Tag Archives: symbolism

“The Message of my Family’s Fallen Oak Tree”-St Lucie River/Indian River Lagoon

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I like to believe that I receive messages from Nature. You know, like Florida’s Native Americans did? They paid attention to their natural environment. They were an extension of it. This helped them survive and adapt, giving them an edge when it came to Mother Nature and Humankind’s periodic wrath.

I remember reading a chapter in Patrick Smith’s “A Land Remembered;” it only dawned on the pioneers that a hurricane was coming when they noticed the Indians moving to higher ground.

I feel that this week, I too, was given a sign.

Last week, on August 20th, the first day of “early voting,” I visited my parents at my childhood home in beautiful Sewall’s Point. My mom, being mom, recommended I go outside and lie under her favorite ancient oak tree and just soak in the beauty of it all.

She knew I had been stressed lately running my campaign for the river and for Martin County’s quality of life.

She handed me a banana and I went outside on the deck under our giant oak tree.

—The deck of all the family outings, the deck that used to be a swimming pool before my mother filled it in, the deck of running grandchildren, the deck of Thanksgiving and of Easter. The deck of memories.

It was a gorgeous day so I took some pictures and rested in a reclining chair right under the amazing tree. It’s branches reached the ground enclosing me an a giant embrace. Sunlight danced from leaf to leaf and reflected in the wings of dragonflies. Woodpeckers and squirrels darted from branch to branch tending to their babies. I noticed how the old tree was intertwined with numerous equally old stick-like cabbage palms. I thought about how many had walked under the oak’s branches: the Native People, the Pirates, the Spanish, the Pioneers –different animals–and now me.

How long had it been alive? Maybe 250 years?

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Seven days later, I received a text from my sister, Jenny, who lives next door to my parents. “I have some bad news. Mom and Dad’s giant oak tree split in half….everyone is OK, but the back yard is a mess. One side is still standing.”

So the following day I went to look at the damage. It was dramatic but it looked so strong we thought the other half might endure. An arborist said it was possible.

And then, on August 31st, the day after losing the election, its remains came crashing down…

Yesterday, I visited walking around taking pictures.

No one was home. Just me and the tree. The tree I watched grow from my bedroom window and saw reflected in the mirror every time I assessed myself. I was assessing myself now, but there was no reflection.

I moved about with care and disbelief.  Finally, not knowing what else to do, I put my hand on the tree’s gigantic fallen limb. No birds chirped. No crickets called. All I could muster to say was “thank you.”

I walked away, saddened and empty.

Then it dawned on me, I’d missed something. A message. I turned around; I looked over the pile of destruction.  And then I saw it, green and full of life, the resurrection fern.

I moved against the tree’s wet branches:  “Yes, I said….”Through water, we are reborn.”

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“Going Home” to Meet Maggy Hurchalla, SLR/IRL

The house built in the early days of Miami by Maggie's mother.
The house built in the “outback” by Maggy’s mother in the early days of a growing Miami.
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The driveway leading to the house. (JTL)
The driveway leading to the house. (JTL)
The porch.
The porch.
The grounds has many trees planted by Mrs Reno years ago that are now gigantic.
The grounds has many trees planted by Mrs Reno years ago that are now gigantic.
Oolite rock on the grounds.
Oolite rock on the grounds.
The house only lost one shingle during Hurricane Andrew in 1992. This hangs on the wall as a testament to Mrs Reno.
The house only lost one shingle during Hurricane Andrew in 1992. This hangs on the wall as a testament to Mrs Reno and her husband.
cover of book
Cover of book. Mrs Jane Woods Reno.
In 1994,  when I was a much younger woman, my mother handed me a book entitled: “To Hell With Politics,” a compilation of the writings of Jane Wood Reno.

My mother noted that the author was an incredible woman. She had built her house with her own two hands; was a savant; she had had a career as a reporter for the Miami Herald; she once hiked many miles northward, for days and nights, along the Atlantic’s shoreline meeting, speaking, and writing about the people she met along the way; she had befriended the Miccosukee Indians and they considered her an “Indian Princess;” she raised peacocks on her very large parcel way out west of Downtown Miami; she was a dedicated mother and wife…..she was Martin County Commissioner Maggy Hurchalla’s mother.

