Sunday, February 5, 2012

Charlotte Harbor

Wow, it's been weeks since I've written here, sorry for the lag, my loyal readers, whoever may remain. (You know your blog is in trouble when you start with the apologies about the lack of posts, haha).

I went walking yesterday down at Charlotte Harbor, which is really the estuary for the Peace River down here in southwest Florida. There's a little park there, with a boat ramp and a little beach (if you can call that a beach, it's more of a sandy area held away from the water by a concrete wall); I personally favor the area to the right of the "beach" which is undeveloped. There's a little path, no more than a quarter mile (if that) along the shore through the mangroves, and that's where I usually go when I stop by the place.

The scenery does very little for me. I certainly try, but the sea just isn't my thing; though born on the urbanized flats of the Midwest, I have become a man of the mountains, and although the shore has its own beauty, it is not my asthetic or atavistic preference. At least, not this shore. I can dig the Northwest coast, with its wild forests marching down the rugged mountainous land to the sea in a dramatic flair. Same goes for the California and Maine coasts; they are interesting at least. Here on the dreary coastal plain, it's just a slow, slow crawl under the waves. There's a great feeling of lassisitude about the place, in more ways than one.

Firstly, the land. You can think of this in terms of some sort of spiritual energy, a fung shui or earth energy, or simply in terms of variations in topography, soils, vegetation, climate/microclimates, and so on, but either way, the feel of this place is as flat as it looks. The rivers are sluggish, the tides are almost nil, the soils are a near-uniform sand, the forests repetetive. The soil probably explains the repetitive forest, as well, in conjuction with topography: there are no hollows, no north or south side of a hill, no high dry ridges to affect vegetation patterns, save for the little ponds that harbor pond cypress instead of endless slash pine-and-cabbage palm.

Mangrove islet

Mountains give you that. You walk for ten minutes anywhere and you stumble into little microclimates, new forest areas. Some places the rivers rush, some places they slow, there are little hollows where water, and soils, build up, ridges where there is little water or soil, and so on. You can easily find "special" places in such areas. I can think of several I found even back in some tiny nature preserves back in metro Detroit that I used to visit. Like that bend of a branch of the main branch of the Rouge River; just the way the river turned, and ran over some riffles, where I sat up above the undercut bank. Or at various moments hiking along the Superior Tail in Porcupine Mountains State Park, just little places where the rocks and trees and light all came together to feel unique and set apart. You know what I'm talking about if you've spent any time walking around in the woods. But I can't find anywhere like that down here, though I've spent a lot of time out in the woods, which around where I live there's still plenty of, in the form of preserves and wildlife management areas and just undeveloped private land. It's all same same same.

I really think the flatness is a large part of this. If you like, you can think of energy flowing and stalling in the same way as water; I only bring it up because it is something you can feel, rather than merely knowing about, in terms of hydrology and soils and such. I don't understand it, don't know what it is or how seriously I take the "energy" thing, but I'll put it out there all the same. I figure, the more complicated the terrain, the more interesting the energy flows. It can gather, it can seperate, form in pools and eddies, or rush away. I think this is the reason the standing stones over in the British Isles were set up where they were, at least in part. Here, it's sort of spread out, diffuse, stagnant.

It's a matter of having a relationship with the land. Most people reading this will think I'm a crazy fool for even entertaining the notion of "Earth energy," but consider the fact that we spend out lives almost entirely cut off from it. Even in terms of electricity: we are insulated by our buildings (wood, concrete, carpet and tile floors), and the ubiquitous rubber soled shoe. I remember, years ago, suddenly realizing that it had been months since I'd last touched the Earth with my skin. I don't know how much there is in the notion of Earthing, but, being that we are electrical beings, it's worth thinking about. And as far as our view on land, it's just something to buy and sell, and something to build on. That's not a relationship, especially considering that what we build almost always has zero relation to the land it sits on. If any trees are left standing, they are tokens. We name streets after what we have destroyed: Iroquois Avenue, Cherry Hill Lane, Swan Hollow. We do things in the buildings that have nothing to do with what's outside, which, these days, has often been homogenized into bland suburbia, replanted with non-native trees and plants to suit our tastes.

Horseshoe Crab shells

Another aspect of the dullness around here is that, there's no industry. I'm not huge on big industry, of course, but I simply mean that no one produces anything down here. There's some fishing and shrimping, and inland, mostly cattle (dying out thanks to development), some citrus, and some vegetables being grown. But the economy here depends for its very existence mainly on two things: tourist dollars, and retiree dollars. Both classes of people are down here to relax, to lay around in the sun on the beach, to bask in the all-year warmth (half the year living in A/C, of course). I call the place Vacationland. The place is a sort of energy sink, in terms of money and in terms of activity.

On the other hand, I do admit feeling a sort of ease down by the water. There is a reason that the beach is relaxing to people. Electrically, you can ground yourself to the earth and sea, because you're probably barefoot. There's the warm sun on your skin, cool water to swim in, pleasant breezes, and so on. You can listen to the sound of the waves, endlessly repeating, at least when the power boats and constant air traffic allow you to tune in to it. Among the mangroves, there's plenty of life, birds and crabs and offshore, pelicans, manatees and dolphins occasionally, depending on where you are (I have yet to see a dolphin).

Yesterday, I happened to see a Golden Crowned Night Heron hunting crabs among the mangrove roots. At first, when I spooked the big bird out of the trees, I thought it was a Great Blue Heron, which are far more common; fortunately it only flew about fifteen yards away then proceeded about its business, so I got a good look. Couldn't get a good picture, but here's an old video of one I saw on Padre Island a couple years back. They "dance" before striking for the crab, to distract or entrance the prey, I suppose. Sorry, I couldn't catch an actual strike.


  1. I must be a water person, because that top picture to me looks like heaven. Would much rather be there, than here. But you do have a point about the stagnant energy in Florida. If I were there I'd probably find something to complain about, but I don't think I'd ever get tired of looking at the sea.

  2. I'm a water person too! Living near the Pacific Ocean is like "heaven" to me.

    That said, I DO understand where you are coming from. My first social work job out of college was in Monticello, Arkansas. It is a flat and swampy area!! Despite the fact that I loved my job and my coworkers, I chose to transfer out after 2 years to a similar post in the Ozark Mountains.

    (It turned out to be a disastrous career move as I did not get along AT ALL with my new boss and I lasted less than one year there.)

  3. One of the appeals of Hawaii is that we have both sea and mountains, and from a feng shui perspective that is very good; mountains to your back, water to your front, and not very far apart. For the most part, I think Florida is stagnant, energy-wise except for a couple of wild places I liked to go. It's no surprise that retirees who have no energy would gravitate to a place that has no challenge (except hurricanes.) When my Dad lived up near Ocala, I think he liked it because it was as bland as his Pennsylvania town, but without winter.

    Cym -- you would like Hawaii!

  4. So y'all seem to get my meaning. I mean, hey, it's not terrible here, but it's not great either. It saddens and bothers me that I rarely even want to wander around in the woods, since they seem so boring to me.

    Maybe I'm more sensitive to it than others, or perhaps just a little too set in my ways and opinions as to what constitutes "a good land." Probably a bit of both.