William spent a great deal of time on the San Juan River, or St. John River, of Florida, and much of his book Travels in describing his adventures there. But what did he make of the river itself? Take a moment to listen to my reading of his words on the subject:
The River flows into Jacksonville…
River as an aspect of the Divine Feminine….
The Native Americans who lived along side the Rio Grande saw the river as the clit of the world, and the waters that flooded its banks as the birth waters of the Earth. Rivers, and water in particular, symbolize an aspect of the Divine Feminine, and I think that this was true for William Bartram as well. Check out some of the adjectives and phrases he uses to describe the majestic San Juan River in Florida:
Jacksonville Possible Perception 6069
Wide but deep
Purity of water
Wide and deep river
Bordered by rich, deep swamps
And the darker side of the feminine:
Putrescent scum from the bottom
The San Juan River: Beth’s Travels on the Bartram Trail Series
Flood Waters….Birth Waters….
Water is linked to the Earth, another symbol of the Divine Feminine, by its surrounds. The flooding of the river brings the rich topsoil that gives rise to life in the form of foods grown. Thus the flood waters are likened to birth waters for the earth that they bring.
The St. John’s River in Florida water has purity. The water is above the bottom, the bottom of the river is dark, deep, oozy, and gives rise to putrescent scum, and rich deep swamps.
Rich, Deep Swamp bordering the San Juan: Beth’s Travels on the Bartram Trail Series
Against the Current…
These descriptors give the San Juan River its character, after all, being below the fall line, there are no gushing waterfalls, treacherous rapids, or clean rocky bottoms to this particular river.
William traveled against the current to come to anchor in the reading I choose. While below the fall line, there are currents in the St. John’s River, which can be seen as the water flows around these floating islands of plants:
River Winding: Beth’s Travels on the Bartram Trail Series
Speaking of Floating Islands of Plants…
He describes floating islands of plants in the middle of the river, which still exist on the lower San Juan River, as the picture below shows.
Floating Island of Plants in San Juan: Beth’s Travels on the Bartram Trail Series
Enduring Pieces of William Bartram’s World….
I traveled from Nassau Sound to Jacksonville to Blue Springs, but mostly by car, and did not see all the wonders that William Bartram saw on the San Juan River. I also didn’t encounter the many dangers, especially with the alligators, which William so bravely endured. Yet the beauty of the San Juan River persists, from Jacksonville, much changed since it was a simple Cow Ford, to the driftwood on Nassau Sound, at the mouth of the river, to the wonders of the birds, alligators and manatees on the lower San Juan River, deep in the head waters.
Call it Florida, call it Xanadu, call it the San Juan or the St. John’s, pieces of William Bartram’s world still endure, despite the challenges of encroaching civilization.
*Note on recording: Opening Stanza from “The Slacks” by Trip Shakespeare.
San Juan River Possible Perception 6071: by Beth Thompson