Lightner Museum, A Collection of Underrated Busts

In St. Augustine at the Lightner Museum, the art collections are breathtaking. From the oil paintings, a part of the Daywood Collection, to the complex, beautifully cut glass vases, bowls, and bottles. Every floor of the museum is a world of its own. As tourists and visitors strolled around the rooms, they admired everything except the statues and busts. People walked past them as if they were invisible. Whereas for me, these sculpted pieces of brilliance swallowed the majority of my phone’s photo storage space. How could one not stop and admire the imaginative detail of these busts and statues?

I suppose the popularity of art theft and every Tom, Dick, and Harry owning a statuary business. Each one is stocked with replicas of the infamous European statues. I purchased a replica bust of Michelangelo’s David, two Venus de Milo statues, and two Greek Goddess busts from multiple statuaries right here in my city. To make matters worst, you can order a replica from anywhere in the world by simply opening your Amazon Prime account. Now you can have all the greats right in your home, why bother to visit the museum.

I understand that nowadays, that busts are made out of plastic, concrete, and alabaster. Like most productions today, objects are made by the hundreds per hour as they run through machines. Wouldn’t this fact alone make the ones seen in museums that much more valuable? Could you imagine how difficult it was for sculptors like Donatello, Michelangelo, and Gian Lorenzo to sculpt entire bodies and details using only simple hand-held tools? They were the machines! I try to keep this in mind whenever I visit a museum and I run across a bust or statue in the collection. It doesn’t matter how many statues I have at my home, standing before an original will alway leave me in a state of awe.

In my opinion, I believe the Museum should find a way to make the statues and busts more appealing. It’s not fair that they’re overlooked like another home decor item at a store. Perhaps a small room dedicated to them just like the Porcelain and Glass floor. All art should be admired regardless of the medium, subject matter, and purpose of creation.

I finally got my favorite statue of all time. It’s a replica of course, but it’s mine.

Warnings at High Falls State Park

Imagine the feeling o top of the world as you tower on a boulder above a rapid river. Suddenly, your foot slips, you plunge beneath the surface as intense water pressure and gravity forces you to the bottom of the mad river. The temperature of the water is the least of your worries. The half of breath left in your lungs is all the survival you have before fluid replaces the air and you drown. Perhaps your last thoughts are the four warning signs you passed to get to that boulder. Your last feeling is regret for not heeding those warnings.

According to the 11Alive.com investigation article at High Falls State Park, there have been fourteen reported injuries since 2013, three fatalities.

When I recently visited the park, bright red warning signs were outlining the rapid river bank. Honestly, how could anyone miss them? You can barely get a decent photo of the waterfall without one of the many signs in the way. An observant hiker takes note of information boards that are usually located at the beginning of a trail. As I read the board, I notice the same-o same-o about the history of the area, the map of the trail, what committee sponsors the trail, blah, blah, blah. Management of the park posted a warning post stating that anyone climbing on the rocks has to pay a $5,000 fine and do over 100 hours of community service. It probably results in janitorial duties. Yikes.

You see the first few warning signs when you descend the steps leading to the best view of the waterfall and rapid waves. After that, it is obvious what you should and shouldn’t do while hiking the trail. Park management went so far as to create a barrier using twine to rope off the bank’s edge. Honestly, I’m not sure what else could be done to clarify the danger of the raging river. I hope that visitors be responsible and heed to the warnings so the park won’t be forced to put up large fence walls.

It’s cold.

Big Red at Holland Harbor

Being Floridian, my body never needed to adjust to twenty-degree weather. I knew the moment I pressed my fingers against my sprinter van’s window; I’d probably regret getting out. When I looked out across the beach of Holland State Park, at the medium-sized, bright red lighthouse floating above still seaglass teal water, I told myself to Hell with it. I snatched up my Nikon camera, my backpack, and my thick gloves and jumped out of the van. There would be no telling when I would ever get another chance for this, so I took it.

As a delivery driver, I continuously fail to remember how much weight I’ve put on. The realization doesn’t hit me until I either have to hike some inclined nature trail or trudge across beach sand. Nothing, I mean nothing, tells you to start dieting like a walk across beach sand. The closer I got to that cherry red hunk of wood, metal, glass, and beauty, the more I cared less about my wheezing and dragging feet. Also, as a delivery driver, I was usually only in a location for one day. It was rare that I would return to that location again within the week or month. I got to see New York City twice. Both times were four months a part.

After struggling across the beach sand, I thankfully made it to concrete pavement. I couldn’t take my eyes off “Big Red,” the unfortunate nickname they gave to the Holland Harbor Lighthouse. According to research, painting this particular lighthouse red was a requirement due to its location on the harbor’s right side. Regardless, if you couldn’t see the lighthouse’s bright light at night, you’d have no problems seeing it in the day. You’d have to be color blind to miss it, seeing as how no other buildings behind or beside it along the coast are painted red.

