Consecutive Days Riding: 149 Days Blogged: 133
New Mileage: 5 Total Trip Mileage: 1036
As I ride the bike this morning I have to chuckle to myself. For the last several days we’ve been heading up the east coast of Florida and I have been covering a variety of topics. I had a topic in mind this morning and then my intuition told me to check our journey map. I quickly realized that given the distance we had travelled since our visit to Daytona Beach we had arrived at the next pilgrimage site. As such my other topic will wait and today we visit a Washington Oaks Botanical Gardens.
I didn’t find this park on some listing of Florida Religious Sites. Rather, I saw it on the map as I investigated possible routes up the coast. And with it I found a fascinating history. It is the story of a beautiful beach location cherished by a nature lover who saved it from development to be shared by all of us.
The gardens are located on one of the North East Florida barrier islands. To the west of it is the inter-coastal waterway, to the east is the Atlantic Ocean. The site had started as a plantation after the European settlement of the area. It changed hands several times with one of the owners being a surveyor named George Washington, a relative of President George Washington. It was purchased in 1936 by Louise Polis Clark the wife of industrialist Owen Clark. She purchased it as a winter retirement home and planted extensive gardens and a citrus grove. Upon her death in the 1962 she deeded the land and gardens over to the state with the understandings that the gardens would be maintained for everyone’s enjoyment. The site is home to numerous large moss covered live oak trees, the gardens, a koi-pond, and natural artisan springs.
The Atlantic coastline is not a pristine ribbon of sand like we saw at Daytona Beach. The beach here includes stacks of shaped and eroded stone. But not just any stone, this material is Coquina. It is a consolidated sedimentary rock made up largely of the remnants of sea creatures (coral and shells) and is classified as a type of limestone. The material has been used to build buildings and pave roads along Florida’s east coast. It can be easily “mined” and carried away. However, while easy to remove, it is too unstable to use immediately. It must be allowed to dry out for several years so that it can harden before us as building material. Coquina was a popular building material for early forts. Because of its softness, cannon balls would sink into it rather than shatter and explode. The photos of these beach stones remind me of Taoist Stones, weathered by water and wind giving them a fluid and putty like appearance.
I’m glad that I checked the map today. I would have hated to have missed this chance to visit these gardens with you. Sites like this are testimonials to the effects that nature can have on all of us. People’s desire for nature tranquility leads them to create beautiful personal gardens and then out of a sense of joy they donate the gardens so that we all might cherish them. We saw this mindset in the US government’s set aside of land for our national parks, we see it today when individuals and organizations buying up pristine land, jungles and rainforests to conserve them for future generations. I am thankful for their efforts and thankful for their gifts.
I hope you will join me tomorrow when we will talk about religious relics and auspicious signs. In the mean time check your morning toast, your pancake and your breakfast pastries for they may bear a spiritual revelation!
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