I love Florida! I love the weather. I love the beaches. I love canoeing down the Hillsborough River and I love Hibiscus flowers.
I enjoy the diversity of people here, and especially the Cuban-Spanish flavor of the state. I cherish hearing and reading my native Spanish language in mom-n-pop restaurants and shops, and listening to Caribbean music. I’m excited by the local art, the colors, the feel of the gulf breezes, and the warmth of the sun. I especially adore the Food!!
I adore the trees!
I often interact with people who have moved here from the north and I tire of hearing them complain about how uncultured we are in Florida, or how undesirable our communities are because of the multicultural dynamics and poor-quality of education we have here. I can’t help wondering why these people stay here. Go back home people! We don’t want you to be unhappy here. Please return to Boston, New Hampshire, Connecticut, Maine, New York, Michigan or wherever else you came from and leaves us the hell alone here! Every state has it’s own unique beauty. I know what my state has and why I live here. Those northerners who do like it here, and appreciate our diversity, WELCOME! We love having you!
I remember a different Florida than the condominium sculpted, cookie-cutter-subdivision-dotted version I live in now. It’s still beautiful, but in a different way.
I often long for the Old Florida I remember and I enjoy exploring out-of-the way country roads that wind through scenic rural counties. It is off these roads where you can still catch glimpses of the Florida I grew-up in. It was wild, free, sprawling and open. The air was filled with the scent of orange-blossoms, night blooming-jasmine, freshly baked Cuban bread, fresh roasted Cuban coffee, and my grandfather’s Cuban cigars. Mango, avocado, guava, orange, and lime trees grew everywhere. There were no privacy fences then to separate neighbors from each-other. It was common to share pot-luck dinners at backyard picnic tables and all the neighbors would bring a dish. As kids we would catch fire-flies in empty jelly jars and watch them light up, or chase the city truck that would come around in the evenings to spray for mosquitos. After dinner we would all move to the front porches to listen to the old stories and current gossip, or political debates. Dominoes were played every week and music was always playing. The doors were never locked, and every child new someone’s mother or grandmother was watching them. It was normal to have your grandparents living with you or next door to you. And you could walk to the local store, bakery, butcher, or soda pop shop. Doctors paid home visits then. Does anyone remember that world? That was the world I grew-up in. It was a different world then.
I visited the Hillsborough River State Park this weekend. I hadn’t been there in many years. Once I got there I couldn’t help but ask myself why it had been so long since I’d been there. It was just mesmerizing. I was swept back in time to the Florida I grew-up in. I saw myself playing in the wild over-growth of undeveloped lots in my neighborhood, and plucking hibiscus flowers to suck their sweet sap before the bees could.
Yes! The Honey was worth all the bee stings:-)
I know that time will never again return, but I can’t walk past a pink hibiscus without becoming nostalgic and longing for a time when life was simpler.
There are still small out of the way towns in Florida that have kept that Old-Florida feel. Mount Dora is one, Melbourne is another. Auburndale, Howie-in-the-Hills, Lakeland, and Polk City are other areas that also have that Old-Florida-Style feel about them. These places have open pasture-lands, small quaint town-centers, and are sparsely populated. They remind me of the Florida I remember.
Government doesn’t do a lot right but the State of Florida has done an awesome job of preserving little pieces of Florida. The Hillsborough River Park is a true reflection of the beauty that was, and still is Florida.
********************************************************************* A memorable moment from my visit occurred when I took this little shot of my readers on the bridge. The last time I saw my glasses they were at the bottom of the river looking at me. It was worth it–Like the honey. Losing my glasses to the river was just a small sting to bear for the honey I took from the river with my camera.
Other cool shots I took this weekend:
With the exception of the pictures of me, and the one of the palomilla-steak dinner, all the photographs contained in this post were shot by me using my Panasonic DMC-G2 DSLR camera. I used a Tamaron 28-300mm/3.5 lens in manual mode to shoot the Prayer of the Woods, and the black and white canopy. All other shots were taken using the same camera but in aperture priority mode with my Leica 2.8/14-50 mm lens. The shots of me were taken by my friend, and photographic mentor,Tom Feazel, retired architect and aerial photographer. Tom used his Panasonic G-1 DSLR camera, and shot in auto mode / with his Leica lens.