• P.A. Meredith

Christmas Card Lane

by P. A. Meredith

Happy New Year Everyone!

These past two years have been trying at best, not only for our family, but also for the entire world. I've heard people talk about the last days, the end of times, and so on. Televised news was no better and giving less hope to those who truly needed to hear truth, not sensationalism. I'm getting closer to that drop off point of my own stage of life. I've made mistakes, but I have no regrets. All that I have done, or aspired to do, good or bad, at least I made an effort to improve the quality of my life and the lives of my loved ones. My father believed, we were descendants of Job and always being tested in our faith. When COVID struck worldwide, I was beginning to wonder how right he might have been. With that said, I wanted to blog, "looking at the bigger picture", how our heavenly father talks to us everyday. I have been a poor listener, but "looking at the bigger picture" has made life's challenges easier to handle, and helped me be a better listener.

"Looking for the Bigger Picture"

13 You shall seek me, and shall find me: when you shall seek me with all your heart.

- Jeremiah 29:13 (Douay-Rheims 1899 American Edition)

Myakka State Park, FL

We decided to spend this 2021 New Year somewhere quiet. We chose to spend our New Year's Eve, camping...and tent camping to boot. Yeppers, you read it correctly, tent camping! When we decided to do this and booked our campsite for two nights (the 30th and 31st), we were fortunate enough to find our only campsite, at Myakka State Park in Florida. (#FLStatePark)

Setting up the "standing room tent" (#standingroomtent) proved challenging, but doable, given our golden years. We added a pop-up screen room to be placed over the picnic table; thus, giving us a decent dining and card game area, without all the bugs. Using my mother's and grandmother's cast-iron pots, we cooked our dinners on the open pit fire grill. The first night we had home preprepared burgers on the the open fire grill, and for New Year's Eve, we had steak with potatoes and onions, along with a side Caesar salad.

Birdwalk to Arcadia

After arriving and setting up camp, we took a short drive around the over-crowded park. We decided the best park tour was either, before the park opened or after the park closed. New Year's Eve morning, we were up early exploring. We were excited to explore nature; however, nature called first. We managed to quickly find first and foremost, a bathroom - a necessity for those of our mature years. After which, we made our way to the bird walk.

This was extraordinarily wonderful! Birds abound and the ranger on duty was well-informed to answer questions or assist in locating a particular bird in question. It wasn't long before the bird walk began filling up with visitors. We decided to leave and driving down to the concession area proved frustrating, and the only place to have lunch was at a food truck. The lines were ridiculously long. Given the COVID situation, we decided against having lunch in the park. So we ventured out of the park area, and drove on a short excursion, or as we prefer, an adventure! By the way, in all fairness to this beautiful park, they had been refurbishing the concession area. If your asking, "why didn't you have lunch at your campsite?"...well, quite honestly, we planned poorly for the lunches. My bad.

Our next stop took us to a small town in Arcadia, DeSoto County. Peace River flows past on the west side of the city, with Punta Gorda on its way southwest. It was a thirty-minute drive, give or take, from the park along SR72. The drive took us through beautiful, quiet, and serene farm settings, while passing a small Mennonite Community. One women was working diligently in the meticulously kept strawberry fields.

Just passing a small farm market stand, we nearly drove into a flock of turkey vultures, intent on becoming road kill, all fighting for whatever carrion was on the side of the road. Slamming on the breaks, I feared having feathers and I couldn't begin to tell you, whatever else splatterpunked into our truck. But just as I began to accelerate, the most amazing site took place right in front of us. A bald eagle swooped down in front of the truck to go after something on the side of the road among the turkey vultures. If you've never been fortunate too see this majestic creature up close, then I don't know what else too say. Recovering from that glorious moment, we moved onward with our adventure.

We turned onto SR70 that led us into Arcadia; a small community, a great many migrant workers, and a quaint historic downtown district. We managed to have lunch at Slim's BBQ. A small Ma and Pa place that wasn't overpriced, and well worth the drive. Once again, COVID took front and center, and the dining area was closed. They were open for take-out only. We took our lunch platters and left. On the way out of town, along SR70, we happened to notice picnic tables and what appeared to be a small park just before a bridge. I believe it was the American Legion Park. Anyway, we drove down the road toward the park. We were surprised to see what was lined up along the road before the picnic table area.

Christmas Card Lane

"Not seeing is Believing"

Jesus saith to him: Because thou hast seen me, Thomas, thou hast believed: blessed are they that have not seen, and have believed. - John 20:29 (Douay-Rheims 1899 American Ed)

From the DeSoto Chamber of Commerce, various schools and businesses contributed to Christmas Card Lane. What was marvelous about this find, was the theme! Growing up we listened to stories of Father Christmas, Santa Claus, Ole Saint Nick, etc. But...I was baptized and raised in the Catholic faith. I was fortunate to attend private schools taught by the Sisters of the Poor Child Jesus and later the Sisters of Notre Dame.

Current holiday movies are more about Santa and less about the true meaning of Christmas. I've heard arguments as to when Christ was born, where he was born, and so on. Taking a look at the bigger picture, dates and times are irrelevant. The true Christmas was and is the birth of hope, joy, and love. We celebrate this every year.

Over these last few years, especially in my golden years, I was becoming increasingly disheartened over the Christmas holidays. The use of Santa Claus and the story behind Saint Nicholas was lost among the shopping sprees Black Friday and Cyber Monday sales. So...when we happened upon this unique and wonderful find along Christmas Card Lane, I felt joy and hope that all is not lost.

Get Inspired

We took a moment to look at the bigger picture! Christ was born more than two-thousand years ago, and he's still alive. Let us remember and keep the spirit alive. Our heavenly father is talking to us all, let us listen. Happy New Year to everyone and Keep the Faith!

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