Idealized Tree

ThompsonIdealizedTree

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Idealized Tree

I recently had a conversation with someone who wants a large image of a tree to go over her dining table, in black and white. I hope she checks my website, because this image immediately came to mind as a possible work of art to meet her needs.

Achieving Perfect Symmetry…

Taken at Bishop Park, I cropped out part of the image and then mirrored the image. This created a tree that is perfectly symmetrical. No such tree actually exists in nature, they are all so wonderfully asymmetrical. But I like the dream of perfection, of symmetry, there is something comforting about perfect symmetry, something that comforts me.

Perfect Objects….

Its sort of like Plato’s idea that there exists, for every object, and perfect and idealized object out there somewhere. While I don’t actually agree with this philosophy, I think diversity is actually the true ideal, I really like playing with the idea that for every actual tree there is an idealized version that exists on another plane.

Perfection Now!

But then again, doesn’t that put the pressure on? To live up to the idealized tree, or worse, the idealized Beth that exists on another plane? Where as embracing uniqueness, diversity, differences, allows me to be myself, to relax into imperfection, and stop striving to be so perfect, to live up to the idealized Beth on that other plane of reality, and realize that this tree, this person, this time, is perfect exactly the way it is.

Not sure I would have said all that had I not been playing around with Plato and his ideals, now would I?

 

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The San Juan River: Beth’s Travels on the Bartram Trail 43

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:

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The Rive flows into Jacksonville...

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

Jacksonville Possible Perception 6069

Wide but deep
Clear
Purity of water
Wide and deep river
Narrowing
Bordered by rich, deep swamps

And the darker side of the feminine:

Oozy bottom
Putrescent scum from the bottom

The San Juan River: Beth's Travels on the Bartram Trail Series

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

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

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

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.

San Juan River Possible Perception 6071: by Beth Thompson

San Juan River Possible Perception 6071: by Beth Thompson

 *Note on recording: Opening Stanza from “The Slacks” by Trip Shakespeare.

 

 

 

 

 

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Snake Bird: Beth’s Travels on the Bartram Trail 42

Take a moment to listen to Bartram’s words, read by me, about the Anhinga, or Snake Bird of Florida:

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Anhinga Speaks by Beth Thompson: Beth's Travels on the Bartram Trail Series

Anhinga Speaks by Beth Thompson: Beth’s Travels on the Bartram Trail Series

The Evolutionary Precursor….

The Anhinga uses the healing power of the sun, spears what is needed, knowing patience.  An evolutionary precursor to the duck, the Anhinga has not developed oils to keep his feathers dry. So he climbs out of the water and spreads his wings, as Bartram describes, not to cool them, but to use the healing power of the sun to dry them in order that he may fly.

Silhouette of Anhinga by Beth Thompson: Beth's Travels on the Bartram Trail Series

Silhouette of Anhinga by Beth Thompson: Beth’s Travels on the Bartram Trail Series

A fishy taste…

Used to the sight of humans in a boat, the Anhinga I saw didn’t dive into the water at the sight of us. I guess we Americans have more tasty food than the fishy Anhinga, so we no longer hunt them, and they have lost their fear of us. I got amazingly close to many of them. This was great for my camera.

Anhinga and Cypress Trees by Beth Thompson: Beth's Travels on the Bartram Trail Series

Anhinga and Cypress Trees by Beth Thompson: Beth’s Travels on the Bartram Trail Series

Where were the Anhinga in flight?

The one thing I didn’t see was flocks of Anhinga flying overhead at high noon. I would love to see an Anhinga in flight, but all the ones I saw were either swimming in the water, their necks looking very much like a snake, or drying their wings on a tree. The coloring of the Anhinga makes them blend into their environment. Try to spot the Anhinga in the picture below.

Camouflaged Anhinga by Beth Thompson: Beth's Travels on the Bartram Trail Series

Camouflaged Anhinga by Beth Thompson: Beth’s Travels on the Bartram Trail Series

Getting close….

