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The Gift of Florida

















Frothy. Cultureless. A swampy morass of misery and boredom. Criminally insane. That's what the snarky blog Gawker has to say about our state. Conan makes jokes. Fark pokes fun. Sometimes it feels like everybody everywhere searches the Sunshine for the bloggable, tweetable, linkable bizarre. They miss the point. They act like it's the only place with a pill problem. Like it's the only place with the dumb and the desperate who end up in laughed-at mug shots. Like it's the only place with cul-de-sacs with neighbors who don't know each other's names. Like it's the only place where people used to have jobs and keep them and pay their rent and feed their kids and now no longer can. Like it's the only place where people said yes to buying a house because everybody else said yes, too, and who since have been asked to please leave. What happens in Florida is that all of what is up there somehow ends up down here, and so it's the most interstate, real estate, dredge-and-fill, boom-and-bust hothouse manifestation of the lying, climate-controlled moment when everybody in this country thought they could have it all, forever and ever. Florida is not some funhouse mirror. It is a vivid reflection. To mock is too easy. Here, then, from people who know Florida, voices from the Times and elsewhere, in original essays and images coupled with emails, tweets and all-time great excerpts, is a different way of assessing America's most fascinating state. Michael Kruse, Times staff writer

Jungle land | Ben Montgomery

Life creeps in when the living leave

The neighbor moved out of the bungalow next door not long after we moved onto Jean Street in Tampa, just before the bubble burst. She showed up on our porch in tears saying her mother was dying out West, and something felt wrong about the house, something she couldn't explain. Not long after the renters moved in, they were signing divorce papers and selling off their furniture. I went over to buy a dresser. This woman, too, was crying. She said I wouldn't believe it, but in the bathroom one day she had seen something dark hovering just behind her husband. That's when things began to change.

When they were gone, the place sat empty, and Florida did what Florida does. Vines ran up the stockade fence and repelled from the oaks. Clumps of bamboo spread and rocketed upward. Algae covered the swimming pool and the water turned black. The deck began to rot and the green window canopies grew mold. The little pink house turned a shade darker.

At first, my wife and I were dismayed. Our early-century Seminole Heights bungalow had been lovingly restored, and we paid through the nose. Now, market kaput, we found ourselves parked indefinitely beside an eyesore. Worse was when the clouds of mosquitoes began to rise from the pool. I threw pesticide dunkers over the fence and rang code enforcement.

But as nature consumed the property, as the canopy grew to block out the sun, we began to think of it differently. We were suddenly falling asleep to a chorus of frogs and cicadas and watching opossums trot down the fence-line. When two slats fell off the fence separating our yards, the space became a portal to a wild and mysterious place, albeit on a city lot. We'd take our daughters next door to catch tadpoles in the pool and play hide-and-seek in the almost overnight jungle. The eyesore became an escape from city life, real Florida right next door. And for a few years it was ours.

A month ago, someone planted a For Sale sign out front, and a group of paint-splattered men showed up in a construction van. The men painted and put on a new roof and built a deck over the pool and turned on the electricity. Flood lights underlit our disappearing refuge.

I'm sure my property is worth more now, and I'm hoping a nice family moves in and makes a home. But I haven't heard the frogs since the chain saws. I go to sleep now with nostalgia, and a better understanding of how pliable existence is here, and how full of life a place void of humans can be.

Animal attraction | Craig Pittman

Three hunters walk into a swamp . . .

Last month, the popular National Public Radio quiz show called Wait, Wait . . . Don't Tell Me! taped a broadcast in Tampa. It was a natural choice, explained the host, Peter Sagal: "For years now, Florida has been the primary source of our weird news items — the dumb criminals, the bizarre animal stories, the felon governors."

Animal stories. You know the ones: Alligator battles python! Bear steals birthday cake! Giant snails invade subdivision!

The next time you see one of these stories, after you chuckle about how wacky life in Florida is, remember this: Usually those stories don't end well for the animals, either because they have interfered with the humans encroaching on their habitat, or because they're caught up in what one Disney movie euphemistically called "the circle of life."

The gator and python? They killed each other. The bear that stole the birthday cake? Tracked down by a pack of hunting dogs and shot in the head. The giant snails? They're not even supposed to be here. State officials are now figuring out how to wipe them out before they can spread any further.

