Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Silver Glen Springs


Here is Sophie getting her sun block put on. (Her mother is putting it on.) Thus, the pouty face.

On Saturday we went to Silver Glen Springs with Kris, Sophie, Jake, and Bunny. Rob and I arrived at Kris’s house really early and Sophie started showing us all the crafts she made at camp this summer. (She showed us Jake’s crafts too.)

One of my favorite things she did was a drawing of a Chinese dragon parade. The picture was so creative. Each person in the parade was very different, with a unique facial expression and special clothes (one little boy was wearing a jester’s hat). The colors were so bright, and the dragon was so fancy and detailed. Really, Sophie could be a children’s book illustrator; her drawings have so much personality. She drew a wonderful picture of flying squirrels, too. They were up in the tree tops, one standing on a branch and the other in mid-flight. The squirrels were remarkably realistic, but fun and fanciful too. I was just so impressed. I kind of wished we could just stay in Tallahassee and spend the day drawing together.

One of Sophie and Jake’s projects at camp was to turn some of their drawings into a little book. They were supposed to punch holes along the left edge of their drawings and bind them with string. Sophie showed us Jake’s book. She rolled her eyes: “Look how many holes there are.” There were probably a hundred. Jake had gone crazy with the hole puncher. Bun says she sees a similar thing when she allows the kids in her class to use her stapler. She’ll receive papers with piles of staples in them. It’s just such a wonderful, novel experience to get to use a stapler.

Silver Glen lies in the middle of the Big Scrub in the Ocala National Forest. There were quite a few people there when we finally arrived after our long drive. It was blazing hot in the parking lot, but as soon as we entered the forest surrounding the spring it was suddenly cool and dark and pleasant. There was a little store in a log cabin, selling snow cones and such. We went down a sandy path, downhill, and there was the pool of the spring. We could see it through the trees--luminous, glowing like a sapphire.

Here is a little description of Silver Glen that I found on the website of the St. Johns River Water Management District: “Silver Glen Springs is a 1st magnitude spring with a large, semicircular pool that measures 200 feet north to south and 175 feet east to west. Most of the strong flow emerges from two cavern openings in the rock at the bottom of the pool, with large boils at the water's surface over the vents. The vertical cave opening called the Natural Well in the southwestern edge of the pool is about 12 to 15 feet in diameter and 40 feet deep. The vent in the east part of the pool is a conical depression about 18 feet deep. Most of the spring pool has sand and limestone on the pool bottom, with areas of aquatic grasses. Large fresh and salt water fish are common in the pool and around the vents.”

We set up our chairs in the shade on the shore at the edge of the pool, under a cedar tree. Vultures were romping about, trying to steal people’s picnic lunches. Sophie was walking around in the shade, playing string games. She was showing us how to do Cat’s Cradle and Cow in the Barn.

I started bragging about my new chemical-free Badger sunscreen. I was bragging, highly recommending it to everyone--though I’d never tried it before.

“You should try the Badger,” I said to Bunny. “It’s chemical-free and 30 SPF.”

Rob started putting it on. It was incredibly thick and creamy and greasy and left a very obvious white residue. Rob was really mad because he got it all over his beard; his beard was snowy white. He started referring to my beloved sunscreen as “Badger Grease.”

Bun, Rob, and I got all coated up with Badger Grease. Sophie thought we looked disgusting.

“How are you even holding that pen?” she sassed me. (I was taking notes in my journal.) “How is it not just slipping out of your hand?”

The spring was beautiful. It was perfectly clear and so bright that  it hurt your eyes to look at it. We waded out into the chilly pool, and swam with our masks on so we could admire the almost solid walls of striped bass. We were swimming right among huge schools of fish! It was so neat. The spring was as bubbly and dazzling as an enormous glass of Sprite.

Jake was bobbing along in his tube-shaped float. He cried, “Leslie, give me a tour! I want to play Turtle-way Charters!”

I had never heard of this game; I had never played Turtle-way Charters. So I did my best. I started giving Jake an eco-tour of the springs; I was pushing him slowly along the edges of the bowl, saying, “Now, sir, please note the wax myrtle. Please note the red cedar. That’s Juniperus virginiana, to be precise.”

“That’s not how you play, Leslie!” Jake protested. “I want to play Turtle-way Charters! Pretend there are rapids! Pretend I get stuck in a whirlpool!”

“Oh," I said. "Oh, I get it." I realized I was supposed to be giving him a wild ride. I wasn’t supposed to be pushing him around very slowly and boring him to death with Latin names.

I started playing the “right” way, but Jake still wasn’t satisfied. “Do rapids!” he commanded. “Leslie, do rapids!”

Bun joined in the game; it was a game with which she was apparently quite familiar. She was rocking and jostling the float. Sophie joined in too. She started splashing Jake with a boogie board.

“Stop it, Sophie!” Jake cried. “You got water in my ear!” He was yelling so loudly, in such a high-pitched voice. He sounded just like an excited, tiny Charlie Day.

“Jake,” I said, “you’re not in charge here. You signed a waiver when you boarded this vessel. You signed away all your rights. That’s just the way we do things at Turtle-way Charters.”

Jake wasn’t listening to me. “Don’t tip me all the way over, Bunny! Bunny, stop it!” he shouted. He’s this little tiny guy, but he is so loud.

Bunny was really having fun; she’s a teacher at the end of her summer vacation, so she was really cutting loose, having a last hoorah. She was rocking Jake wildly and trying to capsize the float.

