Posted by: floridanature | October 26, 2008

Farmers’ Market: More than I expected

If I’m home, I try to make it to the Farmer’s Market on Saturday mornings in Sanford. There’s always a hearty selection of fresh fruit and veggies there, and sometimes, other stuff I haven’t quite figured out yet.

Part of the fun is to muddle about in the old historic downtown, beyond the big clock on the pedestal and whatever seasonal decorations may be there. (It’s Halloween now, so we have scarecrows, corn husks, and pumpkins, some of which were riding a good current down the middle of the street a couple weeks ago during a monsoonal deluge). Fact is, it feels good to be in the midst of a place where folks come to just kick back; no e-ticket rides, no pumped up go-fast cars, and no big pretense.

I see Ann who with her husband Vince sold me my house. They live on a yacht in the marina nearby and on Saturday mornings, run a little Kettle Korn stand, popping corn and seasoning it, giving out free samples, just getting a kick out of it all. Ann is a sweetheart, always earnest and kind, and sometimes, she upgrades my $3 bag to a $5-sized bag, just because she feels like it.

I browse a bit, taking in the local fresh veggies, so much better than being imprisoned in my local corporate Winn Dixie, where stuff comes to me courtesy of God Knows Where and the romaine seems on permanent wilt.

I score some bananas, mangos, onions, squash, garlic, and two of the largest McIntosh apples I have ever seen from a very nice couple. They tell me the produce came from Tampa, but within another week or two when the Fall growing season kicks in, they’ll have lots more local stuff.

It’s neat to see my neighbor and friend, GK, who is selling some of her photographs, different sizes, all sorts of images, including a golden orb spider web (like the one I blundered into the other day when hiking to St. Francis), a nifty Sand Hill Crane, and so on. GK’s a writer, too, and is on our little neighborhood committee that miraculously kept a 12 acre tract of rolling grassland and oaks and sabal palms from being sold by the City and turned into something reasonably onerous.

I wonder why GK is selling photos when this is a farmers mart, and I ask her about this. Turns out once a month a crafts mart is also added onto the mix, and this is the day for it. Geez, always the last to know. I look at the table next to us and see it full of little pink and blue bunnies and duckies, made out of some unknown fabric. I always wonder what’s inside stuff like that.

A guy is playing a guitar and singing, nice voice really, and the sort of stuff that a radio might call ‘easy listening’. He’s singing Hotel California, not a bad rendition at all, and I think of the irony the years wash over us, between when the Eagles sang it and now. Hotel California was pretty cool once, for both its sounds and its symbolisms, but now, in the post-industrial, boombox world that prizes techno-style over substance, well, it’s—geez, hate to say it—“easy listening.”

I check out the orchids, thinking I might buy Zona one to replace the plant that just stopped blooming, but realize I am almost out of money. I walk a couple yards upstream to Maya Books & Music, pull open the massive glass door that always seems as if it ought to be guarding a government mint instead of a book store, and go in. Layla’s on the floor, nuzzling the cat. I see Yvette bobbing and weaving behind the counter, by far the coolest businesswoman in Sanford and in fact, in just about any town I’ve ever been. And as always, my spirits brighten a bit. Yvette’s got a great sense of humor, which if you’re a progressive thinker and live in a Southern town, is standard equipment… most especially for a woman.

I give Yvette one of the bananas from my cache, and look around, soaking it in. Thomas Moore once wrote that a bookstore ought to be more like a haunted castle than a cubicle—a metaphor that contrasted independent booksellers with the big, sterile corporate giants. It’s all about enchantment, really, about going into a place and not knowing what’s around the next stack of books, of having a flesh and blood person there who cares about literature and life and mystery. Or, going into a place with all the charm of a brightly lit high school gym and buying a spanking new book from a droid punching a clock. I complain, good naturedly, that “my” chair upfront is again full of stuff, and Yvette apologizes, smiles that great smile, and the stuff remains, and I don’t feel like moving it somewhere it doesn’t belong.

