Conversation with an Alligator

One reason it’s important for writers to do more than write, is that going out into the world gives us ideas. Fodder. Grist for the mill. And you never know when off time will lead to inspiration. This is one of those random fun days I allowed myself to enjoy that turned into the inspiration for a character in an upcoming book.

To celebrate my husband’s 50th high school reunion, we met for a New Orleans vacation with some of his high school buddies and their wives. A swamp tour was one of the touristy things we did. Living on the Gulf Coast, I’ve done swamp tours before, but this was by far the best.

The guide had roamed the swamps since his childhood, and he spoke of the swamp and its creatures with a deep, almost spiritual sense of respect. He took us to his familiar haunts and introduced us to an alligator with whom he had formed a special relationship.

He docked the boat against the soft dirt bank, then called the alligator. After a few minutes, she came swimming up to the boat. The guide knew the seven-foot-long mama alligator well enough to tell us about her struggle to raise babies. In the past three years, her nests had been raided by predators or destroyed by hurricanes and floods.

The guide stepped out of the boat and onto the sandy bank, then called Mama. She came out of the water and up the bank until she laid right next to him. He moved even higher onto the bank and coaxed her to follow. (By this point of course, I was connecting with her telepathically and sending energy healing for the emotional pain she had suffered when her nests kept being destroyed year after year.)

Though she worried about being so exposed with people she didn’t know watching her, she trusted him, and so she followed. The connection between this wild alligator and the guide felt like that of a man and his dog. I knew that he had spent many, many hours working with her and building trust, not because he wanted to show her off during his swamp tours, but because they shared a genuine relationship based on love and respect.

When our guide stepped back into the boat, Mama slid into the water and swam closer while I continued to do energy healing and communicate with her. She floated in the water with her little feet splayed out and her snout pointed right at me. I felt kind of bad about monopolizing Mama when more than a dozen people in the tour boat would’ve preferred to have her close to them. But we had something going that we needed to finish.

She let me know that she and our guide were a team, working together to help people understand that alligators—and by extension all animals—feel love and respect, heartache and disappointment, hope and fear, just as humans do. I asked if she worked with any other guides, and she said no, validating my sense of knowing that her relationship with this guide was special.

I asked if any other guides had tried to call her up during their tours, and she didn’t answer. When animals don’t answer, it usually means they don’t understand the question, it doesn’t pertain to the conversation, or they don’t think the answer is anyone’s business. Or, as in this case, the answer is no. I moved on to ask Mama why she came willingly to meet us when our guide called her.

“I come when he calls because I know he loves me,” she said.

And that’s when I knew that I’d met the hero of book five in the Welcome to Magnolia Bay series. He’s just an idea at this point, but his character is already talking to me. I’ll pair him with a heroine whose education surpasses his, while his experience surpasses hers. They’ll have to teach each other and come to an understanding that each of them isn’t complete without the other.

I know y’all have only been able to read the first two books in the series so far, but that’s the way it works. Whether the books are traditionally or self-published, the books have been written, edited, and revised long before they’ve jumped through enough hoops to get to readers.

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