Jake smiled: “Bunny’s in the spirit!” he said.

Rob was watching us rock Jake in his raft and spin him him around. “Jake’s getting some pretty good treatment there,” he commented. “I’m not sure what he did to deserve it.”

“Yelled a lot,” Kris said.

We decided to walk up to the little store and get some snacks. We walked along the path to the store, in the sand. At the little store Rob and Jake and I chose beautiful but flavorless snow cones out of the freezer case. Pre-made and frozen stiff, they were rainbow-colored and hard as rocks. Sophie chose something much better, a bright green, sour apple-flavored frozen delight.

Jake and I sat on a little bench together in the shade and commiserated about the terribleness of our snow cones.

“I can’t believe this,” I said. “There’s absolutely no flavor to this thing.”

“I can’t believe it,” Jake said.

“And yet it looks so beautiful,” I sighed.

Next we took a walk through the woods to see the sand boils in the creek. I had never seen a sand boil before, so I was eager to go trekking in the woods. But Jake didn’t want to go; he enjoys throwing monkey wrenches into our plans. He said he was just going to stay near our chairs; he was just going to lie on his float in the shade under the cedar tree and take it easy. He lay down and began to hum. 

“Fine,” Kris said.

“But we can’t really leave him, right?” I whispered.

“He’ll come,” Kris said. “He’s a total scaredy cat.”

We’d only gone a few steps before he reconsidered.

I looked back and saw him. “He’s coming,” I reported to Kris. “He’s bringing the entire bag of Cheetos.”

He was jogging and eating Cheetos simultaneously.

He caught up with us in about a second. “You guys are lucky I even came on this,” he panted.

“No, we’re not,” Rob said in his deadpan way. Rob loves giving Jake a hard time.

We walked along through the shade under the cabbage palms and magnolias. Jake went at his own pace, eating Cheetos and being loud, and I walked with Kris. I said, “So, Sophie tells me you called Jake ‘simple’ today.”

“He had his shirt on backwards, of course,” Kris said, rolling her eyes. “He puts his shirt on backwards every day. I told him to turn it around, but he wouldn’t. I was trying to convince him so I told him people would think he was simple if he didn’t.”

“True enough,” I smiled. “He was wearing his water shoes on the wrong feet as well.”

“Of course,” Kris said.

We were soon at the creek, gazing at the sand boils. We were up on a boardwalk, looking down. The sand bubbled and boiled. The water was transparent, and the sand was pure white. The creek glowed, and all around it, the woods were black with shadow.

“Do you think if you jumped in like a pencil you’d go straight down in the sand?” Sophie asked. "Do you think you'd sink?"

“Yes,” Kris said.

“Yes. Certainly,” Bun said.

“No,” Rob said. Rob is always a skeptic. He doesn’t believe in anything neat, whereas Kimels believe in Bigfoot and the deadly perils of quicksand; we believe in everything.

Jake is such an awesome, cute little spazz. He kept sitting on the railing with his Cheetos and almost falling in.

On the way back through the woods to the big pool and our chairs, Jake and Sophie were balancing on some railroad ties. Jake was ahead of Sophie, and he stopped for a moment to philosophize: “If I won the lottery, I wouldn’t keep the money,” he said sweetly. “I’d give it to people who really need it, like the people in Japan, where they had the tsunami.”

Sophie wasn’t impressed. “Just . . . move on!” she said.

Jake and Sophie were bugging each other the whole length of the trail:

Sophie: “He punched me!”

Jake: “She’s lying!”

Rob: “She’s not lying. I saw you.”

I hung back and walked by myself, looking around at the woods and pretending I was a character in The Yearling. Silver Glen is the setting for the opening passages of the novel; it’s the place where Jody makes his flutter mill:

Here’s how Marjorie Rawlings describes it:

“A spring as clear as well water bubbled up from nowhere in the sand. It was as though the banks cupped green leafy hands to hold it. There was a whirlpool where the water rose from the earth. Grains of sand boiled in it. Beyond the bank, the parent spring bubbled up at a higher level, cut itself a channel through white limestone, and began to run rapidly downhill to make a creek. The creek joined Lake George, Lake George was a part of the St. John’s River, the great river flowed northward and into the sea. It excited Jody to watch the beginnings of the ocean. There were other beginnings, true, but this one was his own. He liked to think that no one came here but himself and the wild animals and the thirsty birds.”

We went swimming one more time in the big pool, and Sophie took some underwater video of the fish swimming. She was so fussy with her camera. Kris kept asking her if she wanted to take some pictures, and Sophie kept saying, “Not yet.” She didn’t want to start filming until the perfect moment. And finally it came. She asked Kris to go and get her camera from the shore near our chairs, where she had left it.

“Be careful!” she called to her mother. “I don’t want the camera bag to get wet! It’ll smell weird!”

Sophie is so fussy, but she got some great footage of the fish.

Finally, we all got out of the water and started packing our things to leave.

“Where’s Sophie?” Rob asked.

“She’s rinsing off,” I said. “She doesn't like being dirty and uncomfortable, you know. She goes ballistic if her feet are sandy.”

“Well,” Rob said, “then she’s lucky she doesn’t have that Badger Grease all over her beard.” (He'd been complaining about it the entire day.)

And that was it. We headed home. Our day of adventure was over.

Oh, and I forgot to mention: Everybody who used the Badger Grease got sunburned.


Jake perseveres through his disappointing snow cone.


On the path to the sand boils


Some nonsense going on

Jake rockin' out


Just being cute

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