"Could I have this dance for the rest of my life?" - Anne Murray

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Central Florida: Cultural Vacuum or Wildlife Wonderland?

About thirty (really?) years ago I lived in central Florida for a couple of years. It was initially shocking - the heat, the humidity and the rain were unlike anything I had ever experienced living in the northeast. Gradually I came to tolerate the weather and appreciate the wildlife, and missed it when I moved back north. But I didn't miss what felt to me like a complete lack of cultural stimulation of any sort. Of course there was Disney World and the attendant sprawl, but that felt artificial - it didn't count as culture. I lived in a small town northwest of Orlando, in the middle of the orange groves. There was nothing around but a golf course and a few depressed little towns nearby. At least nothing I could see at the time.

I assumed that it had all changed, and expected coastal and central Florida to be a different kind of wasteland now - one of malls, fast food, mega-tourist attractions and condos. But I have been pleasantly surprised. Yes, the area around Orlando has spread out and eaten up more of the agricultural and wild wetlands surrounding it. But beyond Orlando, at least in the area east and north of it, there still seems to be a lot of undeveloped and preserved land. There also seems to be an effort to preserve and redevelop the wetlands. I've even heard the area called central Florida's everglades.

Titusville, east of Orlando, where we are staying now, appears to have suffered a serious slowdown due at least in part, to the reduction in NASA's Kennedy Space Center programs.  So it's a sleepy, depressed and old fashioned little city.  But I kind of like it. It has national, state, county and town wildlife preserves and parks in every direction; a few of them, like on Merritt Island, are some of the best in the country.

I'm still not seeing much of cultural interest, unless you count the Space Center, but I can't really judge the area based on Titusville and the wilderness between here and Orlando, can I?  I guess I'm thinking about a cultural richness that grows out of the lives and work of local people, like we saw in Louisiana and South Carolina. I can't get a sense of who the local people are, or were, and what they did, or made, or even ate.

We visited Winter Park one day, and just as it was 30 years ago, it's very classy, prosperous and culturally rich. But even more impressive to me was Blue Springs State Park, near Orange City, with the best manatee sanctuary ever! Again, wildlife really seems to thrive here, even though it must be only a shadow of its former wonder.  So I guess that's why most of my blogs have been about the local wildlife - perhaps they are the most influential local inhabitants. I sure know who they are, what they do and what they eat! (or I can find out)

A broad headed skink at the Enchanted Forest Sanctuary.

An orchard orbweaver spider at the Enchanted Forest.

An epiphyte in the Enchanted Forest.

A Carolina green anole in the Enchanted Forest.

Mom and baby manatee at Blue Springs State Park.

Young manatee at Blue Springs.

A green heron at Ritch Grissom.

A tricolor heron (rear) and a snowy egret at Ritch Grissom.

A limpkin at Ritch Grissom.

White ibis and snowy egret at Merritt Island National Wildlife Preserve.

As I close this blog out for today, I'm listening to the calls of sandhill cranes outside our RV. This is why I love living this life in Florida, the wildlife wonderland.

1 comment:

  1. Lenore your photos are beautiful! I shared this post with my father who is a long time birdwatcher and very educated on the subject and he was impressed to say the least. He said the limpkin is very shy and hard to photograph. He is also a photographer and I think yours took his breath away!


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