Falling For Florida

 

There was a time when I was sort of a ‘mountain snob’. More specifically, a Northwest mountain snob.

I’ve been in love with mountains since I was kid, from the age of five living in Renton, WA where my mom would lift me up so I could glimpse distant Mount Rainier out the kitchen window, continuing through years of growing up near the Idaho Sawtooths, then the Oregon Cascades, and eventually back to Rainier and other snow-capped beauties in Washington State.

I thought our Northwest mountains were the best, and I often wondered what kind of people could tolerate living in a ‘bleak’ landscape devoid of stunning peaks launching vertically into the sky. In my limited thinking back then, people who chose to live in the dull landscape of the midwest were likely, well, dull people, lacking any aesthetic appreciation. I even recall stirring up the wrath of my sister-in-law Lori, an Ohio resident, when I arrogantly made disparaging comments about folks who lived in the ‘flatlands.’

And now, as of spring 2013, I am a resident of the great (and very flat) state of Florida.

 

A grove of trees in swampland captured during a heavy downpour at Myakka River State Park

A grove of trees in swampland captured during a heavy downpour at Myakka River State Park

 

The move away from the rugged topography of Washington to the vastly different views of Florida came about because of a great job transfer opportunity for my wife. And fortunately I was onboard with the move. Multiple vacations to Florida had given me a taste of what year-round sunshine would be like, and after too many dark dreary winters I was ready to see the light. And I was overjoyed for my wife to have a better work situation and to know the joy she felt going back to the state she was born in.

I figured our new home in Florida would be a great base of operations for my office work and for enjoying beach and Disney playtime on weekends with my bride, and when I was ready for ‘real’ photographic opportunities I could travel back to the west for my serious field work with a camera, back to the beloved mountains I so adore.

But a surprise was in store: slowly and softly, Florida began wooing me, calling me to engage her with camera in hand, and after a year filled with intense struggle adapting to this new home and landscape, a day came when I realized I had fallen head-over-heels in love with this mountainless place.

 

Dusk falls over the Gulf of Mexico at low tide near the coastal town of Dunedin, FL

Dusk falls over the Gulf of Mexico at low tide near the coastal town of Dunedin, FL

 

Looking through the biased lenses I arrived wearing, I was blind to the full beauty of this land. But as scales fell off my eyes I grew to see how utterly beguiling Florida can be – huge open skies dotted with fluffy white clouds, surf lapping at your toes along two coastlines, glorious little seashells that have turned me into an obsessive collector, ridiculously stunning sunsets, lush palms, tropical plants bursting with flowers even in winter, an incredible variety of bird life that makes you frequently reach for the Audubon guide, tranquil bays, crystal-clear rivers, beach towns that beg to be strolled through, historic places that take you back to a time when the West was yet to be settled.

 

An architectural gem in the historic town of St. Augustine is Memorial Presbyterian Church

An architectural gem in the historic town of St. Augustine is Memorial Presbyterian Church

 

I cannot fully express how thankful I am to now be bonding with this new-to-me land on the level of professional photographer, a kind of bonding that is vital to my deep-down happiness. And I am so thankful that the mountain snob, the frequently critical and judgmental man of small mind, is diminishing in negative influence more and more. I’m grateful that God has changed things up in a big way, and worked in me a heart that is learning to be grateful for whatever comes, to be thankful for the blessings and beauty that can be seen and savored no matter where I am, if I will but humble myself and open my eyes…


Every good present
and every perfect gift
comes from above,
from the Father
who made the sun, moon, and stars.  

(James 1:17a, GOD’S WORD® translation)

 

A sandhill crane chick takes refuge underneath momma's big wing

A sandhill crane chick takes refuge underneath momma’s big wing

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7 responses to “Falling For Florida

  • Sheila

    You have written what I have in my heart for Florida. You are indeed blessed. Thank you the visual journey as well as the elequonetly written words. May God continue to allow you do the ministry you are doing.

    Liked by 1 person

  • Mandy- Wild Red

    I too was a mountain snob from PA but so much in love with this new life in Florida! Glad to see there are others enjoying it as much as we are.

    Liked by 1 person

  • Slavomir

    Hey Ross, very much enjoyed reading this piece. It is beautiful how you are coming to love a landscape so foreign to you. It is indeed true that there is beauty in so many places, not just in the familiar. I never imagined that Florida would be a place I would find interesting until we visited…and now it is hard to stop thinking about all the great memories and the uniqueness of the place.

    The images are stunning, all of them, but the swamp trees are particularly gorgeous.

    Liked by 1 person

  • Virginia clement

    Ross, nicely captured, the essence of God’s mysterious and wonderful working in your heart and life as well as the unique glimpses from behind your lens. He knows you.
    Favorite ‘images’: ‘beguiling,’ ‘a wonderful surprise was in store,’ And finally, the Sandhill crane chick taking refuge under her Mama’s protective wing.
    Loving your art….loving you.

    Like

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