Only rarely do you see a bizarre Florida animal story in which no animals were harmed — for instance, the one about the trio of Volusia County hunters who, according to state wildlife officials, made a few mistakes in their search for a trophy:

1. They went out at midnight.

2. They decided to hunt at Blue Spring State Park, where no hunting is allowed.

3. They decided to hunt for alligators, even though gators were out of season.

4. They fired at the only gator they saw, but missed.

5. Blundering around in the dark, two of the hunters bumped into each other and one of them shot the other one in the foot.

The only question left unanswered by this story: Can alligators laugh?

Drive time | Michael Kruse

They never saw this coming

The Federal Writers' Project put to work some 6,600 writers, researchers, editors, historians, archaeologists, geologists and such to help them get through the Depression. President Franklin Delano Roosevelt did that. Can you imagine? One of the coolest things the project did was state-specific guide books, and one of the coolest of those books was the one about Florida, first published in 1939.

In it were 22 driving tours. Tour 20 went not quite 90 miles, from Haines City to Clearwater, mostly on U.S. 92, touching Auburndale, Lakeland, Plant City and Tampa.

One of Florida's aortic valves.

Back then?

Watch for cattle along highway. The epicenter of the epicenter of the production of citrus. Blacks and whites working in separate groups picking all the fruit for six cents a box. "Negro" sections of Lakeland with unofficial names like Voodoo Corner and Careless Avenue. Sugar cane juice, gray and cool, and the sounds of fun coming from "jooks" and thumbs-up hitch-hikers looking for northbound trucks. Oldsmar was Tampa Shores. Clearwater had fewer than 8,000 people.

And now?

Auburndale's thick afternoon air still smells like sweet orange pulp. For sale in storefronts and from under the awnings of roadside stands are car parts and cowboy boots and Christian books, payday loans and Jamaican cuisine and bananas at 29 cents a pound, the services of attorneys whose windows say they speak Spanish. The Hungry Howie's is next to Guns Galore. There are the liquor stores called ABC and the liquor stores called XYZ. The messages along the way come in big block letters on billboards and Sharpie scrawl on handheld cardboard and in the form of scrolling red digital pixels. Cherish life. Advertise here. Settling? Cracking? Injured? Hungry? Hard times. Cash for gold. Cash for scrap. Road work ahead. Mercy and love. Veterans play bingo in dingy halls meant to honor their service and give them something to do. Women in not much clothing slither in the dim lighting of low-slung buildings. Men drink beer in bars with names like Just One More.

Dream state | Ron Matus

Prey at night, provider by day

I'm outside a house. The sky is dark. It's a dream but I know it's a hurricane.

An alligator climbs out of a window.

I'm a Florida boy. I've learned a few things about alligators. They're not always there, but they could be.

River. Swamp. Lake.

Ditch. Pool. Front door.

It's a dream, but I know the house is abandoned. Maybe it's a neighbor's.

Maybe it's mine.

• • •

Age 15: Westside Jacksonville. Blue-collar golf course.

Entrails float in cattails.

The old guys in the pro shop belly laugh. No, nobody got murdered. Gator got something.

Age 32: Gainesville. Tumblin' Creek.

I'm tracking the flow into Bivens Arm, a ruined lake as gross green as pea soup. The creek disintegrates into a delta of muddy, garbage-strewn woods. I know I'm close. I shimmy part way up a tree. I see water through waving reeds.

Then, water moves. Knobby head surges.

I jump. My boots lock into muck. I think of the end.

Age 42: North St. Petersburg. Betty's Coin Laundry.

We don't know if we can afford to get the dryer fixed, so every other night, I tote wet clothes. On the bright side, I have time, finally, to seek therapy in fiction.

My wife borrows a book for me. It's about a gator wrestler.

•••

I've never been so on edge.

Double-digit unemployment. Neighborhoods under water. Pay cuts. Layoffs.

We bought our house in 2004. Two bedrooms. One bath. It's all we could afford, but to me, it was plenty. In hindsight, it was extravagant.

Around New Year's, my boys would climb the orange tree. We'd eat a dozen a day, right there in the yard. Sunshine dribbled down our chins.

Then the plagues came. I drenched the tree with every something-icide I could buy at Home Depot, but it was too late. The leaves fell off. The oranges turned black. Sloughed-off bark left the limbs skeletal, like a Christmas tree in a Tim Burton movie.

I know the boys miss their tree. They're having alligator dreams, too.

•••

North Shore Beach is free. Our Great Recession getaway.

