Posted by: floridanature | May 18, 2008

On Again Visiting the Rock Cub In the Swamp

I saw the rock cub again yesterday. It’s been months since I’d been down there, at the bottom of a steep bluff that falls away into a hardwood, subtropical swamp. There’s no trail marked to it, and this requires that you look very closely at the firebreak road you’re hiking so you don’t miss the suggestions the forest gives you.

Since it’s nearly summer here in east central Florida, I was expecting the rock cub to have its usual patina of green moss covering its limerock body. But we’ve also been in an extended drought and the small spring seeps that usually flow around it are far less. The head of the boulder that is the bear is down next to the sand, as if it is sipping. But yesterday, there was no water to sip. No water, no moss. Maybe later in the summer. Nearby there were golden polypody ferns and needle palms, and in the diminished spring water that remained, there were little gambusia.

I was there with Wes Skiles, a world class image-maker of an underwater limerock world that few ever see, and his daughter Tessa and several friends were with us. For them, it was the first look at the bear, but for me, it was like going back to visit an old friend. We sifted through the fine sand under the thin stream of clear spring water and found bits of Florida’s geology—tiny shark’s teeth, and teensy femurs and limestone with nuggets of something calcified inside it.

Rock Cub spring when the water flowed and the moss grew

When I come to visit this boulder in the shape of a bear cub at the bottom of the hill next to the edge of the swamp, I feel at once grateful and deeply nostalgic. I think of others I have been here with and how they too connected with this place. And I have always wondered at the magic that people have experienced here over the years, fantasizing about the iconic energy that a lump of rock could have. Barry Lopez writes that not only do we “feel” a place, but if we are there enough and feel deeply enough, that place also “feels” us.

Maybe all who have ever been here have left behind shards of their own personas, and those shards transform into the energy of the place itself. And when we leave, when we crawl back up the steep wooded slope back to the light, some essential part of us stays behind and keeps the icon kindled, sipping spring water, growing a coat of summer moss. And perhaps, many years from now, when others find their way down this slope, it will be there to welcome them.



  1. Saw in Marjorie’s Wake a few weeks back in Gainesville. Great movie. It inspired me to check out Marjorie Rawlings State Park this weekend.

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