Under or above-a place of beauty. Alexander Springs.

(Avatar Magic, by Gerald Franquemont, is on Kindle and it is downloadable to most reading devices.)

I grew up hearing Tony Bennett singing I left My Heart In San Francisco. Later on in my life  I spent days hoping I’d never find it when I visited this town. Can you imagine? Some eighty year old heart is lying around in the streets out there! It’s just an odd thing to leave behind-this is all I’m saying. But, in truth, people do this sort of thing.

You can’t spend a better hour watching the tube than you will if you get to see Patrick Smith’s DVD entitled: A Sense of Place. ( this is part of Alachua County Library’s collection)This famous author narrates the work  in an informative, thought-provoking and amusing way. Simply, the film points to how most people, at least the lucky ones, have an inner sense of place for their lives-a place they keep an affinity, kinship and longing for. This sense of place is entwined in people’s inner being, a place people take with them where ever they go no matter what. If you are lucky enough to have such a place you will know where it is as soon as you think about it.

A friend of mine once wrote: “The wandering and the many cannot be so far away, when you’ve looked each other in the eye and heard what they had to say.” This is about the mass of humanity who for one reason or another don’t have an inner sense of place. Patrick Smith points to this inner nomadic condition of a person as one reason people destroy the places or the environment they are living in: it’s because these people never took any part of their environment into their heart, they made no place on Earth their own for keeps.

So I  have plenty of loved ones apparently attached to San Francisco, dried up heart lying around or not. But for me San Francisco is one long traffic jam on shakin’ ground.  People often say you can spend the coldest day of your life during the summer in San Francisco-this fact being attributed to the almost daily fog that creeps into the city and surrounding hillsides like “it’s on cat’s feet” (Carl Sandburg).  And for me, seeing the Pacific is beautiful, but putting me in front of an ocean I can’t swim in is like, hmm what ‘s the word…torture-yeah, that’s it: picture an astronaut on the moon with no space suit. NO, my sense of place is elsewhere.

Florida was one of America’s final settlements in a developed sense. Not until the 1950’s, and with the advent of refrigeration,  did massive amounts of people begin to transport their lives here. By looking at the destroyed coastlines, dammed up swamps and river flows, clear cutting of the pines, oaks and cedars it’s clear few people who settled Florida back then came with a sense of place in their heart. People could have come to Florida with a solid sense of place in their hearts, they just didn’t. It would be a long thought to get to why this is true.

I came to Northern Florida for keeps in the early 1970’s. Living with my cousins, Rob and Joe, I soon became familiar with a nearby springs called Alexander Springs. Back then this Springs had few of the developed features it offers visitors now. In fact, this Spring had just been bought by the US government and only then was The Eagle Pass offered, a pass to all state parks, a ticket running about $18 for a year as I recall.

Large, pure, Nature at it’s best. Alexander Springs.

So Alexander Springs was an undeveloped state park supervised by two state park rangers, one Vic by name, with few, if any, real visitors on a daily basis. Often my cousin and I, along with Vic, were the only people at this First Magnitude  Spring.


It was just by chance I got to help first forge the mile long trail that now offers the public a chance  to walk through the surrounding woods of this park. There with axe in hand (and I think even a machete) we cut and slashed our way through the jungle. We carried 12 foot log railroad ties to help build a small foot bridge over a small spring tributary; we hauled mounds of Cyprus mulch to help form a foot path through the areas we cleared. All the while, in the heat of several days, we heard  hawks. red-cockaded woodpeckers, songs of jays,  warblers and the call of the 72 degree 99% pure waters of the Springs as well. One time, one time only, Robin and I heard the close cry, call it a shriek, of a Florida Panther.  Hell0—it’s really a kind of terrifying sound to hear  when surrounded by jungle offering only a five to ten foot visual scan through the nearby brush. But of course, I’m so thankful to have ever heard it.

Much later on, after electing not to join my sister and Mom to visit my mom’s native home of  Recife Brazil, I happened to be taking my sister on this same walk in Alexander Springs, one now up-graded with board walks and a new foot bridge. I took my sister to my favorite place along this walk, stopped and declare this my spot, a place of rest and beauty to me. Tall palms towered forty feet or more over head, palm fronds covered the jungle floor. The light shimmered through the oak leaves flickering about us as the wind blew. My sister looked around and said: ” This looks just like Recife, just like our Mom’s home!”

It’s an odd thing to think a sense of place for me has turned out to be one resembling the place my mom grew up in. There’s a quirk about this coincidence that feels so right. NO, I didn’t visit my mom’s homeland but, somehow, Brazil had found me here in Northern Florida. And me? Well, I’d stumbled upon one of my  two sense of places for my life. This is a  place my heart will always Pine for. That’s  forever.


the Ocala National Forest: http://www.fs.usda.gov/wps/portal/fsinternet/!ut/p