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When people used to come visit me in California, I’d take them down Highway 1 as far as Big Sur.  We’d drive down to Carmel and before heading any farther south, I’d always stop and park at the end of Ocean Street so I could show them Carmel Beach.  As far as I was concerned, you couldn’t top Carmel Beach for its gorgeous setting and for the light green color of the water.  The contrast between it and San Francisco’s foggy and crepuscular Ocean Beach couldn’t have been greater.  Each had its own beauty, but the Carmel beach was the endpoint of an absolutely stunning, flowered coastline that wound down from Monterey.

Carmel Beach sat in a bowl beneath a short cliff.   It wasn’t like much of California’s northern coastline, which was rugged and had very rough surf.  In Carmel, the beach looked as if rendered from a painter’s imagination.   What nature hadn’t provided, man hadn’t ruined.  I recall a fairytale English cottage that sat sideways to the sea in a tangle of branches and flowering vines.  As far as I was concerned, the beach was a must-see on any visit to Northern California.

One day I took an English newspaper editor to the beach.   I had planned to do what I normally did, which was to get out and walk for a bit on the sand.  As I was parking the car, though, the editor asked me why I was stopping.  I said I had stopped so he could enjoy this beautiful beach.

He snorted derisively.  There were better in the South of France.  Perhaps I hadn’t been there, he sniffed.  If I had gone, then I’d have known that Carmel Beach was nothing special.

And then it happened again, this time with another editor, this one working for a German fashion magazine.  In those days I had international media connections.  The German editor said more or less then same thing, and then he threw in the word “provincial.”   He made clear that he felt that I didn’t get out of the house much.  If I thought the beach was magnificent then I was…well, a dumb American.  And blonde as well!

Today’s post is the last in my series about Ichetucknee Springs.  We walked down the 1/4 mile trail to Blue Hole, which is known for cave-diving.  When we got to the hole, I thought about Carmel Beach and how some people reacted to it.  In front of me was a perfect pool of water that was surrounded by vegetation so astonishing that it looked almost surreal.  I realized that there were people, probably many of my friends among them, who would not appreciate it.  They’d have to qualify it the way the Europeans qualified Carmel and they’d have missed the value.  What is it about human nature that makes us unable to accept and appreciate things on their own merits?  To be prejudiced in favor of one thing that has certain emotional resonance or is a source of national pride is understandable.  I wondered how many people had taken the same trail I just did and had retraced their steps once they reached the hole, thinking it wasn’t as bright or as blue as something else?

Cypress knees.  Originally identified by myself and a good friend as birds, from my pictures at Fanning Springs, where the roots looked like tall partridge. Yes, I have a long way to go with nature identification.  Neither ornithology nor dendrology is a strength of mine.  Having to be so humble in the face of nature makes one wonder what one is good at.

Imagine this photo as a mixture of Impressionism (the Monet-like reflections in the water) and Realism (the rest).  Understand that I had no emotional involvement in this picture and detached myself from it so the scene would be represented as honestly as possible.  Often I will cut my angle to omit something unnatural (for instance, a car that spoils an otherwise perfect nature picture) or I will take a photo to make a comment on something.  Not here.  What you see is what you get.

Come back on Monday for something less peaceful:  Menaced in Marion County!

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