Two light posts at the end of the water breakers
Water breakers

I had to rush my adventure visiting the light. I felt the feeling in my fingers disappearing. By the time I had reached the pavement, my fingers were hurting so bad from the cold, they felt numb. My thick gloves prevented me from using my zoom and pressing the shutter button. I was forced to take all of my photos barehanded. Thankfully I brought my beach towel along with me (only God knows why), so I could maybe sit on the beach and enjoy the view. Nope! I reassigned it to keeping my hands warm. Unfortunately, you can’t run from Mother Nature. My fingers continued to burn inside the gloves wrapped in the towel.

I had never heard of water breakers before I studied the Holland Harbor Light. They’re essential for multiple reasons, including slowing down coastal erosion, and prevent waves from battering the lighthouse in rough weather. Most water breakers are built with large boulders, but these breakers, but these breakers are built with slabs of concrete and significant boulders to hold them in place. Mother Nature has been working her magic on it as well. As you head out to the end of the breaker, you’ll notice that two of the slabs have shifted so far that you only have about one or two feet of connected concrete to cross over.

Out on the breakers, the view was could have been nothing short of a fairytale. As a Floridian, I adore great bodies of water. I grew up around every type of body of water (sea, ocean, river, swamp, gulf, etc.) Lake Michigan was a sight to see, the water’s slow swells imitated breathing as the water rose and receded through the boulders. The color of the water itself made it appear as an ocean-sized sheet of seaglass. The coast packed of brown beach sand and tall sea oats nearly hiding the gorgeous vacation beach homes behind them.

Tug boat pushing platform out to sea.

I stood on the breaker, sinking into peace and reflection when a large horn sounds off. I nearly jumped out of my skin and into the freezing water. I turned around to see a red tugboat making his way out of the harbor, pushing some sort of platform in front of him. I watched the precision driving as the tugboat made its way out to open sea. I love tugboats. At this point, my frozen fingers became too much to bear. I gathered up a few more shots of Big Red and Lake Michigan and power walked back to my sprinter van. Other cars pulled into the parking lot. Groups of people hopping out in all smiles loving the frosty air. I could’t wait to crank up my heat on the highest setting before I became Frosty the Snowman.

I may never get a chance to return to Big Red, but if traveling has taught me anything, when you’re in perfect position to explore something, I don’t care if Big Foot is sitting outside the window, take the chance and capture your memories. Tomorrow is never guaranteed.

A Diamond Among Trees

What defines a nature trail? Is it the winding path snaking through acres of protected land? Is it the scenic views of lakes, marshes, or lagoons? Or could it be the wildlife which thrives under every rock, behind every bush or in every tree? No, I dare say those only define a fraction of what truly defines a nature trail. Trees. Yes, trees are the wonders and the beating heart of nature. Of all the nature trails I have hiked on in my young life, I have learned that if you have seen one tree, you definitely have not seen them all.

In my observation, trees are like fingerprints. Unique and bares their own story to tell. If two Birch trees grew up side by side to each other for decades, cut them open, and each will tell you something different. It amazes me the number of visitors that visit these trails and never notice the beauty before them. During my hike at the Hubbard Valley Park in Seville, Ohio, I saw a diamond among trees I vowed to never forget. In fact, I discovered three diamonds as the single trunk spawned three healthy trees.

IMG_9397IMG_9400

In my early days of hiking, trees were ornamental to a trail hike. I was eager for wildlife and scenic views. Trees became background noise simply because they were everywhere you looked. Like most people you being ignorant until you are educated, I Learned just how vital trees were to our ecosystem. Trees have fed, housed, and protected all sorts of vulnerable wildlife. It was then my interest deepened. Now on a hike, I observe trees one by one (at least the one closest to the trail.) On my walk in Ohio, I came across this massive trunk with three trees growing straight up into the sky. Their branches stretched far in every direction. Leaves covered the branches to protect anything beneath from the rainfall. A closer review of the bark showed that the trees split apart young. The bark looked as if it were covered in running veins. The veins wiggle up from the base, and then they split off in two different directions, a fascinating design to be sure.

IMG_9403IMG_9404

The feel of the trio’s bark was intriguing. The bulging veins were noticed but smooth to the touch. You could run your hand across the surface of these trees without a snag or chip. The bark is thick. When you knock on the bark, it’s as solid as concrete.

IMG_9402

I could care less about the look of others as they passed me by while I gawk at the wonderous trio. They are located at the heart of a forest, in a small town in Ohio unnoticed by so many. These trees are continued lesson to me to not just see things but to truly open my eyes and notice because I may never see it again.

Stinson Park: A Public Gathering

I couldn’t imagine the bravery of the Ancient Greeks that took public baths together, fortunately for Geese, it’s like sitting down to a Sunday dinner.

Stinson Park, a tiny park located in Jacksonville, Florida, provides many uses to its visitors. The park may appear to be only a regular backyard in width, there is much to do. Benches are scattered along the winding loop trail for readers and lovers to spend time alone. A couple of picnic tables there have been used for parties, a group of painters painting the river landscape, and teenager,s sitting together enjoying each other’s company. A short dock stretches out over the water used for boat launching and fishing. A large playground located at the heart of the park for children to run and play. Every day this park is used to its fullest extent.

