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Once again I find myself with a set of images so broad that I can’t categorize them as other than “miscellany,” in this case from Citrus County.  This is because I wanted to include a tornado siren and a gar skull in one post and I could think of no other apologia for it.

I would be doing a disservice to this blog if I didn’t include these items, since even in the case of banality they do depict what is out there in Florida today.  If someone would foot the bill, I could make a life’s work out of photographing and disseminating Florida.

The main thing that separates Florida from other states is wonder.  Wonder, in a state so transparent?  It may seem that advertising gives all of Florida away, since the goal is to attract tourists, but that advertising is done with the broadest of strokes (beach, sun, theme parks).  This blog is antithetical to that.  Let’s take a look at what Florida really is:

This is a state where the climate, the wildlife, and the vegetation can be downright hostile, yet these features are subsumed into benefit.  It’s a bit like Australia in that regard, yet around every corner is amazement.  A good illustration of that is the springs in Homosassa.

In 1924, a man named Bruce Hoover took a boat ride down the Homosassa River and was captivated by the springs full of fish, the natural “fish bowl.”  He built a bridge over the springs and declared, ““I hope mankind will never see fit to destroy this spring, nor enclose it behind iron gates from the eyes of the world. For only God could create such a majestic sight. For truly it is a wonder of the world and a natural bowl of fish.”

Although you do have to pay to see the fish bowl today ($13.00 for an adult), it is worth the price.  The springs is presumably as full of fish as it was when Mr. Hoover viewed it with amazement.  It is jaw-droppingly blue and serene and one could stare at it for hours, forgetting one is in the middle of a tourist attraction.  The bowl makes a good argument for aggressive preservation of ecological systems; what a shame it would be if this were lost to future generations.

Florida is also full of intangibles, those things you can’t ship home with you but which resonate in the mind and in the mind’s eye.  The way a mullet flashes out of the water, the palpable strength of a hardwood hammock, the likeness of parts of the Everglades to an African savannah, the smell of jasmine in St. Augustine as you sit outside drinking a mojito on an early summer evening.  Or the great slabs of pink at sunset or the wide-eyed awe with which foreign tourists view a gator.

Florida is a true “stop and smell the roses” place, except that we can substitute orange blossom or jasmine for rose and extend the metaphor to include everything that one has not seen before and at which one is amazed.  At the Crystal River State Preserve State Park, I had some fun handling the skull of a gar.  I hadn’t done that before, and the skull, with its rows of tiny, sharp teeth, allowed me to juxtapose thoughts about natural adaptation and that realm of Surrealist painting based upon theories of psychoanalysis, where sharp teeth make frequent appearances.  There was no warning that I might cut myself or that children shouldn’t traumatize one another with the skeleton.  It just sat on a table with some other things–carapaces, tails, heads, bones–and was available for examination at one’s leisure, without supervision.

On the road to the park, I saw a tornado siren, which is pressed into double-duty as a hurricane alert.  I saw another of these devices near Lake Rousseau.  They are the first I’ve seen in Florida,  a state where there is an ongoing (and mostly quiet) debate about their installation. I am all in favor, having put some lengthy hours of study into the weather, and I have now counted two times that a rotating cloud has whirred over the roof of my apartment and the nails have strained against the upward draft.

The siren buff will recognize this as a Whelen.  It’s also good in case of an air raid.

This is the over- and underwater obsevatory.  You descend the from the center of the deck and are plunged into a piscine wonderland.  Claustrophobes, don’t worry! You aren’t sealed into the thing and, if you’re worried about it, you can stand on the stairway and still see the action.

Snook alert!

Crystal River

Mullet hole at Crystal River Preserve State Park.  Innocuous-looking, isn’t it? Watch out for the gators!

In Crystal River Preserve.  We walked down a trail and were rewarded with this view.

A wailin’ Whelen!