To say the least, I found Mrs Reno’s story interesting and never forgot the book. Fast forward twenty years; I was invited to visit the house, and I did.

Driving down on October 24, 2015, I thought it would be a straight shot down the Turnpike from Stuart. But somehow I “took a wrong turn” and ended up in the craziness of Downtown Miami driving in carpool lanes as a single driver, cameras taking my picture, and barriers forcing me to stay in “my lane.” As I pulled off I-95 stressed out and sweating Siri’s voice rung in the tense air. Then I saw it, the mailbox.

Turning right down a long unpaved driveway I exited the bustle, excessive traffic, shopping malls, and crowded housing developments, and went back in time. Driving in I noticed wild coffee plants and gumbo limbo trees  just like some areas of our St Lucie River/Indian River Lagoon. “Weird.” I thought. “Is there a creek around here somewhere? I wonder what Kendall looked like before they drained it, filled it, mowed it down, and planted hedges? A pine forest? An oak/palm hammock? Beautiful…”

I parked my car and looked around. Time stood still. A tropical breeze floated through the trees and the sun shined. Birds were chirping. Legend Maggy Hurchalla greeted me and I toured the grounds of her family home. She was there caring for her older sister, former U.S. Attorney General,  Janet Reno. It was a day I will always treasure. A day a book I read as a younger woman came to life.

I think the photos will say it all, so I won’t write much more.

The house is an island. It is a symbol of what was, and what has become. Thank you to Maggy Hurchalla who helped keep what happened around her childhood home from happening in Martin County.

You can see the Reno parcel unchanged amounts the rampant development of Miami Dade. Google maps 2015
You can see the Reno parcel unchanged amoung the rampant development of Miami Dade. Google maps 2015
Up close.
Up close.
Maggy give me a tour or the grounds. (Photo JTL)
Chickee built by Maggy’s brother. (Photo JTL)
Maggie gives me a tour of the grounds.
Maggy gives me a tour of the grounds.
Mrs Hurchalla having a park named after her in Martin County 2013. (MC Flicker photos.)
Mrs Hurchalla having a park named after her in Martin County 2013 for her work as a commissioner from 1974-1994. (MC Flicker photos.)
Plaque in park. Photo Sandra Thurlow 2015.
Plaque in Maggy’s park,  Photo Sandra Thurlow 2015.
Sally Schwarz’ article about park in MC: (http://opinionzone.blog.palmbeachpost.com/2013/12/07/martin-county-names-park-after-maggy-hurchalla/)

Official Seals of Martin County and Stuart, Both Sailfish–where’s the River? SLR/IRL

Martin County seal.
Official seal of Martin County, sailfish and sun.

Official seals are as ancient as Mesopotamia. Whether ancient or modern, seals symbolize what is important to us and  how we see ourselves. Throughout history, seals are often recreated to represent new perceptions and values. All seals, of every era, hold great historic importance. Let’s take a look at the seals of Martin County, Florida, and its surrounding municipalities.

Recently my mother, historian Sandra Henderson Thurlow, gave a presentation at Indian River State College. I was intrigued by the early seal of Stuart and its changes throughout the years.

I was also struck that the St Lucie River, the original reason people moved to our area, was removed in favor of the sailfish and ocean sometime in the 1970s or 80s. I was also struck that the Railroad was so prominent, and today we are fighting it. —-Today the prominent symbol is a sailfish. A sailfish is certainly a wonderful and attractive symbol, however, it seems repetitive in that both Martin County and the City of Stuart use the sailfish.  View both seals below.

Martin County sailfish.
Martin County sailfish.
City of Stuart sailfish.
City of Stuart sailfish.

Let’ s reflect. Stuart became the sailfish capital of the world in the 1930s and 40s, very cool,  but Stuart was originally named “Stuart on the St Lucie ” for the river….Stuart became a city if 1914; Martin became a county in 1925.

In any case, how much do we promote sports fishing since it is the symbol of both the city and the county? The sports fishing industry a huge money-maker and is directly related to the health of the St Lucie River/Indian River Lagoon. If the river is sick, and the polluted canal plume waters from C-23, C-24, C-25, C-44 and Lake Okeechobee are belching off our inlet, it is more difficult for the sailfish to have a successful spawning season.