On this particular day, though, the park belonged to a flock of geese who wanted nothing more than to bathe, eat, and relax together.

IMG_3223

IMG_3227

The high tide was in which accounts for one of Stinson Park’s downfalls. Stinson Park lacks a seawall to keep the water from overflowing, so when the tide comes in, or during Hurricane Season, the grassy area becomes a mud bath. The geese love it.

I wasn’t expecting the geese when I visited the park so early in the day. I just wanted to beat the crowds of parents and children, so I went while everyone was at work and in school. The greyish sky and the misty rain helped keep visitors away. I was about the only car in the fifteen-car parking lot. I whipped out my headphones to listen to some ambient instrumental songs to help me brainstorm for more writing. When I spotted the large family of geese, my phone became my Nikon.

IMG_3228IMG_3240IMG_3250

I crept along the winding sidewalk to get closer. Of course, the geese saw me coming a mile away. I’m guessing the largest one of the flock, the leader, made sure he kept his eye on me. He’d take a step and then halt. I made sure to keep my distance. Geese can be unpredictable, and they aren’t afraid to fight. There were no chicks among the flock, so at least I didn’t have to worry about their paranoid high security. The flock continued on splashing, flapping their wings and diving their heads beneath the water to nip at grass. I burned my battery up, trying to get the perfect photo whenever one flapped their wings. Just to be there, period was enough excitement for me.

IMG_3245IMG_3252

After a few more splashes, half the group waddled out of the water and onto the grass. Feeding time. Together they each vacuumed up grass blades. Their long necks jiggled and arched as they fed on the grass seeds. They even stopped watching me watch them, though I know at least one of them kept an eye out just in case I did anything stupid. More importantly, they were at peace. No one was at the park, the temperature was perfect, and the water was high enough for them to stand on the edge and enjoy a bath, together. It was a public gathering of peace and serenity. I’d say there’s a lesson we probably should take back to our own families.

The Great Patience

I seriously believe that the quote, “patience is a virtue,” came from someone studying animals in their natural habitat. I learned this lesson first hand on the beach in Cumberland Island. Imagine you taking the two-hour hike just to get to the empty, lonely beach. You have walked through forests riddled with mosquitos, dance around easily-spooked wild horses, trudged over high sand dunes and through an endless trail of fan palms.

I finally make it to the beach. I am excited because there isn’t a single soul there unlike the crowded beaches back in my hometown. There was the great Atlantic stretched out in front of me. No trash littering the shore. Not a cloud in the sky to interupt the sun’s rays. I can do whatever I want and have all the peace and silence I need. Well, until I whipped out a lunchable…

trav5

I failed to remember the wonderous seabirds. The birds with a bottomless appetite for anything they can get their peckers on. It started with maybe two or three in the distance scanning the shore for food, but as soon as I whipped my ham and cheese snack from my backpack, it was like a radar went off. They started hopping closer to me but distant enough to take off if I came at them. I thought nothing of it. I peeled off the seal to dig in, and suddenly two or three sea birds became ten or twenty. They surveyed me with watchful eyes. I did the same.

They sat with the greatest of patience for a crumb despite their pressing hunger. I stayed on alert too scared to make any crazy moves in case they became impatient. I was ready for one of them to bellow out, “Get her!” and the entire flock would dive towards me and I’d go screaming for help, but no one would hear me hence the uninhabitable beach.

To satisfy my own nerves and to prevent mob attack, I threw a cracker as far away from me as I could get it. I scarfed down the rest of it as I watch thirty birds fight each other for a piece of the cracker.

One major lesson came from it all, never underestimate the patience of nature.

Sunset on a Farm

As common as farms are in Florida, in all my years living here, I haven’t been on one officially. I love farm animals. In fact, my favorite is the pig. I use to collect piggy teddy bears (until I got into Pokemon).

My sister stumbled upon some farming homes near one of Jacksonville’s largest warehouse parks. I have to admit its perfect because there is lots of available land and woods for building private properties and farms. We didn’t have access to the farm itself but we got to look at the animals from the sidewalk. My niece and nephew enjoyed the company of the horses, cows and donkeys. I was more interested in the landscape and how magical the sun displayed its beauty on the open field.

IMG_5571

I know that it is risky to have your phone’s lens pointed towards the sun directly, but what better way to capture the golden rays beaming down on the grass? The silhouettes of the piles of manure, the rusted barbed wire fence and the thinning branches of the trees made a composition too irresistible to ignore.

IMG_5576IMG_5575

While my sister dragged her children along the fence to gaze at more horses and mules, I trudged through evergreen and bushes trying to capture the right angel to take photos of sun-burned leaves and more thin branches. Fall has always been known for its beauty of warm colors among trees and grass fields with the yellows, reds, and browns, but the black shadow created from the sun’s setting angle made those colors more lovable.

IMG_5572

I am glad I tagged along for the visit and though I am glad to see some livestock actually running around in the big city, being a nature girl myself, I couldn’t resist the moment to watch nature put on a show using the sun as the ring master and its subjects dancing to its music.