Friday, October 4, 2013

You Never Know

Recently I responded to a call from Fairchild Tropical Botanic Garden in Miami, Florida:

WIN Elizabeth Gilbert's new novel, The Signature of All Things!

"This kind of storytelling is rare––one in which an author can depict the particulars of a moss colony as skillfully as she maps the landscape of the human heart." This is just one of the many amazing reviews for Gilbert's new book, exploring the life and times of a woman who discovers the wonder of botany.

Do you want to win a copy? Tell us about a time when you discovered something wonderful about nature. We're giving 3 copies away tomorrow!

I saw the notice on my Facebook feed approaching 9 P. M. the night before the selection was to be made. I breezed past it, but then paused. Pushing back up the feed, I rested on it and thought: I'm going to do this. All things "nature" run through my blood. I'm going to do this. And I did, and here's what I submitted in 277 words.

After settling into my home on a Florida canal, I began what would become a daily exercise. I’d descend the canal bank and search for all manner of life along its shore and in the water. Among the many fascinating things I found, were flat, thin, oval plates ringed in blue, beige, and gray. To my inexpert eye, I thought they were severed halves of freshwater clams or mussels. I soon learned this flat plate belonged to the apple snail, a freshwater mollusk, and is called an operculum––a cover that slides across the shell’s opening like a retractable door when the snail withdraws into its shell. One memorable day, a snail complied with a live-action demonstration of this when I lifted it from the mud. I caught my breath in marvel.

Apple snails are afoot in your canal, pond, or lake when you find grape-like clusters of pink-to-red eggs on objects above the water. Emerging vegetative stems and pointed cypress knees provide above-water pedestals for the female to deposit ten to eighty eggs packed in a gelatinous mass to keep them safe before they start life on their own. The young snails appear after two weeks, drop into the water as mini-versions of their parents, and quickly grow to adult size. They want to live with a passion.

For the shore-wading limpkin (also found in my back garden), it’s an important food source. For the snail kite cruising on the wing over water, it’s this bird’s only food. Apple snails are an integral part of Florida’s lake, pond, and marsh life. They are a part of my life, also.
I wrote it. I submitted it, and I won one of the three copies. If I hadn't, I would not have won. Simple as that.

But here's what I really won––I took a small, calculated risk to submit something I believed in, entered a mini competition to test my "flash" writing, and had in my hands (within two days) a hardcover book by an acclaimed author. It tasted and felt sweet.

Fellow writers, enter small competitions with your words knowing big-time fame might not come of it––but the validation of a crafted piece will bolster your writing efforts. And, don't forget to enter the big ones along the way. Either way, if you don't, you'll never know.