps it will even spark a holiday memory for our FMMW Holiday Memory contest. . .


Not sheep coming down the hills,

Not cracks on the ceiling__

Count the ones you loved,

The former tenants of dreams

Who would keep you awake,

Once meant the world to you,

Rocked you in their arms,

Those who loved you . . .

You will fall asleep, by dawn, in tears.

~Vera Pavlova~

More stories from: Editor's Notes