Category Archives: Florida

Swimming With Manatees

Dave gets suited up in the dive shop.

Today is National Manatee Day, so I am reposting this blog I wrote in 2014. We went snorkeling at Three Sisters Springs a manatee sanctuary near Homosassa Florida where we were staying with our friends Jeff and Anna.  Jeff arranged the tour for us and suggested we go on the 6am launch with a boat from the Bird’s Underwater Inc.

Getting ready to swim with the manatees in Florida

Few snorkelers or kayakers are in the water at that hour and so the manatees are laid back and friendly. The West Indian manatees wait for the sun to come up before heading out to the Gulf of Mexico to eat seaweed. 

It was very cold and we left the dock in darkness and fog with our knowledgeable and capable guide Donna.  When we arrived at the springs only the two boats from our sanctuary with about 10 snorkelers each were there.  And did we see manatees! How I wish I’d had a underwater camera. (The photos of manatee in this post were all taken from on board the boat after we’d been in the water for about ninety minutes.)  One of the women snorkeling with us said this was her fourth visit to Three Sisters springs and she had never seen as many manatee on any previous dive. 

They swam right under us. I’d think I was swimming over a high rock only to glance down and realize there was a manatee beneath me.  Once I looked over and Dave had one manatee nipping at his ankles, another with its nose right up to his face mask, and he was petting a third beside him.  

Donna told us if we were very still in the water the manatee would come right up to us and they did. I could pat their thick hide and feel the bristly hair on their bodies, touch their long whiskers, run my fingers along the scars on their skin, brush away the algae sticking to their backs, rub their bellies when they flipped over and see the seaweed in their mouths. Their flat wide tails brushed against my body and they nibbled on my hair. 

The manatees have a sort of pre-historic quality about them and that makes sense because they’ve found fossils of manatee in Florida that are 45 million years old. Their nearest relative is the elephant. 

We saw little babies and juveniles and huge adult manatees  We saw mothers nursing their babies and adults mating. We didn’t realize how cold we were after all that time in the water till we got on board and were just shaking. The manatee were so amazing you didn’t even think about being cold. Once Dave had his wet suit off and his clothes back on he stood out in the sun at the back of the boat to warm up. As we left the Three Sisters Spring area about ten new boats had arrived with dozens and dozens of snorkelers. Kayaks were beginning to fill up the cove.  The manatee wanting to escape from all the commotion were heading out to sea in large numbers and away from the spring area. I was so glad we’d come early before so many of the manatee left the cove. 

Swimming with the manatee was a great experience. I was a little apprehensive and scared about it before hand but the manatee were so gentle and it was such a thrill to get up so close to such intriguing  sea creatures. 

Other encounters with interesting creatures are described in these posts……….

Hong Kong Frogs That Sound Like Cows Bellowing

Everything You Always Wanted To Know About Bison

It’s All Happening at the Zoo

The Animals of Australia

Seeing Sea Creatures 

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Filed under Florida, Nature, Sports, Travel

A Racist Statue?

statue lakeland florida

My husband Dave and our friend John walk up to the statue of a confederate soldier through a sea of Christmas decorations in Lakeland’s Munn Park.

On our recent visit to Lakeland Florida our friends took us to see a statue of a confederate soldier from the American civil war which is right at the heart of their hometown in a place called Munn Park.  The city has decided it agrees with folks from the local chapter of the NAACP and others who feel such a reminder of an army that fought to perpetuate slavery could be offensive to members of Lakeland’s black community and a troubling symbol of racism.  A decision was made in December of 2017 to move the statue erected in 1910 by a group called The Daughters of the Confederacy to nearby Veterans Park thereby giving it a less prominent position on the city landscape. 

confederate solidier lakeland florida munn parkThe statue remains in place a year later because now the city is divided over who will pay to move it. It will cost $225,000 and so far private donors have only come forward with $26,000.  While we were in Lakeland the city’s commissioners voted to use revenues from traffic light cameras to finance the move.  

Their decision may be further complicated by the fact a group called Save Our Southern Heritage are suing the city over the proposed move of the statue.  Protesters who want the statue to remain in its current spot held a rally in April of this year and enticed folks to support their cause by buying raffle tickets for a donated Derringer pistol. 

John_A_Macdonald_in_1880

The legacy of Sir John A. MacDonald is a complicated one.

We have had our own issues here in Canada with removing statues. Just as recently as August of this year opinions were clearly and passionately  divided over whether a statue of Canada’s first prime minster should be removed from City Hall in Victoria British Columbia.  Sir John A MacDonald helped to found our country but he also was the architect of a residential school system that generated enormous harm amongst Canada’s First Nations people. 

We are not so different from our American neighbours and perhaps we have something to learn from each other as both our countries reevaluate our history and try to figure out the best way to commemorate it. 

Other posts………

The Great Statue Debate

The Strength of One

He Thought Buildings Were Alive

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Historic Churches Continents Apart

We have been visiting our friends John and Barb in Florida.

tao fong shan
John was the pastor of Tao Fong Shan the Lutheran church complex where we attended services in Hong Kong for six years.  Tao Fong Shan was founded in 1929 by Norwegian missionaries. Tao Fong Shan translated means Mountain of the Christ Wind.  The name of the church building on the Tao Fong Shan campus was Christ Temple. 