I almost get a bumper sticker that says “Simply Sanford” from a little basket guarded by an angel, but then remember I simply have one already. I say goodbye and am off, out beyond main street and two blocks or so away to “Lake Monroe.” I’ve written before about how redemptive it is to see the normally calm dilation in the St. Johns turn back into a real river again, thanks to the upstream rain storms. It’s choppy and strong, and I like to believe, full of resolve.

En route, I talk to a good friend of mine on my cell, a cardiologist who really gets how it all works, from the cellular level, right on up. Bobby and I usually paddle places, and he takes striking photos of what he sees, both of us connecting with a primal appreciation for the earth.

Bob riffs me with some science that I hang onto, like a skater on the end of a crack-the-whip. Bob thinks I’m smarter than I am because I write books, and he sometimes lapses into intricate explanations of the cellular dynamics of the world. It’s a world in which all living things—say, a tree–is comprised of trillions of tiny quantum-level intelligences. Each cell with its own organic computer. And so that tree—live oak, cypress, sasporilla—recognizes our presence because it’s an intelligent lifeform. Not terribly far from what great nature writers like Allison Hawthorne Deming and Barry Lopez and poet Gary Synder have been saying for a long time, although they explain it in a visceral way.

As I go to leave the lake, I see a neat historic plaque telling of the bandshell that once was on the little man-made peninsula here. I’m fiddling with my camera when a really hefty guy calls out to me: “Sir!, Sir!” I go over to him, because this could mean most anything. He had seen me next to the historic plaque, so he wants me to know that when Hurricane Donna hit Florida, all the fish in the Sanford Zoo—which then was only a couple hundred yards away—were washed into the lake.

I ponder that a bit, and then ask him what sort of fish, and he tells me, well, goldfish, and, you know, all the fish in the zoo, wanting me to understand it was a really important event. I assure him it sure does sound as if were serious, and say goodbye. I wish I could have thought of something more comforting to say to him, but I’m thinking he simply wanted me to know about the storm and what it did. And that alone may have meant something.

I drive home and walk to the front door, which I never use, just to see who might have left a UPS package or telephone book there. And tucked inside the screen door is a little flyer. I take it out and open it up. It reads:
“What is the Truth?” And then: “Would you like to know?”

I think about that a while. And then I go into my back yard to feed the birds and squirrels, and make sure the pump in the pond is working okay so that the fish there are happy. (It is, and I can only assume they are.)

The Spanish moss on the massive live oaks around me sways lightly in the new autumn breeze. I sit on one of the chairs at the old white metal patio table I brought with me when I moved. I wonder about the truth thing a bit, and figure it might be a nice idea to know. Years ago, Paul Krassner, founder of The Realist, said ‘Truth is Silly Putty’ and I figure I’ll go with that one for now.

And then a few migrant warblers flit over the wooden fence, stopping at the bird bath to splash, and a pair of zebra longwings drift through, rising and falling on the breeze like colorful, random thoughts.



  1. I bought our pumpkin today … in our Naples equivalent of a Farmer’s Market. I love baking the seeds. But just once per year and I get my fill.

  2. Next time I go back home to Debary I will check out the Sanford Farmer’s Market. It sounds like fun.

  3. Thanks for such an intimate tour of your time and place. And, for the references to two of my faves — Gary Snyder and Barry Lopez — both of whom are American cultural treasures.

    I’m an independent publisher in central Ohio, and I’ve published a book that contributes to the understanding of what Barry Lopez is saying in his short fiction, as well as his nonfiction. Mike Newell’s No Bottom: In Conversation With Barry Lopez (XOXOX Press) holds an extensive interview between poet Newell and author Lopez, along with an insightful essay by Newell that explores key themes in Lopez’s short fiction. No Bottom is available at and at Amazon and other web outlets.

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