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The Thing About Florida

Saturday, April 8, 2006

The thing about Florida is its almost surreal beauty, juxtaposed with human elements that, if they're not faintly ridiculous, are at least not as beautiful. I feel this tension in Florida, brought about by seeing things that take my breath away, right next to things that irk me. Things like oversized fake palm trees and giant waterslides. To be fair to Florida, these are endemic to beaches all around the country. People just get... tacky at the shore. I don't know why. That's why Sanibel is such a wonderful retreat. The zoning board has an iron fist, and there are no franchises that weren't there before the board came into being. So forget looking for golden arches--or plastic signs of any kind. There's development aplenty, but obnoxious skyscrapers are absent. Everything's low-rise and harmonious in color and aspect.
About the beauty: I walked out on the beach on our first morning there, fully intending to get some exercise, and made the mistake of looking down.My eye fell on the drifts of seashells being cast up by the incoming tide, and there it stayed. I made several yards' progress before breakfast. I even hunkered down and started pawing through inches-deep piles of fresh shells. Now, that's really dangerous for a lover of detail, because you can spend an hour just looking through one pile. After several minutes of immobility, I looked up to find this willet wondering just what I was after. I had to laugh at myself, that I'd allowed such a lovely bird to sneak up on me while I sorted through shells.
White ibises are a signature South Florida species, and unlike all other ibises I've ever seen, they're completely comfortable around people. They probe energetically in the sand a stone's throw away, their clean white plumage taking color from the waves around them, their red bills and legs and china-blue eyes making perfect color accents.If the sun hadn't finally sunk into the sea, I'd probably have shot 100 photos of this pair. How I'd love to try to paint this scene. Have I mentioned how much I love my humble Olympus C-730? It fits in my pocket, yet takes pictures like this. Most of my favorite photos are the accidents. What was that I was saying about Florida's unnerving juxtapositions?


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