In my duct-taped, '97 Nissan, I croon to the Ramones' Rockaway Beach: North Shore, North Shore Beach, we can hitch a ride to North Shore Beach . . . The boys giggle as spazzy daddy sings the verse:

Chewing at a rhythm on my bubble gum

Sun is out, I want some

My gentle beasts splash far and wide in the literally life-giving sea grass. Sweaty, sandy, briny, happy. Here they're in their element, pitting hermit crabs in gladiator fights, and I can feel like the provider I'm supposed to be.

I don't worry about alligators at North Shore. Bull sharks maybe. (Shrug.) But not alligators.

From the seawall, I watch clouds of skimmers in formation, trippy orange beaks swirling against endless sky. A crazy wind crinkles through the palms. It's paradise, right next to me, whispering.

I want to believe what I hear.

Growing up Floridian

A gulf in time

It was dark out when my dad thumped on the bedroom door. Time to leave, he told me. I'd been awake for 20 minutes. School was out, and sports were done. No more tests. No more sprints in a metal gym without air conditioning. Just a Saturday in summer.

At that early hour in Niceville, my hometown, the tourists hadn't yet packed the road leading to Destin and its beaches. Only us. The trip ended 80 miles east at a dirt boat ramp, just beyond the fishing village of Mexico Beach.

Fiddler crabs marched in and out of the waves as we launched out. My dad cranked the outboard motor, and it grunted and growled and smelled better than fresh air. I sat near the front and rested my bare feet on the deck. He pushed the throttle until our 18-foot Polar Kraft planed out. Eyes closed, the saltwater misted my face, and I heard nothing but the wind and the engine.

We sped beyond the alligator-infested marshes and into Crooked Island Sound, a Gulf of Mexico gateway that tides and storms repainted each year. Twelve hours of fishing lay in front of us. Those who knew Florida's heyday said the catch in places like this had dwindled. Not as big or abundant. But to me it didn't matter. It was about so much more.

It was about Coke and boiled peanuts for lunch. About a 6-foot-wide stingray leaping just beyond the nose of our boat. About F-16 fighter jets from one of the area's three military bases flying in formation high overhead. About weathered mullet fishermen slinging cast nets at shadows, then pulling bushels of fish from the water. About sand dollars and sunburns and, at least for one more day, being a kid forever.

John Woodrow Cox, Times staff writer

Sting of memory

When I was young, my parents taught me about the ocean. From our orange-tree home near Gladden Park, the gulf, they said, lay in wait on the horizon. But I was young, and my ocean was my plastic kiddie pool, blue, shallow and safe. What I knew was traced in tiny wet footprints across my backyard porch.

As a boy my parents enrolled me in swim lessons at the neighborhood pool. They buoyed my arms in neon floaties and watched me doggy-paddle frantically to safety. One day, when I was old enough, they took me to the beach.

On the shore, I stood awestruck. The water yawned endlessly, dreadfully, into space. I was spooked and overwhelmed. On afternoons I ventured out to punch the waves, one boy battling the invading unknown.

The ocean of my imagination harbored countless horrors — great white sharks, giant squids, man-eating creatures of the depths — but the worst was the stingray. My dad had told me about their razor-barbed tails, which drilled through bone, leaving boys hideously deformed.

I was taught the Stingray Shuffle, and in those dangerous months I shambled dutifully. But I did not feel safer; I felt like a zombie. Fear, I thought, makes us do strange things.

Through all my sunburnt mornings at Pass-a-Grille and Fort De Soto, through jellyfish stings and horsefly bites, I never encountered a stingray. And as life became busier, more complicated — even, at times, terrifying — the specter of the stingray seemed to fade from view.

One afternoon years later, when I was no longer a boy, my girlfriend and I went to the beach. We had just entered the surf when I felt a sudden sharp jab in my foot. Back on the sand, I saw a bloody dime-sized divot. Finally, I had been stung.

The gouged chunk, maybe the work of a baby ray, looked shallow and unremarkable — nothing like the gore I had imagined. As we cleaned the wound, I thought about my fear, and what my parents had taught me about the ocean. A few minutes later, we waded back in.

Drew Harwell, Times staff writer

The debris of youth

My Florida childhood:

My baby brother, screaming on the lap of a Burdines Santa; me, asking how he'd get into my house without a chimney.

