"What He ordains for us each moment is what is most holy, best, and most divine for us." Jean-Pierre de Caussade

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Fill Me With Wonder!

“Fill me with wonder.”  That was my prayer as I boarded the ferry with my husband to spend 3 days on Little St. Simons Island, GA last week.  Honestly, the only thing that excited me about the trip up to this point was the opportunity it would provide to sit on a porch, hopefully with some kind of view, and read while my better half was out doing whatever one does on adventures like this.  I don’t pretend to be an outdoorsy kind of girl.  My idea of roughing it is a Holiday Inn Express with no coffee maker in the room.  Was I ever in for a surprise.  Little did I know, I was actually headed toward a 10,000 acre natural sanctuary.

With no more than 32 overnight guests at the time and a place that houses no TVs or radios, Little St. Simons is truly a place of serenity and solitude.  My husband and I were met at the dock by an attendant who escorted us to the hunting lodge and made us comfortable while the captain’s crew unloaded our luggage and carried it to our room.   Our guide told us the history of this privately owned island and led us on a short tour of the immediate area before taking us to our lodge.

Cedar Lodge
Not a bad view….

And right outside our window was this little fellow. 

(It's amazing how cute and humorous they are when they're not in your own backyard.) WONDER!

Cocktails, served in the hunters lodge, were at 6:00 and dinner, served family style, was at 7:00.  (It makes me sad I didn’t get a picture of executive chef Matthew or sous chef Paula.  They were amazing!)  While still licking the dish which contained my lemon sponge cake dessert, the leading naturalist made the announcement that she thought it would be fun to go to the beach for a “turtle walk.”  Thankfully, this was not some weird tribal dance we were going to carry out in the sand after sundown, but rather we were to look for turtles coming up on shore to lay their eggs … in the dark -- without flashlights!  Everyone seemed eager to go, so I raised my hand, too.  And whereas we didn't spot any turtles, my husband and I spotted a white deer.  Yes, white!  WONDER!

Our mode of transportation?  The back of a truck.  (I learned very quickly to sit facing forward so as to see when I needed to duck low lying branches and moss.)

As I said earlier, I’m not the outdoorsy type, but I did grow up in middle Georgia riding in the bed of my granddaddy’s truck.  In fact, it was always the preferred method of transportation for my older brother and me – long before seatbelts were a law.  So I climbed aboard, and the rest, as they say, is history.  The millions of mosquitoes I would swat and slap over the next 2 days were no comparison to the real bug that had bitten me. 

“Lord, fill me with wonder!” 

Every time the naturalists said go, I went.  After all, I could read on the 4 hour trip home!  And so, bright and early the next morning, 7:00 a.m. to be exact, I was again in the back of the truck with a water bottle in my hand and binoculars around my neck eager to go birding.

Please notice the winged creature above my head... That is NOT a bird!
I saw birds I didn't even know existed - and how I wish I had pictures of all of them.  Moorehens.  Black neck stilts.  Great Blues (herons).  Bitterns.  Terns.  Snowy white, great, and cattle egrets.  Sea gulls.  Ibises and spoonbills.  Avocets.  Pelicans.  Osprey.  Vultures.  And more.  Oh, yes.  The WONDER of it all!
A black neck stilt with her 4 little ones.  WONDER!

Watching from the tower.  WONDER!

Watching from the blind.  WONDER!
On Little St. Simons, the only thing crowded is the skies.  WONDER!!!!!

A glossy ibis.  WONDER!

 A great white in flight.  WONDER!

A roseate spoonbill -- WONDER!

A teenager flanked by adults.  WONDER!

And this little fellow just seemed to be waiting on us when we got back to the lodge. WONDER!

