Stairway to My Past

Gazing up the steep stairwell in complete darkness aided only by the dim light of my iPhone, I ponder the significance of this climb as the rush of childhood memories start flooding my consciousness.IMG_2580 small

Step by step I found myself gripping the same handrail that guided me to this dark place some 50 years earlier.

During a recent business trip through Central Georgia, photographing Firehouse Subs restaurants, I had an opportunity to swing through Dublin Georgia, a place I hadn’t visited in decades and the former home of my Grandparents. As childhood memories go, visiting my Grandpa during the holidays and summer was a wonderful time. The 60’s were innocent times, full of exploration and learning for this pre-teen. My Grandfather was the manager of Dublin’s Woolworth store, but he might as well have been the President in my eyes. A larger-than-life, deep-voiced German, Mr. Vogel to others was a gentle giant of a soul.107A5983_4_5_fused-2 copy-2small

I often went to work with him, sweeping and doing odds and ends for the tidy sum of fifty cents a day. One big job that I had was bringing new stock items down from the second-floor storerooms. While the task was simple enough, these storerooms were a place of terror for me. Dark and musky smelling, the rooms were full of murky life. Silhouettes of mannequins watched my every move and images of the Wolfman adorned the toy model boxes. No matter how scared I was, Grandpa would continue to send me up to the “land of no return.” I believe he was helping me to develop skills to control my fear. A lesson I that would help me the rest of my life. 107A6010_1_2_fused-2 copy small

Almost exactly 50 years later, I find my self at the bottom of that stairwell again. The old Woolworth building is now a trendy restaurant with many of the old objects repurposed as art on the walls.107A5977_8_9_fused-2 copy small

As the owner listens to me telling the story about the upstairs storage attic, he ushers me to the back of the building and invites me to go up there one more time – alone. He tells me to take my cameras and spend as much time as I like. At the top of the dark stairwell is another door, once opened the natural light spills out, and the musky odor of this place rushes back. Gone are the werewolves and evil mannequins, replaced my memories of past times with my Grandpa. As I place my hand on the walls, old peeling lead-based paint crumbles to the floor; the old wooden floor creaks under my feet, I find myself thanking my Grandfather for the many lessons of facing my fears.107A5974_5_6_fused-2small107A6021 small

 

Cast-Off to Castaway Island

One Yelp reviewer called Castaway Island Preserve “Just a nice beautiful setting at sunset. I just naturally relax while walking around with so much natural beauty”

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Located on the Intracoastal Waterway on San Pablo road, Castaway Island has several trails that wind through the pine Flatwoods and along the saltwater marshes of this preserve. One of the first things I notice was the imprints of animal tracks on the paved trails and thought; this would be a great educational guessing game to play with a child.

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Further down the paved trail, I came across a long boardwalk that overlooked a grassy marsh, where the sounds of a darting kingfisher broke the morning’s silence. At the end of the boardwalk there’s a large interpretive sign that describes with photos, the animals of the salt marsh and how they adapt to a saline environment.

Another attraction is the pier and dock that offers easy access and launching for the canoeing and kayaking enthusiast.

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If you’re looking for some nice quiet and pet friendly wilderness to stroll through and perhaps pack a picnic lunch, make sure to bring your camera or binoculars and you should be able to see a variety of birds and animals in this environmental oasis.

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“Soar like an …”

Our area is quite abundant with wildlife and there’s nothing more powerful than the king of the bird world, the Bald Eagle.
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Over the weekend, I spotted a mating pair and was mesmerized as they soured back and forth like fighter jets, while calling out to each other in the early morning sun.
The eagle is a magnificent bird of prey – their image represents many powerful symbols and national pride; from old American gold coins to the Presidential seal – they are the American mascot, our national bird.

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So what does the eagle symbolize in our culture? According to the website Universe of Symbolism (universeofsymbolism.com) the Native American’s regarded the eagle as the Great Spirit and its feathers are used in different ceremonies and dress. Spiritually, it may remind us to be victorious, proud and strong and historically their symbol represents freedom, truth and justice.
A myth of the ancient Aztecs society told a story of a battle between the eagle and a jaguar about who would become the sun. The eagle won after throwing itself in to the fire and the jaguar followed, thus becoming the moon. Afterwards, the Aztecs built two elite armies called the eagles and the jaguars.

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Locally in N.E. Florida there is a webcam for viewing eagles and their chicks at http://www.eagles.org/Cams/FloridaNest.html offering 3 different camera views and chatting capabilities, however to protect these birds its nest is not revealed.

Cooper’s Hawk

The Cooper’s hawk is a wonderful bird to observe and for the last several weeks this one has been hunting in the saltwater side of the Guana dam.

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This member of the goshawk genus accipiter family was named after William Cooper, one of the founders of what’s now called the New York Academy of Sciences. Also known as chicken hawks or a name I fancy, a Striker hawk; for their speed and agility as they quietly hunt both bird and mammal prey often in dense forest.

At one time this bird was extensively hunted for preying on poultry and I remember my farming neighbors in rural Minnesota would always keep a wary eye out for this hawk and would raid their chicken coops.

I first notice this hawk sitting on a branch at ground level tucked in some tall grass along the road that leads from the dam to the Guana trailhead, which allowed for close up photos. After a truck approached, it flew to higher elevation in a dead tree where it fought to hold its position during several gust from the winds of a Nor’easter.

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Not far from this location, I was hoping to capture a photo of a warily Kingfisher that was spending the morning, darting back and forth between its resting place and the edge of the water, when a couple of deer come darting out into the open tall grass and after a glimpse at me, they disappeared just as quickly into the palmetto bush.

I realize every time I wonder through the trails and wilderness along the First Coast, how fortunate we are to call this place home.untitled-5423