I took the following close-up of an Anhinga, and created a Possible Perception of an Anhinga.

Anhinga Close-Up by Beth Thompson: Beth's Travels on the Bartram Trail Series

Anhinga Close-Up by Beth Thompson: Beth’s Travels on the Bartram Trail Series

Forest circling Anhinga circling Forest…

The fractal quality of the Possible Perceptions makes them a mirror of the larger macrocosm in which they exist, and also mirrors the microscopic world at the same time. In Snake Bird Possible Perception you can see the forest reaching into the sky along the water’s edge, and sense the Spanish moss that grows over every tree, while also perceiving the Anhinga, circling the forest that circles it, all part of a bigger whole. At the same time the image evokes a microcosm of diatoms growing in the water that feeds the fish that feed the Anhinga.

Snake Bird Possible Perception 6070

Snake Bird Possible Perception 6070

*Opening stanza from “The Slacks” by Trip Shakespeare.

 

 

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Manatee Spring: Beth’s Travels on the Bartram Trail 41

William Bartram describes the skeleton of a manatee, hunted and eaten by the Native Americans, and the taste of their meat.

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Blue Springs with Manatees by Beth Thompson: Beth's Travels on the Bartram Trail Series

Blue Springs with Manatees by Beth Thompson: Beth’s Travels on the Bartram Trail Series

 

Manatees Booking It

While William describes Manatee Spring in Florida, I found manatees at Blue Springs Florida. Blue Springs is the furthest point South in Florida that William traveled. About 400 to 500 manatees spend the winter here. A warm spring, the manatees need warm water to survive. They leave the spring on forays for food into the colder waters of the San Juan, then book it back to Blue Springs to get warm again.

Manatee Booking It by Beth Thompson: Beth's Travels on the Bartram Trail Series

Manatee Booking It by Beth Thompson: Beth’s Travels on the Bartram Trail Series

Learning to be a Manatee

The young manatees don’t know this; that they have to stay warm. Therefore, they spend 3 or 4 years with their mothers, learning the ropes of being a manatee. This is why the motorboats in Florida are so devastating to the manatee community, because if a mother manatee is killed by a boat’s motor, then often the young manatee dies as well.

Manatee with Young by Beth Thompson: Beth's Travels on the Bartram Trail Series

Manatee with Young by Beth Thompson: Beth’s Travels on the Bartram Trail Series

What if there were no manatees?

I wondered what would happen if we hunted and ate all the manatees? What is their ecological niche? They are highly endangered, but nowhere online could I find a projection of what would happen in Florida ecologically if there were no manatees.

Manatee Portrait by Beth Thompson: Beth's Travels on the Bartram Trail Series

Manatee Portrait by Beth Thompson: Beth’s Travels on the Bartram Trail Series

I think there is a clue in the Native American name for manatees, Big Beaver. As the management of Yellow Stone Park led to the extinction of beavers in the park, and changed the flow of water through the park forever, so the extinction of the Big Beaver, the Manatee, would change the flow of water through Florida forever.

Manatee Food by Beth Thompson: Beth's Travels on the Bartram Trail Series

Manatee Food by Beth Thompson: Beth’s Travels on the Bartram Trail Series

Manatees eat 10 to 15% of their body weight daily. They eat vegetation. So a ton manatee would eat 100 to 150 pounds of vegetation in Florida waterways daily.  I don’t know how fast vegetation in the waterways grows in Florida, but it’s fast enough to keep up with 400 to 500 manatees that need to eat in a small portion of the San Juan River around Blue Springs. So if we ate all the manatees, the waterways of Florida would become hopelessly clogged with vegetation, which, upon dying, would fill up the rivers and creeks, allowing the trees to move in. Rivers would be impassable, swampy, and inhospitable places.

Manatees and Trees by Beth Thompson: Beth's Travels on the Bartram Trail Series

Manatees and Trees by Beth Thompson: Beth’s Travels on the Bartram Trail Series

Poisoner!

