Florida February


Humans are destroying the planet, extinguishing the biozone, doing terrible things to each other.  But, boy, can they build when they want to.  An extensive, convenient, and relatively inexpensive miracle of air travel gets one away from ten degree temperatures in hours, and allows some of us to spend time in the man-made cliffs lining the ocean down here near Fort Lauderdale.

The problem always was, and continues to be, balance and limits.  What is too much?  How far is too far?  How do we stop ourselves when we know we must.  Or are we doomed to destruction?  Well, I’ve added my own bit of excess, and here I am in a fine warm place for a while.


Monstrous skyscrapers march along the shore, an artificial dune of immense proportions, filled with coral-like residents who each decorate their little cubic spaces and try to figure out what to do with the day.  It’s all cash all the time, because there are almost no public spaces and in a few years the income-starved local governments will probably be charging for air to breathe.

Most of the population here _ permanent or temporary _ is old.  Some places seem an inch from becoming a necropolis.  Even the young people _ servitors to the ancient geezers wheezing around_ move in a deliberate rhythm, as if lightly infected by the disease (of aging) that is slowly killing everyone around them.
Wed –

The Atlantic is like the Atlantic everywhere _ harsh and rough most of the time, with the wind usually blowing inland.  Wave follows wave, as waves have in all oceans since the first waters submerged the planet.  The continents may have changed, life may have arisen, the composition of the atmosphere may have metamorphosed, but breakers like these rolled in ever and ever.

I become hypnotized, lost in time and space, watching the everlasting patterns that are never identical, constantly moving.  Sounds lull me into a meditative trance.  Sand cushions my toes perfectly.  At least for a time, all is perfect.  But since I myself am not perfect, I will become bored and move on soon enough.

Even here along a shoreline that looks more built up with skyscrapers than Manhattan, a small strip of wild dune is left between the buildings and the beach.  Maybe it is aesthetic _ there is certainly not enough to protect from storms.  Palm trees, grasses, beach peas, and a surprising number of other species eke out a living as constricted as that of the humans roaming the small condo cubicles above them.

Typically, this should provoke a lament on how people have destroyed nature.  But I have seen remnants of the natural wild state of this strip at a couple of state parks nearby.  Even though the countless snakes that originally slithered through the impenetrable mucky thickets and the swarms of insects that clouded the swamps are long gone, the remaining dense tangle is hardly the place for a relaxing vacation.  All in all, I guess I prefer it as it is.  I just wish there were some Michelangelo of coast development determining a better set of aesthetic considerations rather than the stark functional soviet housing blocks it has become.

Portuguese Man o’War is as odd as its name.  I thought at first it was all jelly, but careful poking shows it is a tough balloon.  Reading indicates that not only is it venomous, but more startling it is not even a true multicelled organism.  More like a beehive colony of single cells, which somehow support the shape, the air inside, and the venomous tentacles that swimmers (and beachcombers) should avoid.

I suppose, since it is classed under hydrozoa, that ancestors of this creature diverged from ours early on.  I further suppose there would be little if any fossil record of their changes over the eons.  Perhaps they have been around in the same shape since before creatures made it to land, or before there were multicelled animals at all.  These interesting but useless speculations are both a blessing and a curse of our consciousness.  It’s wonderful that we have the capacity to learn and think of elements of our u
niverse so alien to our everyday experience.


Temperatures reported on the news are a little deceptive.  With gale-force winds whipping off the Atlantic, churning the surf into a fury, a person can chill down awful fast, even after chasing a hat down the beach.  So far, the winds have hardly ceased, and it feels at least five, sometimes ten, degrees colder than are measured inland a ways. 

Except for the high-rises, it can look like Maine, lighthouse and all.  Florida lighthouses I have seen look much better from a distance then up close.  They are none of the European/New England cute stone fortresses, but rather squat black iron water towers braced by utilitarian ugly black iron beams.  Post-civil war military utilitarian aesthetic.  That period gave us the Brooklyn Bridge, the Eiffel Tower, a lot of historic New York and Paris, but passed Florida by.   Of course, almost nobody lived here until the 1920’s, it was truly a wilderness zone.

Sign at (private _ $2 to get on) Lauderdale pier reads “sea turtle nesting,” and countless signs along the main highway advise that  street lights are dimmed during the nesting period.  Turtles are an ancient order, although not nearly so ancient as the jellyfish which are one of their main food sources.  Ocean warming and possibly pollution have dramatically increased the jellyfish supply, and perhaps the turtles are rebounding as well.  Humans may be a silver lining for a few creatures beyond cockroaches, rats, and seagulls!

We have an odd place in our heart for turtles.  They’re not exactly cute, but they seem about the least threatening objects around.  Nobody has nightmares of being pursued by a giant tortoise, nor dreads being locked in a dark closet with a sea turtle.  We don’t worry about falling overboard and finding one swimming toward us, and even the most ingenious and bloodthirsty cultures and rulers have unable to work them into torture.  I wish them health, although I’ve never seen a live one outside a zoo or aquarium, and probably never will.         




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