A Love Letter to Florida:

Dear Florida,

You are our sunshine but so much more. We appreciate your fresh squeezed welcome and look forward to those first sips of orange or grapefruit upon crossing the state line. We want to scream out the open windows of our bright green van – hello palm trees and Florida orange groves, live oaks dripping with spanish moss and air plants, hello – we are so very happy to see you again!

We understand the moniker, Snow Bird, now, more than ever. Leaving the clutches of winter for your warm embrace is the truest elixir of Ponce de Leon’s fountain of youth. Come November you are our north, our south, our east and our west. We love exploring your entirety.

Every beach, hammock, prairie, trail, spring, lake, glade, barrier island and dune. We love your vegetation, your tides, your salty waves that knock us flat and make us laugh like we are five years old, your sunrises and sunsets.

Your wildlife surprises and delights us; an Armadillo scratching around underfoot looking for nourishment as though we are not even there; a Gopher Turtle lazily moving along as though it doesn’t have a care in the world, oblivious to we humans; banks of rivers lined in sunbathing alligators charging their solar panels for hours on end; birds, so many birds – seagulls, hawks, woodpeckers, eagles, buntings, robins, geese, cranes, egrets, pelicans – we watch and listen and marvel.

We will never tire of your salty ocean air, the sound of crashing waves, dolphins frolicking, sharks in hungry pursuit of a school of fish, frenetic shore birds on the beach or graceful pelicans soaring in formation, barely skimming the water.

We can think of no better way to start a day than bearing witness to your sunrise and regularly pull up front row seats to watch the sun falling into the horizon and the magic that follows after it has set. Your dark star-filled skies are the perfect bedtime story night after night.

We love your state parks which you’ve branded ‘The Real Florida’ – the before it was bulldozed and overdeveloped Florida; those natural habitats which draw wildlife and humans alike in search of beauty and quiet. Thank you for protecting and preserving the real Florida and for creating safe havens for vulnerable wildlife such as Loggerhead Turtles and those gentle giants, the Manatees. Through your parks we have discovered vestiges of old Florida, nooks, crannies, glorious expanses of wet and dry prairie, choruses of frogs singing all night long.

We love learning about your history, about the original people who called this place home before it was ever known as Florida, but also after the Spanish invaded their land, about those brave homesteaders and cowboys, about the earliest hearty settlers and yes, even the dreamers and visionaries and capitalists like Henry Flagler and Bertha Honoré Palmer.

We recently discovered the writings of a small town editor named Ernest Lyons. Ernest was born and raised in the St. Lucie River area. We devoured his remembrances, accounts and observations of a place he truly loved and called home for his whole life. He inspired us to appreciate Florida using all of our senses. He wrote of a time before pollution, bulldozers, dams or industrial farming yet acknowledged that ‘life is a changing river.’

Ernest Lyons said, ‘we need wild places to cure humanity’s obsession with self-importance. There must be wilderness set aside and available where people can get away from people and take the cure that nature provides. Nature produces humility, awe and wonder. Contemplation in beautiful wild places gives one a feeling of kinship with all other living creatures, impels appreciation and gratitude to the creator and self-importance vanishes. Quiet time in wild places restores a proper sense of values.’ We couldn’t agree more.

It wasn’t love at first sight. It was a very long, sometimes bumpy, courtship. We keep trying to figure out the exact moment we fell in love with you. It could have been the first time we laid eyes on the oh-so-beautiful beach at Bahia Honda or watching the sunrise at the last remaining tract of dry prairie in the centre of the state or gliding across the wet prairie in Big Cypress or even the first time we gazed out over the endless canopy of tree tops at Myakka River State Park.

We love your nature but your culture captured our creative hearts. We’re smitten with the Ringling Museum in Sarasota; with Vizcaya, the Wolfsonian and Wynwood Walls in Miami and the Salvador Dali in St. Petersburg.

Florida, we love you. We love you from the Emerald Coast to Little Talbot Island, from the Suwannee River to Big Pine Key. We love you from Fort de Soto to Myakka River to the Jupiter Dunes, from Kissimmee Prairie to Blue Spring, from the Sanibel Island to Highlands Hammock and back down to the Everglades.

You will remain in our dreams and in our hearts until we meet again.

All our love,

Julie and Christian (and MacDuff)