Why isn’t the river at all represented anymore?

It’s all tied together— the river and the inlet ocean area…partially due to the degradation of our waterways we are really no longer truly the “Sailfish Capital of the World.” How can we become the sailfish capital of the world again?

How can we honor our sailfish history and have an eye for a better water future? Is it time for updated seals? Should Stuart and Marin County both be sailfish? What do you think? I  suppose the most important questions are: “What is most important to us today, and what do we really stand for?”

Stuart City seal 1914 with East Coast Railroad Bridge over the St Lucie and docks. (Image shared by Sandra Henderson Thurlow.)
Stuart City seal 1914 with East Coast Railroad Bridge over the St Lucie River and docks. No auto bridge. Image shared by Sandra Henderson Thurlow.
City of Stuart seal showed the railroad and an auto bridge in 1978. Seal taken from city stationary. Courtesy of Sandra Henderson Thurlow.
City of Stuart seal showed the railroad and an auto bridge over the St Lucie River in 1978. Seal taken from city stationary. Courtesy of Sandra Henderson Thurlow.
City of Stuart seal changed to sailfish sometime after 1978. (SHT)
City of Stuart seal changed to sailfish sometime after 1978. (Sandra Henderson Thurlow)

Here are some other seals of Martin County’s incorporated cities and towns:

Town of Jupiter Island, palm tree and wavy waters.
Town of Jupiter Island, palm tree and wavy waters, 2015.
Town of Sewall's Point seal brown pelican and satin leaf, 2015.
Town of Sewall’s Point seal brown pelican and satin leaf plant unique to its hammock, 2015.
The Town of Ocean Breeze does not appear to have an official seal but this image is displayed often, 2015.
The Town of Ocean Breeze does not appear to have an official seal that I could find, but this image is displayed often, 2015.

 

 

Seals, Emblems, History: (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Seal_(emblem))

Breaking Down the Wall, St Lucie River/Indian River Lagoon

Me standing in front of the Berlin Wall and "Noman's Land" 1990. Berlin Germany. (Photo by Christian Koch.)
Me standing in front of the Berlin Wall and “No-man’s Land” 1990. Berlin Germany. Alexander Platz in the distance. (Photo by Christian Koch.)
The Berlin Wall came down on November 10th, 1989.
The Berlin Wall came down on November 10th, 1989. Many believed this wall would never come down….

Yesterday,  I referred to our plight of trying to influence our state legislature and governor to purchase option lands in the Everglades Agricultural Area (EAA)– in order to save the St Lucie River/Indian River Lagoon, as “breaking down a wall…”

To quote:

—–all this pushing IS having effect. I also know it may push the “powers that be” faster into what-ever-it-is that breaks this wall of historical government/agriculture “self-interest,” because water and the flood gates of the people will in time bring this wall down.”

This got me thinking about another wall I have seen come down in my lifetime, and why I remain optimistic in about our journey. If you were alive 1989, you “saw” the Berlin Wall come down in Germany. Many believed this wall of communism would “never come down,” but it did. I was in Germany just months after the wall actually broke open on November 10, 1989 and lived there teaching for two years.  I think this is one reason I believe we can achieve our goals. Stranger things have happened…

I think President Reagan’s said it best in his speech. His words remain an inspiration to us today.

“THIS WALL WILL FALL. BELIEFS BECOME REALITY.”

YES…THIS WALL WILL FALL. FOR IT CANNOT WITHSTAND FAITH. IT CANNOT WITHSTAND TRUTH. THE WALL CANNOT WITHSTAND FREEDOM.——Ronald Reagan, 1987

Caption words of Ronal Reagan, 1990.
Words of Ronal Reagan from his historic speech.

The EAA is a wall of sorts. A symbolic wall. It is time to break down this wall. I have faith we will do just that…..and really, we already are!