My mother, yelling the house rule upon arrival from the beach — "strip!" Peeling off my dirty clothes near the washer, running naked to the bathtub, leaving sandy footprints across the Florida room tile.

Going to Disney so often, it became the focus of play; taking turns pushing each other in a rolling chair, singing Figment's ode to imagination; ending each ride with a souvenir Polaroid.

Scanning the Publix hurricane guide for my name, getting disappointed every year I wasn't a storm; filling the bathtub with water, watching my dad hammer plywood, huddling in the hallway as Andrew pounded on our house; finding a sea shell amid the debris, and putting it in a box, because it felt important.

Alexandra Zayas, Times staff writer

Storm seasons

It's June 1. My mom pulls out a fresh hurricane map and props it up behind the radio in the kitchen. For the next five months, she charts the movement of every storm that might roll up through the Gulf of Mexico like a bowling ball to demolish our green concrete-block house. By Nov. 30 her map is covered in dashes and jots — but we're still safe. I become convinced her mapping the storms is what kept disaster away.

Summer. We're rolling along the highway on a rare family vacation, hopscotching from state park to state park. We stop by the Suwannee River and Dad fires up the Coleman stove to cook breakfast. I decide to explore the clear, cool water burbling across a set of smooth rocks. I try to cross them but slip and fall in. I figure Mom will be mad I got my clothes wet. Clearly, it's a disaster. Instead, she laughs — but when she sees my face, she hides her amusement. She thought I'd jumped in on purpose.

Christmastime. In the trailer park next door to our house, I know there will be at least one fire, usually the result of someone plugging in badly wired decorations. It happens every year. Sometimes I climb my backyard persimmon tree and frown over at the row of trailers and try to guess which one will go up in flames next. But there's no mapping the disaster pattern.

Late winter. I'm in my dad's pickup, squished between him and one of his hunting buddies, all of them big guys with names like "Gaston" who have big, booming voices. The radio is playing Conway Twitty, the heater is gradually warming up my ice-block feet and the two men are swapping stories and laughing until they gasp for air. I'm quiet, still thinking about how when the doves began to fly over, zig-zagging as they spotted us, all the shotguns began boom-boom-booming. Before I could fire, spent pellets fired by some other hunter's gun began falling on me, pattering down like metal raindrops. I yelped with surprise and Dad ran over to see what was wrong. I wasn't hurt. But I understood the doves and their dodging a lot better.

I'm 25. I've dodged enough disasters to land my first job far away from my hometown. I rent a little apartment on the beach south of Sarasota — although the beach isn't nearly as pretty as Pensacola's. Every day when I pull out of my driveway, I get completely lost. Finally the realization of what's wrong hits me like that shower of shotgun pellets: The Gulf of Mexico is in the wrong place. It's not to the south of me anymore, the way it always was when I was growing up. It's a disaster I didn't count on.

Craig Pittman, Times staff writer

On Flamingo Road

My family moved from Ohio to Tampa in 1958, when I was 6 years old. The city's population had more than doubled during the 1950s, but it could still feel like a small town.

We lived off West Shore Boulevard on Flamingo Road, a crushed-shell lane a few blocks long that dead-ended at Old Tampa Bay. Our house was one of only two on the north side of the street, flanked by pine scrub where meadowlarks and redwing blackbirds sang. My brothers and I made forts in the palmettos, netted tadpoles out of the drainage ditch and kept a sharp eye out for the abundant rattlesnakes and copperheads.

Behind our house was a cluster of sleepy trailer parks with a crescent of beach, where troops of fiddler crabs marched and tiny watercolor coquinas burrowed endlessly back into the sand after each wave. Tampa Bay was so badly polluted then that many folks wouldn't eat its fish, but some diehards dropped lines from the parks' small pier, and we watched sharks curve up from the deep to snatch discarded bait.

Year round, my family — kids fashionably clad in pajamas — went to the movies at Dale Mabry Drive-in on Gandy Boulevard. My dad sometimes took us to Ybor City to watch the man in the window at the Silver Ring Cafe build stacks of Cuban sandwiches. Every second Monday in February, we got a day off school to watch a shipload of pirates sail up the bay and parade, guns blazing, from downtown through Hyde Park and up Grand Central Boulevard to the Florida State Fair, near the tiny University of Tampa campus. Disney World was still in its secretive land-grab phase, its opening years in the future.

