Make us your home page

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Time in the outdoors makes you appreciate Florida

All those people who move here, or used to back in the good times — how and when do they become Floridians?

At what point do they stop thinking of themselves as New Yorkers or Ohioans and realize that Florida means something more to them than good golfing weather?

Also, why is this important?

As to the last question, because if this is home rather than a vacation spot or a place to idle away a few post-real life years, we'll be willing to put more of ourselves into the community and, wild as this may sound, maybe pay enough taxes to support a fully functioning government.

We might even rebel as our governor and Legislature say yeah, sure, you builders and real estate speculators, go ahead and lay waste to our state.

I won't try to provide the entire list of ideas that call for dismantling agencies and undermining regulations because new, ruinous ones seem to crop up every few days, and because I've escaped for the week to North Carolina (like a true Floridian), so by the time you read this my list surely would be incomplete.

I do know the situation was concisely laid out in a Times editorial on April 3 that included the following line: "In the rush to create jobs and lure businesses, (state leaders) are making Florida less attractive as a place to live and work."

And less likely that residents will think of themselves as Floridians. Because, besides buying a house here, making friends and maybe raising a family, this transformation doesn't really occur until you get a feel for the landscape.

Somewhere along the line, our sentiments about changing seasons up north and rolling fields of corn stubble dusted by snow and rivers big enough to support barges and supply cities with drinking water start to fade. The longer it's been and the less you visit — and the more often you see your old football team get humiliated by one from the South — the more likely you are to remember your old home state as nice, maybe, but not special.

Instead, you start to get all misty-eyed about the view of the Gulf of Mexico and those palm-covered coastal islands off Bayport, about the stands of ancient longleaf pines you pass on Old Crystal River Road, about smaller, swampier rivers with alligators and turtles slipping in and out of whiskey-colored water.

See, I managed to convince my son to take a break from his laptop two Sundays ago for a trip on the Withlacoochee River. Not a long one, mind you. He wouldn't stand for that. Just a couple of hours, paddling south from Nobleton. Once roused, the boy turned out to be a surprisingly strong paddler, strong enough that an old fisherman jokingly asked us to watch our wake.

We passed houses with docks and screened-in decks halfway consumed by mold and rot, and blending in better with the surroundings because of it. We made it into the heart of the Withlacoochee State Forest, where the cypress trees are nothing, I guess, compared to the 1,000-year-old giants that grew here before the loggers came. But they've been here close to a century now, some of them, long enough to form a tunnel with walls of trunks and knees sturdier than any made of brick, and ceilings of brand-new needles that, backlit by the sun, positively glowed.

Sign me up for the rebellion, because I never saw a buckeye that pretty.

Time in the outdoors makes you appreciate Florida 04/14/11 [Last modified: Thursday, April 14, 2011 8:24pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. This 'SNL' writer is cracking up Twitter with his replies to President Donald Trump's tweets


    Josh Patten is a writer for Saturday Night Live. Earlier this month, he began responding to President Donald Trump's tweets as if they were private texts to Patten.

  2. Snooty the manatee's death prompts outpouring of support, petition to move Confederate monument


    BRADENTON — The South Florida Museum aquarium remains closed Monday and tributes continue to pour in following the shocking death of Snooty, the beloved manatee who captured the hearts of …

    Four-year-old Katie Blair pays her respects to Snooty at a makeshift memorial in front of the museum on Sunday. Katie and her family has visited the aquarium to see Snooty four times this year. 
Snooty was the world's oldest living manatee in captivity and celebrated his 69th birthday Friday at the aquarium. Aquarium officials described Snooty's death as a tragic accident and is being investigated. [LUIS SANTANA   |   Times]

  3. What to watch this week: 'Midnight, Texas,' Shark Week specials


    It's that time of year again. No, not back-to-school month or geek convention season - it's Shark Week.

    Midnight, Texas, a new supernatural series on NBC, premieres at 10 p.m. Monday.
  4. Trump son-in-law Jared Kushner: 'I did not collude with Russia' (w/video)


    WASHINGTON — Jared Kushner, President Donald Trump's senior adviser and son-in-law, spent about two hours Monday answering questions from Senate investigators about his contacts with Russian officials, insisting he had not colluded with foreign agents before or after the 2016 presidential campaign.

    Trump senior adviser Jared Kushner speaks to reporters outside the White House on Monday after meeting on Capitol Hill behind closed doors with the Senate Intelligence Committee on the investigation into possible collusion between Russian officials and the Trump campaign. [Pablo Martinez Monsivais | Associated Press]
  5. Polk County officials urge owner to remove pet buried at public park

    Human Interest

    Lake Wales city officials are looking for the owner who buried their dead dog in a public park.

    Lake Wales city officials are looking for the owner who buried their dead dog in a public park. [Facebook]