Sometimes, only a short distance away and in the span of just a few hours, you can completely adjust your sense of well-being, and it can make you light on your feet for several days.
The weather was so incredible last Thursday we decided to have a picnic. The day was already half over, but after the quick assembly of essentials (cameras, phones, sunglasses, and sandwiches) we were in the car and off to Jonathan Dickinson State Park, thirty minutes away.
Jonathan Dickinson State Park was named for a shipwrecked Quaker merchant in 1696, and its wooded 11,500 acres is in a small pocket of Hobe Sound, bordered by highway US-1 and the Loxahatchee River. At the park you can canoe or kayak the river, wander the trails, ride a horse or a mountain bike, camp, picnic, or just sit and enjoy a beautiful, but dwindling part of the real Florida.
The parking lot at the edge of the river was a little crowded. It seemed that a lot of other people had the same getaway idea. Even still, the park was quiet and peaceful under the blessing of a bright blue sky and a cool northern breeze.
We ate lunch at an old picnic table and I couldn’t help but think that, with all the times I have visited this park, I probably had lunch at this very table as a small boy. This feeling, along with the happiness that comes from time with my family, added to my growing sense of peace (and also made my sandwich taste even better).
A short distance away I noticed an Osprey landing in a bare tree, so I walked over to get a closer look. It turns out it was two Ospreys building a nest together, and I watched as they took turns fetching sticks and flying back with them. Ospreys prefer nesting in bare trees near the water, and this was a perfect spot, only a hundred yards from the Loxahatchee.
After lunch and a little wandering around we drove over to the observation tower on Hobe Mountain. The “mountain” as it is named, is really a high and ancient sand dune covered with palmetto and bare, windswept pines. Somehow I remember this hilly area to have many more trees, but the last great hurricanes seem to have blown most of them over.
From the top of the tower you can see out over the ocean to the east, and across the expanse of scrubland to the west. You get to the tower by walking up and along an elevated boardwalk trail. There were a lot of people on the tower trail. You can’t blame them; it was such a nice day.
I passed a young girl, walking along with her eyes glued to the phone in her hand. She was completely and totally in a sense of distracted focus. It was a good thing the boardwalk had guardrails, or she would have never reached the tower stairs.
O.K., I’ll admit, I just added a smart-phone to my own growing list of distractions. It’s an amazing device, so amazing that some of my friends congratulated me when they found out I got it, as if I had finally reached one of life’s milestones. In reality, what I feel over this new change is not the rush that comes with accomplishment, but rather a few pangs of regret.
What I now hold in my hand (or carry in my pocket), with all its awesome power, threatens (as long as I have it on) to interrupt my world, to butt in when and where it isn’t welcome. Why don’t you just turn it off, you say? Don’t let it run your life, you say?
Well, I just don’t think I can turn back now. After all, my new smart-phone is truly an awesome device. It can do so much for me, right? I mean, my life is so much easier now, isn’t it?
This little phone can tell me where I am, what the weather will be during the day, it has a camera that shoots video and stills, I have email, messaging, games, web browsing, and on and on and on. Like I said, amazing.
But what it can’t tell me is how to really see and enjoy this little pocket of Florida. It can’t tell me how to love the lavender-colored clouds rolling in off the ocean, or the positive and negative shapes created by a bare pine against the afternoon sky. Where is the app for that?
This amazing device can tell me the exact time, second by second, as the setting sun streams through the forest of the Loxahatchee river basin. It can tell other people where I am—my precise location on the planet—as I stand there.
But the amazing little device would be wrong.
How could it possibly know that, as I stood on the tower, taking in the light and color and feel of a cool breeze, that I was actually in another place and time altogether.
It couldn’t know this, because, even though it was turned on, the amazing little device waited quietly in my pocket the entire time and never interrupted me. Not once. Like I said, amazing.
December 31st, 2011