Before we got to the island, I had already told my husband in no uncertain terms would I be participating in the amphibian and reptile adventure.  And I meant it.  He could do that one alone.  There's just something about going on a safari for rattlesnakes and alligators that goes against my grain.  In fact, it's just plain biblical ... that whole "enmity between you and woman" thing.  And so when the naturalist asked for a show of hands after breakfast, I casually asked, "Will there be walking involved or will we stay on the truck?"  She said that we'd just mostly be riding.

She lied...
Looking for alligators.
REALLY looking for alligators.

Looking for rattlesnakes now.  Who were they kidding?  I was ALWAYS looking for rattlesnakes!
And whereas I can honestly say we didn't see any of those venomous creatures, we did see a few of these guys lurking around.
Our naturalist guide showing us the alligator teeth marks on this turtle he dug out of the water.  WONDER!
By the way, have I mentioned the mosquitoes?  Oh, we were forewarned so we might bring proper attire, but I had no clue the number of their troops.  Because of tropical storm Beryl the week prior and the super moon just before that, these little winged creatures were out in force.  Baskets filled with differening types of bug spray sat outside every door and in every truck.  We literally didn't leave home without it.  What wasn't covered by cotton, was doused in Repel.
This is my husband's cap.  Notice the size.  Still ... WONDER!
During a delicious lunch of grilled flank steak and mashed potatoes, the naturalist made the announcement that one of the other wildlife experts was outside with a small bat he had pulled out of the pool.  The little creature dove a little too close to the water in search of his food and got sucked up in the filter.  Whereas they had been diving all around us the night before, this would be a wonderful opportunity to see one up close and personal. 

Then it was back to the truck and off for a tour of the island.  Sandy roads, winding trails, tidal creeks, deserted beaches, salt marshes and maritime forests.  Oh, my...

At one point, we made a stop at the Midden.  It's a place where the Guale (pronounced "Wally") Indians set up camp some thousand years ago.  These oyster shells were left by them, but I was especially intrigued with the tree trunk.  WONDER!

About the time we got to the farthest point on the island we could go, our guide received a message saying to get back to camp.  A storm was brewing.  Of course, we had seen the dark sky and had been hearing the thunder for some time, but the blast itself came swiftly.  Needless to say, we picked up speed coming home.  Holding my hat tightly to my head so that it wouldn't be blown off from the gale force winds and shivering from the sudden drop in temperature, I prayed, "Lord, I know I've been asking You to show me Your glory and fill me with wonder, but I'd appreciate it if You didn't kill us while doing it!"  Just saying...

Yep, the sky was black and bearing down on us quickly.  WONDER!
With no time to stop for coffee and an afternoon snack in the dining room, we made it back just in the nick of time, closing our lodge door right as the rains came.  It was indeed a fierce one and we spent the next 4 hours without electricity.  Gratefully, the kitchen ran on gas, and I've always loved the ambiance candles provide at dinner. 

And after the rains... the sun set on one wonder-filled day.

Can you say GLORY!!!!!!!!!
But there was still one more truck ride before bedtime ...  to watch the full moon rise over the Atlantic.
Oh, my!  WONDER!!!!!!!!
With only one more day left on the island, I requested a trip to the rookery.

With our binoculars, we could see many of the baby birds.  Wonder!!!!
One last walk on the beach concluded our morning and allowed me to gather more shells in an hour than I have in a lifetime total.   


The first footprints on the beach that day were ours.

Indeed, from learning about the mist that rises from the ocean's horizon due to the gulf stream some 80 miles away to the doodle bug who satisfies its desire by catching ants in the sand;

from learning the difference between a great white, a snowy and a cattle egret  to how waste regenerates itself into something useful; from seeing the doe standing beside the sandy trail and the raccoon racing out of our way to watching the dolphins play near the water's edge ...

God answered greater than I could have ever imagined my prayer to be filled with wonder.  Yes!  There is a wonder-full God!

And I am wonder filled!!!
Those who live at the ends of the earth
stand in awe of Your wonders. 
From where the sun rises to where it sets,
You inspire shouts of joy (Psalm 65:8).

Just an ordinary moment...

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