Christ Church Episcopal Fort MeadeNow John is leading services in a small church in Fort Mead Florida. It was founded in 1886 by immigrants from England, Scotland, Wales, Ireland and Canada. The name of the church is Christ Church Episcopal. tao fong shan front of churchThe front of our church in Hong Kong looked like this.  The altar table had been rescued from a Christian Centre in Nanjing during the 1930s Civil War in China. john church in floridaJohn does a ‘pastoral pose’ for the camera at the front of his church in Florida. Note the Christ the King emblems on the altar cloths. tao fong shan mountain of the christ wind church hong kongDo you see the octagonal windows on either side of the front door of Christ Temple in Tao Fong Shan? octogonal window church in floridaThe church in Florida features an octogonal window as well. This was the bell on our church in Hong Kong. You had to hit it with a mallet to make it ring.  Members of the congregation took turns doing this each Sunday. This is the bell tower on the church in Florida. The bell was cast in New York in 1891.  It is the only church bell in the community of Fort Meade. Russell the  hospitable man who opened the church for us showed us the bell rope in the small room off the sanctuary. Dave is checking out the hymn books in the church in Florida. Here is our family singing a hymn in our Hong Kong church on Christmas Eve in 2004. Christ Temple has a second entrance that you reach through a lovely courtyard and a rounded doorway. The Tao Fong Shan complex in Hong Kong was designed by missionary Karl Reichelt and Danish architect Johannes Prip-Moeller who wanted to create a place where the Taoist priests, Tibetan lamas and Buddhist monks who came there to study would feel right at home. Christ Church in Fort Meade Florida has a second entrance as well at the side of the church. It was designed by architect Rev. J.H. Weddel in a Carpenter Gothic style which was familiar in Florida.  The architect also wanted however to maintain the essentials of the Anglican tradition as found in English churches. 

We felt fortunate to attend Christ Temple in Hong Kong served by our friend John who was a caring and compassionate pastor as well as a thought provoking and interesting speaker.  I am sure his parishoners in Florida at Christ Church Episcopal  feel equally blessed. 

Other posts………..

 A Christmas Carol Saved Our Lives

Ubi Caritas

Do Buildings Have Souls?

 

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Filed under Florida, Hong Kong, Religion

He Thought His Buildings Were Alive

Waiting for our Frank Lloyd Wright tour to start with our friends Barb and John

I didn’t feel much like a father to my children, but I did feel like a father to my buildings.”  We took a tour of some of the eighteen buildings on the Florida Southern College Campus in Lakeland that were designed by the famous architect Frank Lloyd Wright. Apparently Frank thrived on being at the college campus and loved to hang out with the students and get to know them. 

Statue of Frank Lloyd Wright

Unfortunately his love for, and interest in, the young people at the university did not extend to his own children.  Frank  was so busy with his career he had little time or understanding for his eight children, the result of three marriages. I first learned about Frank Lloyd Wright from reading Nancy Horan’s book Loving Frank which details an affair he had with a married woman who left her own children for him, and I must admit it left me with little respect for how he conducted his personal life.  Dave and I had also toured Frank Lloyd Wright’s Taliesan West campus in Arizona and his Oak Park Home in Chicago so we were interested to learn more about the famous architect and the work he did at a Florida college. 

windows frank lloyd wright house

Frank Lloyd Wright designed homes like this one called The Usonian without curtains to let the ‘outside in.’  The way the sun reflected shadows onto the floors in  patterns was also important to him. 

Wright believed buildings were alive which is why he used the color Cherokee Red in so many of his buildings- it reminded him of blood.  Check out the red floor in the Usonian house above. 

Our friends Barb and John sit in chairs designed by Frank Lloyd Wright while our guide shares his encyclopedic knowledge of the designer and architect.

We learned many fascinating things about Frank Lloyd Wright from Paul our knowledgeable guide who told us he’d ‘drunk the Kool-Aid’ when it came to the unorthodox and often controversial American architect Frank Lloyd Wright.Frank not only designed buildings he designed their furniture as well.  Here I sit at a diningroom table he designed.  The place mats are based on window patterns in Frank Lloyd Wright buildings.

Frank drew the blueprints for houses like The Usonian for faculty and staff of the university to live in. Wright also designed this Water Dome fountain at the centre of the campus which shoots water up to 45 feet into the air. It uses a great deal of water however so the full force of the fountain is saved for displays on special days on the campus like graduation. The various buildings designed by Frank Lloyd Wright on the college campus are connected with over a mile of esplanade. The supports were to be reminiscent of the orange trees that once grew all around the campus. Each of these beds of green shrubs are exactly 10 feet apart which is how far orange trees are generally planted apart in an orchard. Frank Lloyd Wright also designed the campus library. Frank was always trying to imitate nature in his buildings.  He designed the ceiling of the library to look like the sun. This overhang on one of his buildings features a butterfly design. Check out the Cherokee red steps on the Annie Pfeiffer Chapel which Wright designed. Inside the church- the facade which partitions off the choir and pipe organ from the sanctuary is decorated with origami shapes and re-creations of the First Nations symbol The Thunderbird.  Unfortunately the church like many other buildings on campus designed by Frank Lloyd Wright didn’t turn out to be as practical as they are beautiful. They have lots of construction problems and are constantly in need of repair. It is hard for the university to keep up financially with all the  work that needs to be done.

