PANAMA CITY BEACH — Two white-tailed does bounded and hopped through overgrown lots across the street from my dining room windows Tuesday morning. They halted abruptly and looked my way, circled in a lot and searched for an exit. One of them turned and disappeared under an oak tree, and the second followed.
The incident lasted a handful of seconds, and I was just lucky to have been facing the windows when they raced by in the golden light of morning.
It’s important to recognize that part of being in the right place at the right time is making yourself available. The other part is sheer luck. That morning’s vision was a fortuitous combination.
Last Friday afternoon, I made myself available and was lucky enough to speak briefly with Miles Zuniga and Tony Scalzo, two of the founding members of Fastball, the band that hit the big time with their song, “The Way,” in 1998. The place was Fish Out of Water, the restaurant at Watercolor resort in South Walton, and the reason was a press conference for some of the artists appearing at the 30A Songwriters Festival.
They paused long enough to have a photo taken, but I didn’t get to tell them how much my son loved their album “All the Pain Money Can Buy.” He played that CD until it was worn to a nub, if such a thing could be done. Easily dismissed by the cynical as “one-hit wonders,” they continue to write, play, record and sing.
Earlier that day, I made myself available to a class at Education Encore, the adult enrichment program at Gulf Coast State College. The program signed up a record high of 428 students this session, which runs through Feb. 22. The most popular classes, with 59 students each, are Gourmet Cooking Made Easy, Islam: Get the Facts, and We the People.
I was lucky enough to be presented with 22 students who wanted to know something about creative writing. It remains to be seen if they will consider this a fortunate appointment.
As you read this on a Friday, I hope to have attended a private screening of the 1962 film “To Kill a Mockingbird” at the Martin Theatre on Thursday evening. The movie, one of my all-time favorites, is being presented by the Bay County Public Library Foundation, in part to promote the upcoming appearance of Mary McDonagh Murphy at next weekend’s Books Alive festival.
Murphy, a former producer for “60 Minutes,” also produced “Hey, Boo,” an award-winning documentary on author Harper Lee, her book and its film adaptation. I will be introducing Murphy at Books Alive on Feb. 2 at Florida State University-Panama City, where she will talk about her project. Books Alive is a free event; for more information, visit BooksAlive.net.
As you might recall from the book (or film), Atticus tells his children he would prefer them to shoot at tin cans with their air rifles, but he knows they will eventually go after birds; he allows that it’s all right to shoot blue jays, but it’s a sin to kill a mockingbird.
He was trying to say that it’s wrong to willfully hurt someone who does nothing wrong. He later assures Scout that most people are nice, “when you finally see them.”
I don’t know how my train of thought ended up here, exactly, except that since we moved into the isolated neighborhood off the beach I’ve had more opportunity than in recent years to witness wild animals and birds brushing up against the edges of civilization. Visions like that of the running does have connected with memories of the lessons in “To Kill a Mockingbird,” and those lessons have informed the passage of my days.
So sing your hearts out, Fastball. Tell your stories, Encore students. Visit the book festival and hear the good words of writers seeking some kind of truth in the world. Try to “finally see” the people around you, and reserve your pellets for the tin cans — and maybe the blue jays.