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Carl Wernicke: Small Spring Pleasures


I try to enjoy the small things in life. Because if you can only enjoy big things, or the expensive things, you spend a lot of time not having a good time. 

Unfortunately, losing the ability to be easily entertained is one of the downsides of growing up. As children we are easily amused; armed with little more than a good stick and my imagination, as a child I could play for hours. And, to be truthful, I still think a good stick found in the woods is a treasure, although most other children seem to have grown up and moved on.

 Still, it’s a shame to fail to find the joy in everyday life.

For example, I imagine most people did not enjoy our bitterly cold winter. But I got a certain thrill from it, especially the rare ice storm in January. It’s not often in Northwest Florida that you get to pile on all your warmest clothes and crunch through ice. I ran into a neighbor with the same mindset, and we spent a long walk marveling at the iced-over drainage ditches, the frosted asphalt and even our arctic-friendly get-ups.

Now spring has sprung, bringing its own memories. One good memory is walking in New Orleans and seeing the second- and third-floor residential balconies over businesses in the Quarter. Early morning walks require watching out for residents watering their balcony plants and sending the overflow spilling through the planked flooring and onto your head. I don’t know why I like seeing this so much, maybe because it seems so human, an effort to soften a hard-edged urban environment with flowers and ferns.

What brought this mind was walking through downtown Pensacola last week and having to dodge an early morning balcony rain. I like seeing this sign of residential life above Palafox Street, but it also triggered the pleasant New Orleans memories. Walks should stimulate the mind, which is why philosophers and writers value them so. And spring stimulates the desire to walk. My short walk on Palafox set up my whole day by refreshing happy memories.

   And speaking of small things, there is the red-bellied woodpecker who has for three years now been a loud and prominent presence on our bird feeder. This spring he was joined by his mate, not to mention a new attitude. The first year, he would flee and not return for hours anytime I emerged to refill the feeder. Last year he would perch on a nearby tree, and return after a few minutes. Earlier this year he began to sit on the tree holding the feeder, watch me fill it, and pounce on it practically before I get back inside.

Over the winter he began verbally chiding me when the feeder ran empty, which seems pretty cheeky. He has now taken to rattling the empty feeder with rapid-fire pecks if I fail to keep it filled.

This strikes me as downright impertinent. But I know that one day I will suddenly realize the woodpecker is no longer there, so I intend to enjoy the fun while I can. You just can’t beat this kind of entertainment with a stick.

Carl Wernicke is a native of Pensacola. He graduated from the University of Florida in 1975 with a degree in journalism. After 33 years as a reporter and editor, he retired from the Pensacola News Journal in April 2012; he spent the last 15 years at the PNJ as editor of the editorial page. He joined the Florida Institute for Human and Machine Cognition in 2012 as Senior Writer and Communications Manager, and retired from IHMC in 2015.His hobbies include reading, traveling, gardening, hiking, enjoying nature around his home in Downtown Pensacola, as well as watching baseball and college football, especially the Florida Gators and New York Yankees. His wife, Patti, retired as a senior vice president at Gulf Winds Federal Credit Union and is a Master Gardener. Carl is a regular contributor to WUWF. His commentaries focus on life in and around the Pensacola area and range in subject matter from birding to downtown redevelopment and from preserving our natural heritage to life in local neighborhoods.