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Helen Drives Ms. Mattie

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monarchCertified Green Guide Helen Cooper has always loved butterflies. She is a native to Wakulla County and grew up chasing butterflies near her home in downtown Crawfordville when children could run in the street by the Courthouse because the only traffic was on the weekend when folks drove south to the coast. She is a descendant of the Roberts and Tuckers on her daddy’s side, and kin to the Taffs and Carraways through her mama. If you live around these parts, you will know the generations of these longstanding families. If not, a drive through the county will quickly acquaint you with these names familiar on street signs, assorted businesses and buildings.

Helen became a Green Guide through the Tallahassee Community College Ecotourism Institute because she is drawn to the outdoors and the discovery of details specific to area flora and fauna. She especially enjoys nature photography. It was at one St. Marks National Wildlife Refuge Monarch Butterfly Festival several years Monachsago when Helen went to photograph butterflies, that she became enamored with the beauty of the monarch. Soon afterwards, she became a volunteer for the Monarch Project where she learned to count, capture and tag monarchs travelling on their epic 2,000 mile journey from the northern American boundary to the mountains of central Mexico. Millions of monarchs pass through the river corridors and along Florida’s Gulf coast to get to a certain 70 square mile forest located in central Mexico. It takes four generations for the butterflies to finally reach their destination where they spend their winter hibernation in the very same trees each and every year. This incredible migratory phenomenon happens here in our area beginning about the third week of October and lasts until mid-November.

“When you help others, you help yourself,” says Helen insightfully.

Last Updated ( Tuesday, 09 October 2012 21:19 ) Read more...

By the Light of the Moon

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That big, fat moon is gonna shine like a spoon. But we’re gonna let it. You won’t regret it” – Bob Dylan lyrics

full moonIt had been like any other hot, humid mid-summer day in the Deep South part of North Florida. The heat rose that afternoon along with our anticipation of being witness to history in the making that we would recount some future day to our own grandchildren. At least that is what our Mother had assured, and declared that we would all stay up late to watch for ourselves on the little black and white TV – even the youngest ones. Mother was like that. It was our wonder years and she had already passed to each of us her kindred spirit for adventure. Earlier that afternoon we had witnessed the historic landing, and now as the hours ticked by, we eagerly waited the promised pinnacle to watch proudly as the American flag was firmly planted on the frontier lunar ground.

Last Updated ( Tuesday, 27 November 2012 18:51 ) Read more...

Messing Around in Boats

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Wakulla SpringsIf there is magic on this planet, it is contained in water – (Loren Eiseley, “Four Quartets,” in The Immense Journey). The real magic of Florida in not found in the Disney kingdom, but rather in the tremendous abundance of freshwater spilling forth from her hundreds of springs, thousands of rivers, streams and lakes, and millions of acres of wetlands and underlying aquifer. Water is perhaps Florida’s most valued resource. Wakulla County is likewise blessed with more than her fair share of this watery wealth. The handsome crown she proudly wears is inlaid with the dazzling jewel that is Wakulla Springs, the World’s deepest and longest freshwater spring. Below her crown etching distinct lines of fine character into her ageless face are the four major rivers we know as the Ochlockonee, the Sopchoppy, the Wakulla and the St. Marks. These four rivers each with their own unique personalities stream toward Apalachee Bay and the larger body of the Gulf adding to the rich complexion of Wakulla County.

Last Updated ( Sunday, 10 June 2018 09:08 ) Read more...

Waters Journey

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I was born under the sign of the fishes in the “Sunshine City” of St. Petersburg, Florida. I learned to swim about the same time I learned to walk. My mother took me across busy 49th Street to the pool of Mrs. Neal where all the neighborhood children went to master the basic skills of swimming. The Neal family had an up close and personal connection to water. Mr. Neal was a plumbing contractor who repaired the problems adults encountered with water. Mrs. Neal was a swimming instructor who averted the problems children might encounter with water. There was lots and lots of water and we were surrounded by all types - salt water, creek water, lake water, river water.

Miz MerMullet Maid

A few years later I eagerly anticipated our travels to the waters of Weeki Wachee Springs where I fell in love with the live mermaids. The way they appeared to swim so effortlessly suspended like magic inside a wonderful crystalline water globe captured my Pisces heart. The sun shining rays of light that reached down from the surface to the watery depths, graceful tails sparkling, exposed skin shining luminescent. I watched in rapture. Back at home, the favorite color of my mother decorated our living space in gentle shades of turquoise and aquamarine. I imagined myself happily immersed underwater in these colors of liquid blues and greens. In the quiet darkness of the night, I secretly dreamt I too was a dazzling mermaid.

Last Updated ( Sunday, 04 March 2012 13:57 ) Read more...

The Lure of the Forgotten Coast Lighthouses

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st marks lighthouse



Whatever the lure of a lighthouse standing steadfast in a place suspended between the sea and the sky, anchored on the very edge of land and water, a lighthouse is where history and legend meet. As a tower of strength safely guiding ships through the darkness of night and turbulent storms, a lighthouse seems characteristically noble, a reflection of the stalwart keepers who once faithfully kept the lanterns burning and the lighthouse alive.  Our modern day lighthouses, witnesses to evolving technology, are now illuminated by electricity and fully automated. Sadly, the services of lighthouse keepers are no longer needed except for the rich maritime history they so significantly provide.

Florida has over 2,000 tidal shoreline miles, so it is not unexpected that a great number of lighthouses can be found marking our coasts. The Forgotten Coast is home to four of these exceptional towers, each with their own colorful place in Florida maritime history.

Last Updated ( Sunday, 08 January 2012 09:41 ) Read more...
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