Air conditioning was an exotic luxury, found only in movie theaters and rich people's houses. None of the four schools I attended in Tampa had air-conditioned classrooms; neither did my family's first two houses here. We wore cotton clothes. We opened all the windows. We sweated.

Colette Bancroft, Times book editor

Fathers know best

I saw the snake draped across the poinsettias.

"Daddy!'' I yelled.

"My God!'' he shouted a moment later. "Bea! We have a snake in our yard!''

"Kill it, Ernie!'' my mother shrieked through the screen door. "Or I'll never go outside again.''

We had moved from Chicago to Florida a few years earlier. Everything was both amazing and scary. We had coconut trees in our yard and softball-sized crabs scuttling into holes under the croton bushes. Barred owls hooted from the poinciana tree. Manatees — everyone called them sea cows — lazed in the canal at the end of the block. We never saw alligators, but Domingo, an older boy, and therefore an authority on everything, claimed they were common.

To my parents, to the countless Yankees who had moved south after World War II, Miami seemed both an Eden and the jungle from King Kong. Shaking in horror, my dad grabbed his shovel and took a panicked swing at the snake, which dropped off the branch and slithered toward the hibiscus — between his legs. Adrenalin flowing, my Dad flew off the ground like a rocket and fell on his butt. Behind the screen door, Mom exploded with laughter, which only made him more determined to rid our yard, and our neighborhood, and our state, and our world, of the terrifying serpent.

Danny, the chain-smoking Bostonian from across the street, trotted over to investigate the excitement. Herb, who had moved his family to Florida from Youngstown a few weeks early, arrived next. They heard the word "snake" and ran home to get their shovels.

I was 7, maybe 8, no smarter than the grown ups. They were alarmed so I was alarmed. As I watched and screamed, the three hunters chased the snake through the bushes and across the lawn as if it were a tiger that had recently eaten a villager.

Thud, thud, thud.

That was the sound of shovel slaying snake.

My dad and his relieved friends shook hands, stood on the sidewalk in the gloaming, congratulated themselves again and again for being men who could protect their families from a loathsome Florida menace.

I picked up the limp reptile by the tail and studied it in front of my face. It was 18 inches or so, a harmless green snake, I later learned. I dug a little hole in the black earth under the banana trees and conducted a quiet funeral.

Jeff Klinkenberg, Times staff writer

State of nature | Laura Reiley

In fecund mangroves, a metaphor

Their arching prop roots look like so many spindly legs, an army of alien invaders paused for a quiet soak in the shallows. The mangrove is one of only a handful of tree species on Earth that can withstand having its roots sitting in saltwater, immersed daily by rising tides, and that thrives in little soil and high levels of sulfides. The mangrove's hardiness is just one of its oddities.

Long hair, long beard, Thomas J. Smith has been jokingly called Jesus de los Manglares, Jesus of the Mangroves. An ecologist and environmental scientist with the U.S. Geological Survey in St. Petersburg, he studies coastal ecosystems "and the importance of mangroves in the detrital food web." "Detrital" as in "detritus," as in accumulated organic gunk, the accretion of which Florida's seething, slithering biomass attends to with a heedless vigor.

Mangroves are natural land builders, says Smith. Tubules about the heft and length of an excellent Cuban cigar sprout on the parent tree (they're not seeds: like mammals, mangroves are "viviparous," bringing forth live young), drop off and bob in the brackish water until they snag in the shallows. There, the tubule begins to grow to a tree, its leaves dropping and getting trapped along with seaweed and other plant debris. This organic slurry is the bottom of the food chain, supplying food, breeding area and sanctuary to tiny marine creatures.

Enough tubules shore up and a little island or "key" begins to take shape, the buildup of sediment and debris creating a thick layer of organic peat upon which other plant species begin to grow. Soon the tangle of trees and roots is extravagant enough to support bird life and other animals.

"Sometimes you're walking the boardwalk early in the morning at Weedon Island Preserve, and you see a roseate spoonbill feeding in the flats," Smith says. "There are things in nature that are important even if the human eye can't see them — all sorts of hidden beauty in them there mangrove forests."

The world's mangrove forests are disappearing faster than coral reefs and rainforest. Beyond threats from fish farms and urban and industrial land-use change, climate change looms as potentially ruinous.

"Mangroves have this ability to build peat," Smith says. "There are places in Everglades National Park where sediment is six or seven meters deep. If sea levels are rising too fast, they won't built peat fast enough to keep up."