Standing on Frank Lloyd Wright Way on the Florida Southern College campus.

We learned from our guide that Frank Lloyd Wright was not one to take advice from ANYONE not even his clients.  You did things his way. Maybe that’s why one of the streets on the campus is named Frank Lloyd Wright Way. 

What Will You Be Building When You Have To Go?

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The Strength of One

with barb and john in lakelandWe are in Lakeland Florida this week visiting our friends John and Barb.  We went for a walk in downtown Lakeland yesterday and came upon an interesting statue. strength of one statue lakeland floridaThe artwork pays tribute to electric linemen and linewomen as first responders and national heroes during times of natural and accidental disasters. Interestingly the design for the statue was the work of three local highschool students who created a prototype for the statue in their art class. lineman statue in lakeland floridaThey said they were inspired by the linemen and linewomen who came to Lakeland as volunteers from all over the United States to restore power after Hurricane Irma hit Florida in September. The three students traveled to Pittsburgh to see their design turned into a stainless steel sculpture. The lineman is surrounded by people on lightbulbs who were helped because of their service. senior citizen lakeland floridaA senior citizenfamily on statue lakeland floridaAnd a young family are two examples. 

At the base of the sculpture are the words “The strength of one will energize many and be the light of hope.”

Other posts……………

The Sculptures of Singapore

Whalebone Sculpture

Inuksuk or Inunnguaq?

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Filed under Art, Florida

Thinking About the Florida Keys

We spent time in the Florida Keys with our friends Rudy and Sue in 2014.  As I have watched the news about Hurricane Irma I’ve been thinking about that trip and wondering what has happened to the places we visited. HemingwayhouseMy friend Sue and I toured Ernest Hemingway’s house in Key West and saw the more than fifty cats that make their home there, direct descendants of a feline that was a gift to Hemingway from a Florida sea-captain.  Apparently during the hurricane a group of dedicated employees stayed behind to protect the Hemingway house and the cats even though authorities ordered them to evacuate and Hemingway’s granddaughter urged them to evacuate as well.  

cat at hemingway house in florida

One of the cats I photographed on our visit to Hemingway’s House.

I’ve discovered that luckily both the museum staff and the cats survived the hurricane and Hemingway’s house was not damaged.  chillin out on the prow floridaIn Marathon Florida we went for a sail on a boat our friends Ed and Millie had worked on during an earlier visit to the Keys.  I have read that at one point Marathon was completely underwater and many marinas in the area look like giant shipwrecks. jay and sue and meI wonder how our boat the Geni Green and its Captain Jay fared? florida alligatorAnother thing we did in the Keys was take a drive down Alligator Alley. We saw literally hundreds of alligators.  alligators in floridaNews reports say that thousands of these alligators have been displaced from their natural habitat because of the hurricane and some are wandering the streets of Florida’s cities and towns. 

Having visited the Florida Keys the news I’m seeing about the devastation there seems just a little more personal. The Florida Keys was a terrific tourist destination.  Hopefully it will be able to rebound from this tragedy and become a beautiful place to visit once again. 

Other posts………..

A Spanish Birthing Chair , His Last Penny and Six Toed Cats

A Serendipitous Sail

Alligator Alley

 

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Filed under Florida, Nature

Widow For A Week

dave at dunedinI’ve been without my husband Dave for the last week.  He is down in Florida visiting our friends Jeff and Anna and their three children. It is school break week in Florida so Jeff who is a teacher, has been free to golf with Dave everyday. Yesterday Jeff sent me the photo above of Dave at Dunedin where the Toronto Blue Jays have their spring training games.  

jeff and dave dunedinWe got home from Arizona the first week of March and Dave swung right into substitute teaching.  By the end of last week he’d already spent eight days in the classroom and figured he’d earned enough bonus cash to take advantage of a cheap flight to Orlando he found online. I couldn’t go because I was booked to give tours at the art gallery, had student teachers to visit and a writing deadline to meet.

It hasn’t been all work and no play for me though. I’ve had supper with a friend, enjoyed a lovely meal at the home of my brother and his partner, taken dinner over to share with my aunt who is recovering after having emergency hip surgery, and spent an evening with my writing group. 

Dave will be home on Sunday.  I’m happy he’s had a good time, but I’ll be glad to have him back. I guess after nearly forty three years I’m so used to having him around things just don’t seem quite right when he’s gone.

Other posts about our Florida friends Jeff and Anna…….

Fun with Naomi

 Yankess and Blue Jays

Making Chinese Dumplings

 

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