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Road Trip – More Art, Swamps, Flowers, and Birds

Mural in immokalee

I stayed in Florida after the big breakout of the Virus but was careful about social distancing, cleaning, washing hands etc. When I visit a place I’m always worried I’ll miss something so … my motto… leave no stone unturned.

Thank you Nancy Morgan for sharing your drawing.

To get out of the house I took a drive to Pine Island. Some of the things I saw along the way … art on the electric poles…

… Pretty sure it’s a sheepshead…

… and not sure what this guy is!

Another day I visited Six Mile Cypress Slough. It’ s over 3,400 acres of wetland in Fort Myers, Florida, that measures approximately 11 miles long and 1/3 mile wide.

Six Mile Cypress Slough has been here for a long time, but there was a time during the 1960’s and 70’s when some things occurred that saved the Slough. The key event was the 1961 arrival of a young environmental educator, Bill Hammond.

Bill took a job as a science teacher. Since he did not have the funds for supplies he would go out to the Slough on the weekend and collect specimens and samples. Soon, he would be leading students from his environmental classes through the Slough. They called themselves the “Monday Group”. This was the beginning. Other key players were civil engineers Archie Grant and Ben Pratt. Most of the Slough was privately owned and when Bill heard that a permit had been filed for cypress harvesting he and his “Monday Group” convinced the County Commissioners and the public to vote for the funds to acquire the land. Door to door work was done by the students and others which is why the Sough has been preserved. I’ve been told by a local that adjacent land is now being acquired.

The boardwalk is 1.2 miles long.

All along the boardwalk are quotes. This was my favorite.

In between visiting the natural areas I did some watercolors (you can see more of my work on my paintings page). These are all tiny, 6 x 8″.

Riverhead, NY
Nantucket, MA

Driving down to the Fakahatchee Strand I passed through Immokalee, a town in the middle of a huge agricultural region. I caught a glimpse of a huge tile mural. It was fabulous!

The artist is Judith Inglese. Check out her website to see more of her work. The mural is huge 88 feet long. depicting the history and people of Immokalee, most of whom are migrant workers. It took the artist 8 months to complete. Here is a quote where she describe the value of art “Art, and in particular public art, has creative power. It can define and enrich a space. It can restore a sense of community by expressing its values and ideas. It can humanize an environment by adding form and color. Most importantly, art can represent feelings and celebrate hope and dreams, which are essential to human existence.”

What a treat visiting The Fakaatchee Strand was! This is the location that the book “The Orchid Thief” describes and the author Peter Matthiessen writes about in his book Shadow Country. At more than 120 square miles, Fakahatchee is Florida’s largest state park. More native orchid species, including the famous ghost orchid, grow in the wilderness than anywhere in the country. I saw an Everglade Mink, alligators of course, ibis, blue heron, various types of egrets, a wood stork, a various flowers and huge royal palms. Other species living there include manatees, black bears, and Florida panthers.

It had been pretty dry but I did find one deep hole where I watched an alligator, swirl, dive, bite, flop around for 20 minutes, went further on, and when I came back he was still at it and watched him for another half hour. I’m told he was digging the bottom of the water hole out so that when the water dries up he will still have some in the hole he dug out.

It is heart breaking to think what this area looked like before the swamp was drained and the area logged.

Babcock Ranch Preserve is another natural area not far from where I stayed. It is occupies 67,618.81 acres in southeast Charlotte County, approximately 17.5 miles east of Punta Gorda and 34 miles west of Lake Okeechobee. It represents one of the single largest purchases of conservation land in the state’s history. The Preserve protects regionally important water resources, diverse natural habitats, scenic landscapes and historic and cultural resources in the rapidly developing southwest Florida corridor. There are a lot of public recreational opportunities there include hunting, hiking, wildlife viewing, bicycling, fishing, camping and horseback riding. It’s just a short drive from where I stayed so I’ve gone there many times. The last time I was there I saw more wildlife than I ever have. You can be back in there and not see another soul.

If you were casually driving through Babcock most of it looks like a savannah, but if you get out and walk and look down you can see all kinds of tiny wild flowers! The most unusual one was a tiny orchid. Here is a closer photo of it.

Behind the County Administrative Office in Venice Florida is a rookery where you can stand on the shore and with no binoculars, you are that close, you can watch Great Blue Herons, Great Egrets, Anhingas, Snowy Egrets, Cattle Egrets, Glossy Ibises, Wood Storks, Spoonbills, Green Herons, Tricolored Herons and Black-crowned Night-Herons building nests, courting, sitting on their eggs and raising chicks. busily building or enhancing nests, courting, incubating eggs, and raising chicks.

A sunset cruise out of Fort Myers through the Matlacha Pass Charlotte Harbor estuary was beautiful, seeing dolphins and lots of birds. There is a small rookery island not far from Picnic Island that was covered with birds at dusk.

Then it was time to return to reality or unreality since the Virus madness by this time was at full force. Driving up I-95 was kind of surreal. At the Florida/Georgia line there were about 30 state troopers stopping all cars going into Florida. In Georgia there were signs that read visitors must go into quarantine, there were NO signs in South Carolina then when you got to North Carolina they read GO HOME. I had been wavering about going home early but I was staying away from other people in Florida and it was WARM so waited until April 1 to return. I had no idea what to expect on the drive, I took my own food and drink and only stopped for fuel and a half hour nap. I didn’t think I could still do a 12 hour drive in one day anymore but I did it. Glad to be off the road.

In Pauze – a sign I saw last year in a window in Bruges, Belgium, I wrote a blog post about that trip, thats where we are in pauze. Who could have ever dreamt this would happen. What’s next for me? Stay home and make art.

If you are new to my posts and artwork here is some background information on me. And this trip also influenced an entire new line in my Celebration Pottery, Nature Series.