As it is, we humans are spraying poison into the rivers to control the vegetation. I caught them in the act in this picture, our guide was mad too, as he said they were killing manatee food, not weeds. I doubt that even these efforts would be enough to keep up if all the manatees were gone.

Poisoner by Beth Thompson: Beth's Travels on the Bartram Trail Series

Poisoner by Beth Thompson: Beth’s Travels on the Bartram Trail Series

We own our art and culture to the Manatees….

So it is in part thanks to the Manatees that both William and I were able to venture down the San Juan River in Florida. He did not know it at the time, nor did I. But, putting it all together now, I can see how interconnected all the beings of earth are. While animals and vegetation do not have literature, photography, digital art, or blogs, much if not all human inspiration to create these things would be lost forever without animals and vegetation.

Manatee Spring Possible Perception 6066 by Beth Thompson

Manatee Spring Possible Perception 6066 by Beth Thompson

 

 *Opening stanza from “The Slacks” by Trip Shakespeare.

 

 

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Alligator Swarm! Beth’s Travels on the Bartram Trail 40

From laughing coots to monstrous crocodiles: Listen to William Bartram’s observations of an alligator swarm:

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San Juan Vegetation: Beth's Travels on the Bartram Trail Series

San Juan Vegetation: Beth’s Travels on the Bartram Trail Series

Seemingly Serene…

The water seems so serene, the vegetation sheltering the trout so lush and green. Its hard to imagine what lies beneath the surface.

Purple Galinule by Beth Thompson: Beth's Travels on the Bartram Trail Series

Purple Galinule by Beth Thompson: Beth’s Travels on the Bartram Trail Series

Laughing Coots…

On my journey down the San Juan with Blue Heron River Tours in DeLand, Florida, I saw William’s laughing coots for the first time. But my photographs of a related bird, the Purple Galinule (pronounced Gal I Know) were the best. So I give you both the photograph and the call of a Purple Galinule.

From Serene to Monstrous and Terrifying….

Did William truly observe this massive gathering of alligators? All feasting on fish? For years there were reports of such things, but not until recently did anyone “prove” it.  William’s was perhaps the first written account. Our guide Chip at the Okefenokee told us the alligators herded fish against their dock when the waters were low. Finally, a hunter in the Okefenokee motored through just such a swarm, and took this video on YouTube to prove it.

Alligator Nest!

On my journey down the San Juan River and into the Okefenokee, I was lucky enough not to observe such a terrifying sight. However, our guide on St. John’s River Tours  drove our boat right up into a nest of baby alligators.

Mama Gator by Beth Thompson: Beth's Travels on the Bartram Trail Series

Mama Gator by Beth Thompson: Beth’s Travels on the Bartram Trail Series

Confronting Mama Gator:

The Mama Alligator was there, guarding her brood. She plunged into the water beneath our boat, and we all held our collective breaths, our boat was not that large. Our guide had told us last time she banged into the side of the boat. But either she was getting accustomed to the intrusion, or realized that we meant her babies no harm, for she merely submerged beneath the murky waters in displeasure and we saw her no more.

Baby Gator 250: Beth's Travels on the Bartram Trail Series

Baby Gator 250 by Beth Thompson: Beth’s Travels on the Bartram Trail Series

Baby Gators

Never-the-less, you couldn’t pay me to stick my hand in the water, or step out of the boat. But I could reach out of the boat with my camera and my vision, getting some pictures of the babies. Below is a Possible Perception of a baby alligator, an attempt to create the feeling of an alligator swarm. Online viewing doesn’t do it justice, just know that the dark gray shadows are actually the baby alligator.

Alligator Swarm 6065 by Beth Thompson: Possible Perception Series

Alligator Swarm 6065 by Beth Thompson: Possible Perception Series

*Opening Stanza from “The Slacks” by Trip Shakespeare
Purple Galinule’s laughing call from Xeno-Canto.
Bellowing Gator from U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

 

 

 

 

 

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