Sea level threats aside, mangroves in Florida are better protected than those in many places. You can trim them, but do not spindle, mutilate or taunt a mangrove or face steep penalties.

Slipping into his Jesus de los Manglares persona, Smith intones, "Verily, verily I say to thee, don't cut down that mangrove tree."

Becoming Floridian | Erin Sullivan

A new routine, then new roots

I began falling in love with Florida before I fell in love with the boy, and the latter wouldn't have happened without the former. I moved here in 2006 and, until the fall of 2010, I hated this state. It was boiling and lizard infested and everyone was from somewhere else. I loved the Times, but I dreamed of other places. Brisk, raw, drizzly places with fresh air that smelled of the earth.

Each year passed without change. Love the Times. Hate the place. I stayed indoors a lot. I ate take out. I wasn't dating.

And then, on Sept. 27, 2010, I decided to try to lose weight and went to the Anytime Fitness in Hudson. As motivation, I thought of where I was and where I wanted to be: I pictured myself feeling healthy and strong, finding someone to love. Having a family of my own.

I quit smoking.

I began running.

I lost 30 pounds.

Those are three sentences I never thought I would write.

Florida is not a fat-friendly place. Hot weather is awful when you're lugging around extra pounds. I didn't know what Florida could be like without trying to cover myself in cardigans and jeans in the middle of summer.

I started wearing T-shirts. Then tank tops and skirts.

As I became more comfortable with myself, the places around me changed. I saw beauty where I hadn't before: gorgeous, misty early mornings, jogging on narrow roads by fields and forests. I stopped dreaming of colder places. The sun felt good. The breeze felt good. I felt good.

I signed up for eHarmony.

That is also a sentence I never thought I would write.

On March 8, a few weeks after joining, I was matched with a man named David who lived in Tampa. We met in March at the Renaissance Fair. We met again in April at the Italian festival in Ybor. We haven't gone a day without talking since.

I spent less time at my house in Pasco County, where I cover crime and courts, and more time at his house in South Tampa. On Nov. 19, a charity picked up most of my belongings. On Nov. 20, I handed my landlord the keys.

David took me to the beach for my birthday. We went on a Disney Cruise to the Bahamas with his family. I now have an annual pass to Universal Studios. A few weeks ago, on a Sunday morning, we went canoeing on the Hillsborough River. We saw turtles stretching and sunning, birds, alligators, gnarled fairy-tale trees. It was wild and breathtaking and I want to go again. When I run outside I feel lucky to live here: On a recent chilly morning, I had to put on a T-shirt over my tank top and shorts. In late November.

We've looked at engagement rings and talk about what we want our wedding to be like. He is my home, and for right now, and possibly forever, this is where we are and it is good.

Question. The thing about Florida is that it seems only grudgingly hospitable to human life. It doesn't belong to me, you think, looking at the vines that cover the trees and the bugs and the swamps. You think: Why was it settled? And then: Why am I here? Answer. Because the sand is like sugar. And the oceans, though full of jellyfish, are warm. Sunsets are unusually attractive. The tomatoes grow sweeter. In general, things compensate for their unfriendly origins, or at least try to be gracious about them.

Molly Young, on magicmolly.com

America made from concentrate.

Jeff MacGregor, ESPN.com, in a tweet

It's impossible to say "Florida" and have it mean one thing, unlike, say, "Iowa" or "Arizona." There are so many extremes: big, cosmopolitan cities and some of the most redneck places I've ever been; the death metal scene clashing with the bikini culture; the Cuban exiles and the snowbirds; some serious money and some desperate poverty. Even the Gulf and Atlantic coasts are totally different. It's like it should be at least four different states.

Chris Jones, Esquire, in an email

I always have a slightly vertiginous feeling in the state — like it's sitting on a platform, but the platform is only an inch high.

Hank Stuever, Washington Post, in an email

Sometimes I think I've figured out some order in the universe, but then I find myself in Florida, swamped by incongruity and paradox, and I have to start all over again.

Susan Orlean, in The Orchid Thief

This is a gracious and forgiving land. Where it has been plundered, ravaged, and scarred by those who did not fully understand it, time, the warm sun, cleansing rains, and more enlightened use allow it constantly to redeem and renew itself.

John I. McCollum, in his 1984 introduction to The WPA Guide to Florida

The Gift of Florida 12/23/11 [Last modified: Friday, December 23, 2011 12:50pm]

    

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