Sunshine on a Florida Road Trip / by Alice Absolutely

I can certainly say that lately the pressure to create has been immense.  I decided in March that I wanted to work towards getting my artwork shown in galleries.  I did not realize what that process would entail.  The demand to write in ways I’ve never written before was intense: a CV, a bio, an artist statement, piece descriptions, exhibition proposals.  I felt like I was in a spiral of nonsensical words trying to analyze the philosophical and psychological nature of my life; moreover, the future of my artwork swung in the balance.  Soon after finishing that work, now well into April, with several proposals floating out in the world, I thought, “an art residency would be pretty cool.”  I started May out researching these mythical unicorns and gradually found myself buried in that same cave of words again.

Well, now it has been two full months since my last blog post.  I needed a break from all the words!  Today, sitting down to embark on the writing process again, I cracked my knuckles, wiggled my fingers over the keyboard, and bit my lip searching for a topic.  Looking out my front windows at the Florida landscape, reflecting on my week, my work, and what I want to say about life I could only think about how much the sunshine makes me smile. This seems to be a fitting topic for mid-June in Florida.

Sunshine illuminating petals.

Sunshine illuminating petals.

I traveled to Kanapaha Botanical Gardens this week for a beautifully hot and humid Florida road trip.  Working on preparing my portfolio and proposal for Flying High At The End Of My Rope, I realized how lacking my photography skills were.  A break from the stress of writing and painting would be welcomed and I could passively enjoy what Florida laid out for me to photograph.  It was a new Florida landscape for me presenting new artistic challenges.  What was most beautiful to me while I was there was the sunlight filtering down through the oak and bamboo canopies blessing the undergrowth with life while still protecting it from the scorching heat—an elegant dance.  I stood sweating in the sunbeams playing with shutter speed, aperture, and ISO to capture the wilderness around me.  I reflected on a painting I finished in the cold of winter, a painting expressing a longing for this very moment, I titled it SunshineI don’t often explain a specific work in too great of detail—this distracts viewers from developing their own feelings about a work, but in this case, I will offer a bit of insight into this piece.

Sunshine web.jpg

Sunshine is happiness.  The warm glow of sunlight pumping the body full of vitamin D after it has been sick for too long in bed.  Sunshine is the embrace of the first warm Spring afternoon after being shuttered up for a cold winter. Sunshine kisses the skin as it dries the droplets from playing in the water. Sunshine shouts hello in bright white orbs looking up at the sky after being inside at a work desk under florescent lights.  Sunshine stretches bright halos lazily across the soul like a slumbering cat.  It is beach days and blooming flowers, cool dips in the pool, yard work, vacation, and summer—all shown in blotches of color.  Sunshine is happiness rushing forth when there has been too much cold darkness in life.

With a front door view like this, it is easy to feel like you have been transported to the slow paced Florida life of the early 1900's.

With a front door view like this, it is easy to feel like you have been transported to the slow paced Florida life of the early 1900's.

The next morning, sitting on the swing of the second-floor balcony of Herlong Mansion in Micanopy, photographing the first cool rays of sunlight for the day, I remember the quiet slow days of my childhood in Florida.  I am not a transplant, I am a Florida Native—there aren’t very many of us around.  Tourism is part of our daily lives in Florida.  We are surrounded by traffic, big box stores, chain restaurants, and name brand hotels.  Many Floridians spend their entire professional lives catering to the whims of tourists.  We wind ourselves tightly in stress in order to help others relax in our hospitality.

But when I seek out respite from the daily grind, I don’t run off to Disney.  I try to get off the Interstate and find a back road.  Another guest at Herlong said it best, “You make time on the Interstate, you make memories on the blue highway.”  Personally, I like to take the first unfamiliar exit and keep turning until I find a road encased in live oak boughs curtained with Spanish moss.  I know I won’t be long on that road before I find a little shop with rocking chairs out front—that’s how I know I’ve found the perfect place to rest and unwind in the Sunshine.

Herlong Mansion is a bed and breakfast in Micanopy.  The mansion dates back to approximately 1845 and has twelve rooms.  It is an absolutely beautiful place!  It is impeccably clean and well-maintained.  The Inn Keeper, Heidi, was friendly, attentive, and knowledgeable!  She started the stay off with a tour of the property--I felt like I had my own personal curator!  The service was incredible!  Heidi makes fantastic snicker doodle cookies!  Water, wine, coffee and sweets were always available on the downstairs sidebar.  The only television on the property is in the common room parlor on the first floor, but with the views from the rooms, porch, and balcony, I cannot imagine anyone wanting to watch television.  The first floor porch and second floor balcony were cozy--perfect for enjoying the Florida weather!  The Housekeeper, Alexandra, was every bit the great hostess!  And Dee made a delicious breakfast; her coffee is on point!  I cannot wait to stay here again!  Thank you, Herlong, for a great stay!

Herlong Mansion is a bed and breakfast in Micanopy.  The mansion dates back to approximately 1845 and has twelve rooms.  It is an absolutely beautiful place!  It is impeccably clean and well-maintained.  The Inn Keeper, Heidi, was friendly, attentive, and knowledgeable!  She started the stay off with a tour of the property--I felt like I had my own personal curator!  The service was incredible!  Heidi makes fantastic snicker doodle cookies!  Water, wine, coffee and sweets were always available on the downstairs sidebar.  The only television on the property is in the common room parlor on the first floor, but with the views from the rooms, porch, and balcony, I cannot imagine anyone wanting to watch television.  The first floor porch and second floor balcony were cozy--perfect for enjoying the Florida weather!  The Housekeeper, Alexandra, was every bit the great hostess!  And Dee made a delicious breakfast; her coffee is on point!  I cannot wait to stay here again!  Thank you, Herlong, for a great stay!

Kanapaha is a beautiful botanical garden on the outskirts of Gainesville.  The property is expansive and hosts the largest collection of bamboo species in the state.  The garden's staff members were friendly and helpful.  There are drinks and pre-packaged snacks available for purchase in the garden's lobby.  A well-stocked, reasonably priced gift shop featured Japanese keepsakes (in keeping with the pseudo-Asian themed garden) as well as other garden regalia.  There is a small children's garden to keep young ones occupied, but this was not so much of a centerpiece that the entire establishment catered to children.  While I was there, I crossed paths with other visitors a handful of times, but it was by no means "crowded".  Pathways are clearly marked, but very winding.  The garden staff provided a map I was reluctant to use, preferring instead to get lost along the way and be surprised by what I found during my visit.  I easily spent five hours here before a Florida thunderstorm sent me to my car.  I do plan to road trip back to this place again!

Kanapaha is a beautiful botanical garden on the outskirts of Gainesville.  The property is expansive and hosts the largest collection of bamboo species in the state.  The garden's staff members were friendly and helpful.  There are drinks and pre-packaged snacks available for purchase in the garden's lobby.  A well-stocked, reasonably priced gift shop featured Japanese keepsakes (in keeping with the pseudo-Asian themed garden) as well as other garden regalia.  There is a small children's garden to keep young ones occupied, but this was not so much of a centerpiece that the entire establishment catered to children.  While I was there, I crossed paths with other visitors a handful of times, but it was by no means "crowded".  Pathways are clearly marked, but very winding.  The garden staff provided a map I was reluctant to use, preferring instead to get lost along the way and be surprised by what I found during my visit.  I easily spent five hours here before a Florida thunderstorm sent me to my car.  I do plan to road trip back to this place again!