Posted by: floridanature | October 7, 2009

Florida Springs: Where Art, Story, & Science Flow

Well, I’m guessing you probably knew this if you’ve ever dipped a toe into a real life Florida spring.  It’s more than just the Windex-colored water that flows out of the folds in our subtropical landscape. It’s something else entirely, and figuring exactly *what* else sometimes requires the capacity to flip up the visors, so you can more fully look, feel, reflect.


I’ve been hunting for springs in Florida for years now, following in the footsteps of every one who came here looking for the liquid magic they represent. Sometimes, I hunted them as small limestone seeps back in the woods; sometimes, as a scuba diver descending into the bowels of the larger, first magnitude springs.

Not so long ago, I met Margaret Tolbert, an artist who engages in the aesthetic version of what I’ve always done. Real artists are rare–especially when they must live in a world that’s run by folks who mostly see art as a thing to sell, to buy, or to fit inside of a fancy frame that matches the fabric of the couch it will hang over.

Art, in its most ancient way, means to assemble, to bring together. It is, as Aristotle defined love–wholeness, or the pursuit thereof.  And so now, thanks to Mallory O’Connor, an art historian from Gainesville and a quite excellent writer, we have a series entitled “Liquid Muse.”  The muse in this case is the St. Johns–the same one I paddled last Sunday morning. And it is all the parts of that river experience, from the bold and forthright to the sublime and deeply textured.

But, like a spring, I burble on…

As part of the “Liquid Muse” series, both Margaret and I gave a presentation at the Florida Museum of Art up in DeLand recently. The co-program went so well that we are planning to give more such programs around Florida, via the Florida Humanities Council and whatever other source of support we can uncover. (

Margaret We’ll start with me showing pretty pictures of  springs, and gabbing about the rare natural  history that brings them to life. Since I’m a writer  by trade, I’ll look for ways other writers have  been influenced by our springs here over time. And, I’ll  talk about my own experiences in and outside of springs, and how I cam to cherish them.

Margaret will more specifically explain the  genesis of her own art as it relates to springs—of  what a mystic water-driven muse looks like when seen through the filter of an artists’ eye.

The nature-influences-art story continues to unfold on Nov. 19, Thurs. when Mallory O’ Connor and I give a presentation on the art of the St. Johns right here in the historic downtown of Sanford. It’s followed by a reception at Maya Books & Music and the sale/signing of “Florida’s American Heritage River: Images from the St. Johns Region.” (The program is from 5:30-6 pm at Sanford Library’s Community Room and reception afterwards is a block away on First Street at Maya.) Nature photographer Dr. Bobby Boswell will also join us there with some of his photos from the river. It’ll be a neat time to hang out and just enjoy the art and the moment.

And of course, Maya provides its own “conceptual art”. As a thriving independent bookstore, it simply allows visitors to have a real experience of literary “discovery.” As Fr. Thomas Berry once wisely observed, a good indie bookstore is not unlike a “haunted castle” with its overflowing stacks of titles, and its chance for random discovery. As such, it’s place of “enchantment”, rather than a sterile McBook World with all the character of a giant office cubicle.

In that way, the experience is not unlike stumbling across a little spring hidden back in the woods, like this one pictured here with its shallow, transparent ether atop submerged “sand boils” that forever roil with an upwelling from the natural vents in the submerged limestone under it.

Small "boils" of sand just under the transparent surface at Fern Hammock Springs


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s


%d bloggers like this: