Friday, January 28, 2022

Reclaiming Clarity

Dawn over Myakka River State Park, viewed from tree-top boardwalk. PHOTOS BY TARA O'NEILL

Dawn over Myakka River State Park, viewed from tree-top boardwalk. PHOTOS BY TARA O’NEILL

ARtful Life
Tara O’Neill

I am interrupting my regularly-scheduled column to report on a fiercely fabulous and impromptu experience…

Yes, I did have another column prepared for this issue, but a recent trip to Myakka River State Park seems to have trumped my previous topic. The park is near Sarasota and just barely ten miles off Interstate 75. Needless to say, the park is hypnotically beautiful: old-growth trees, plentiful wildlife, a serpentine river, a sparkling lake and a treetop boardwalk from which you can see for miles. All of this can be viewed online.

Along with multiple campsites, it also boasts five rentable palm-log cabins built in the 1940s by the Civilian Conservation Corps. Charming; It was in one of these cabins that my three gal-pals and I stayed just two nights, and all four of us felt immediately at home upon our arrival. Private, surrounded by woods on three sides and water on the fourth, it was a trip back in time to the real Florida. We had a kitchen and bathroom, a great room (that sleeps six) with a dining area and fireplace, a lovely back porch next to a firepit, grill, and picnic table. Clean, comfortable, utilitarian and extremely reasonable.

Wild turkeys (with babies!) criss-crossed our backyard, as did deer, and over a dozen species of birds romped and rested in our trees. The quiet was absolute. We all marveled at how easy it was to not give a thought to home and work and simply stay in the moment. It is a perfect place to get in touch with your own soul. And, after all, is that not essential to the artful life?

Without TV, phone or internet reception we all felt

A perfect palm-log cabin.

A perfect palm-log cabin.

immediately in tune with the rhythms of our surroundings. This meant up at dawn’s first light and to bed when darkness wrapped its arms gently around us. Hiking the well-tended trails, we found ourselves stepping lighter and talking softer so as not to disturb any of the critters we might come upon. (Although I could have done without the two wild hogs that went crashing and grunting across my path!)

Talking with one of the volunteer park rangers I was delighted to find out that many of our state and national parks, as well as many private campgrounds, have such cabin sites. This was excellent news to bones that can no longer take comfort in crawling in and out of tents and sleeping on the – ouch! – ground; and to the heart that craves immersion in nature.

These cabins are an easily accessible venue for painters to bring their brushes, writers their pens, photographers their cameras, and imagineers their… well, their imaginations, and to unleash themselves without the burden of distractions. It’s also the venue for “shedding one’s scales” and reclaiming a bit of clarity. An easy two-hour drive and you are in another world, yours to create and appreciate.

So for those of you who think that a sabbatical to your own life would be a dream… dream no more. Check websites for Florida State Park cabin rentals (I’m told there’s another dilly at Blue Springs above Tampa), National Park cabin rentals, and private campgrounds like KOA. (They have a recommended one in Fanning Springs on the Suwannee River.)

TIP: be sure to check to see if you need to bring linens and/or kitchen utensils (ours came well supplied).

I look forward to hearing of your results.

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