Berlin Wall, as it looked in Germany prior to 1990.(Public image)
Berlin Wall, as it looked in Germany prior to 1990.(Public image)
This satellite photo shows water on lands in 2005. One can see the lands in the EAA are devoid of water. This water has been pumped off the lands into the Water Conservation Areas, sometimes back pumped into the lake, and also stored in other canals. (Captiva Conservation 2005.)
This image shows a figuarative “wall” surrounding the EAA. (Captiva Conservation 2005.)
South Florida's southern Everglades, 1950 vs. 2003. (Map courtesy of SFWMD.)
South Florida’s southern Everglades, 1950 vs. 2003. A wall has been created separating Lake Okeechobee from the Everglades at the expense of the estuaries.(Map courtesy of SFWMD.)
Berlin Wall1990. (Photo public domain.)
Berlin Wall 1990. (Photo public domain.)
Maggy Hurchalla...
Maggy Hurchalla…and other River Warriors on the steps of the state capitol trying to break down a wall.  (Photo JTL, 2-18-15.)
Berlin Wall, 1990. (JTL)
Berlin Wall, 1990. (JTL)
Bernauer Strausee, Berlin Wall in background. (JTL 1990.)
Bernauer Strausse, Berlin Wall in background. (JTL 1990.)
Wall with "East Germany" feet away...(JTL 1990.)
Wall with “East Germany” feet away…(JTL 1990.)
In front of the wall....1990. (Photo Christina Koch.)
In front of the wall….1990. (Photo Christinan Koch.)
Crane taking down the Berlin Wall near 1990. (Public photo)
Crane taking down the Berlin Wall near Brandenburg Gate 1990. (Public photo.)
Wall surrounding stadium. stadium. (JTL )
Wall surrounding stadium. (JTL )

 

Building Bridges, St Lucie River/Indian River Lagoon

"Bridges to the Sea," Stuart to Sewall's Point to Hurchinson Island and the Atlantic Ocean, 1965, Rhunke Collection, Thurlow Archives.
“Bridges to the Sea,” Stuart, to Sewall’s Point, to Hutchinson Island and the Atlantic Ocean, 1965. Rhunke Collection, Thurlow Archives.

Since the 1960s, I have seen many bridges destroyed and rebuilt, right here in Martin County. They are symbolic of our history, our accomplishments, and our struggles.

I may be making this up in my memory, but I think I recall my parents driving me over the Palm City bridge when I was a kid and it was made of wood. The clunk of slow-moving, heavy car,  over the uneven planks was somehow comforting, like the rhythm of a familiar horse. But times change, and bigger and “better” bridges are built…

The best bridge summary of Martin County I have ever read was written by local historian, Alice Luckhart. You can read it here: (http://www.tcpalm.com/news/historical-vignettes-martin-county-bridges-and-bri)

The “bridges to the sea,” from Stuart, to Sewall’s Point, to Hutchinson Island–over the St Lucie River and Indian River Lagoon were built in 1958. Sandra Henderson Thurlow, in her book, Sewall’s Point, The History of a Peninsular Community of Florida’s Treasure Coast, discusses how the relative isolation of Sewall’s Point ended in 1958 when, two “bridges to the sea opened.” For 10 cents, one could come to Sewall’s Point, and for  25 cents, one could go all the way to the ocean. The tolls were removed in 1961 and the bridges formally named in 1965: “Evans Crary Sr,” and “Ernst F. Lyons”– going west to east.

I am almost sure, I also remember, my mother, or some history person, telling me “they” did not name the bridges right away as it was a political “hot potato.” Perhaps in the beginning there had been controversy regarding building the bridges and certain people did not want their names associated with them until the political fumes dissipated and settled upon something else? Perhaps I am making this up? Like my fuzzy romanticized memory of wooden bridge in Palm City?

I don’t know. But what I do know, is that bridges allow us to cross over, to get to the other side.

I am trying to build bridges to send water south to the Everglades and save the St Lucie River/Indian River Lagoon. This means working with the sugar industry; the South Florida Water Management District; the Governor; the state and federal Legislature; the Army Corp of Engineers; the County; and most of all the people who live along the Treasure Coast.

I must admit, jokingly, sometimes I feel like “jumping off the bridge.” But I won’t. With your help, I will rebuild it; make it higher, more beautiful, and less damaging to the environment. And hopefully, in the end, we will all be inspired!