The place where I live has a big, well-kept secret—well kept because not that many people who live here even know it, and big because it’s something no other place in the world can claim—the largest concentration of freshwater springs in the world, about 900 at last count.
The secret, in its own way, is a miracle. Draw lines around the globe at the latitudes of North and South Florida, and most of what you will see between those lines is desert. Yet here in the northern Florida, we have water in abundance. Fed by rainfall that percolates for years down through limestone rock, then forced up by pressures deep within the aquifer, our springs emerge sparkling in the sun like watery diamonds.
Off the asphalt highways and down through shady glens, an enchantment envelops our springs—a magic that compels return and imprints an extraordinary clarity of experience—so much so that I now mark the stages of my life with the springs of my memory.
Rock Springs was an elementary school field trip. Wekiva Springs was a high school celebration. Poe and Ginnie—the springs of my early 20s—were where I made my heart’s connection with the springs, doing laps on languid late summer afternoons with the sun slanting down in gentle beams through the trees, my soul in welcome retreat from the pressures of college and work.
With constant temperatures of 72 degrees, our springs are cooler in summer and warmer in winter than the surrounding air. Nothing beats a cold plunge on a 95-degree day! In winter, I’ve watched steam rise and dance across the surface of the water like so many ephemeral undines.
Throughout my school years, adulthood, and even a separation when I lived across the continent, the springs have been my constant, my dream of paradise, my heart’s true treasure; I want the world to cherish them as I have, threatened as they are now by the very human poisons of ignorance and greed.
These days, at Rum Island, sometimes the shock of cold water seems like the only real thing in the world.