Monday, February 05, 2007


Florida was beautiful. It also broke my heart. Development is insane. The beach was stunning but a little chilly. Haven't ever seen such fine, white sand. Next to the emerald (truly) water, it was one of those visions that could convince an atheist there's an artist in charge of world design.

We kayaked to a place called Three Sisters. It's an isolated lagoon fed by three springs. To reach it, we paddled down a narrow waterway thick with overhanging brush and trees. The limestone bottom of this beautiful cove is clearly visible through the spring water.

This amazing place ~ a hidden gem ~ was thick with manatees that evening. They arrived with the incoming tide and, with the exception of a few rowdies, were apparently turning in for the night. It was amazing to float across the top of the water and look at these immense creatures resting on the bottom.

Most of them had scars on their backs and tails from boat motors. It's not usually these huge gashes that kill them, it's the idiots who speed through the waterway and hit them at high speed with their boats. It's also the red tides that flourish as the result of overfertilization of the turf grass which simply must be had to set off the elegant homes which are appearing everywhere.

These are amazing gentle creatures, huge and powerful with only a thin covering of fat over their muscular bodies. They have to have these or similar springs to maintain their body temperature. Environmentalists in Florida and elsewhere are battling corporate interests and development in efforts to protect them. I fear it's a losing battle. The area around Three Sisters just sold to a developer who will be installing a condo complex and some multi-million dollar homes. He doesn't own the water, but he can clearcut the protective trees and build right up to it, around it, over it.

I was dumped out of my kayak when a pair of frisky manatees rose up under me. I reacted like a little girl, especially when I felt them surrounding me as I swam across the lagoon. Manatees against my legs, brushing my feet as I swam, huge creatures all around. It was completely foolish and I wish it had been different, but being in that water with all of those gigantic beings revived a childhood fear of lake and river bottoms and I couldn't wait to get back in my kayak. An idiot.

Happily, I had the joy of watching Mike engage one of these rare creatures. He slipped into the water at the edge of the springs and just waited. A mid-sized manatee found him and began exploring, touching its nose to his shoulder, his furry tummy, nuzzling his toes. It would turn away to take a breath, then return to its gentle inspection of his body. They're apparently used to seeing folks in the water in wet suits and this one may have been especially interested in Mike because he wore only swim trunks.

2006 was a deadly year for manatees, yet Florida has removed them from the endangered list. They're still federally endangered, but the feds have handed over all decisions regarding their protection to the state. That would be the state that just upgraded their status.

I am grateful that I had the opportunity to see them, yet I wish they could simply be left alone. Every morning they're met at the entrances to their various nighttime habitats with hundreds of boats and divers and folks hoping to see them and interact with them. Kayaks are the least troublesome to the manatees as they're silent with minimal draw. But even 100 kayaks would be too much for these reclusive animals.

The Luddite in me comes out in the face of so much natural beauty, so corrupted by overdevelopment and the unending influx of new residents. The best news of the week was heard while eavesdropping on a couple of elderly residents who were discussing the many folks they knew who were leaving Florida for the Carolinas. Hope it becomes a trend.

The other thing about Florida is that everyone is old. Everyone. They're also frisky and active and feisty. That's the other good news. The funny news is that a huge senior center one county over from where we stayed has a shockingly high rate of STD infections. The not funny news is that it's primarily herpes and HPV. Docs blame it on viagra.

Debating about the early April trip. Cruise the Mexican Riviera or a week on the beach outside of Corpus?

Labels: ,


Anonymous kamrin said...

Sometimes I forget the plight of the manatee. Thanks for reminding me.

February 05, 2007 8:43 AM  
Blogger Ms. Place said...

Right on the mark, dahling. I am going to Florida next month to attend a conference. Don't want to go.

Years ago I remember snorkeling off the Keys among beautiful coral reefs and watching parrot fish munch on the coral, and tiny damsel fish fight for territory. They are all gone now.

I remember, as my parents drove, passing through lovely orange orchards and observing a vast array of wildlife in the Everglades and the Keys. No more.

Don't get me started on the ruination of Clearwater or Tampa.

Florida today makes me sad. Thanks for your post.

February 08, 2007 9:03 PM  

Post a Comment

Links to this post:

Create a Link

<< Home