Silence is a rare commodity these days. You can’t find it if you live in the city. There's traffic, construction, air-conditioning, lawnmowers and leaf-blowers and your neighbor’s dog. You can create silence with a well-insulated house, a set of noise canceling earphones or, the ultimate, a sensory deprivation tank. But we shouldn’t have to create silence; we should be able to just find it, even to just discover it by accident every now and then. Silence, in its organic state is magnificent, and I know a place where you can often find it. Way down upon the Suwannee River!

Canoeing on the Suwannee with my circle of friends, however, can be a noisy boisterous affair. We love the river and are often so happy to be on it for a day trip, or an overnighter, that we celebrate too loudly, and in doing so we lose that part of our connection to the river that is only experienced through silence. Seeking to re-establish this connection, at some point on each river excursion I began to request that everybody put away their phones and watches and refrain from speaking “for what seems like 15 minutes.”

The silence that ensued was full of subtle but delightful auditory accents that we could now hear clearly. Sound travels a long way on the Suwannee and you can hear a lot once you become silent. In our silence we began to hear the “rat-a-tat-tat” of a pileated woodpecker, followed by its distinctive call. We heard the screech of a hawk, the splash of a brim, or the louder slap-splash of a sturgeon. More softly, we heard the ripple of the eddies in the water created around the branches of a fallen tree, the rustle of creatures on the riverbank that were surprised by our silent approach, and the whispers of the pines in the gentle breeze. All the while, our reverie was cadenced by the quiet, rhythmic slurping of our paddles as we dipped them in the dark waters, our tangible, soothing, stroking connection to the Suwannee. Our silence empowered us and enabled us to connect to the many subtle sounds of the Suwannee, and these subtle accents to our silence now held us as an attentive and, indeed, a captive audience.

What’s particularly interesting to me is that whenever we do this exercise in silence, we always go way past our 15 minutes, so enchanted are we by the sounds of silence. So, every now and then in your quest for silence, go down to the Suwannee, be still, be quiet, be patient. You’ll hear more silence than ever!

Lost and found on the Suwannee! The other day a friend came by with something for me that he found while he was cleaning up the highway near the Suwannee. It was a beautiful, hand-painted paddle that was inscribed on one side, “Home of the Hoopla,” “There’s No Place Like Home” and signed “DJ Hoopla, 2012.” The other side said “The Tikk-‘E’ Hut.” Wouldn’t it be a wonderful long shot if this column reconnected the paddle and its creator?!! There is one more unmentioned inscription that I’ll use to verify the owner, should he or she call. Spread the word!

There is always something of interest going on at our area libraries!

"New Wine of Cherry Lake" is a living history presentation coming to the White Springs Library on Monday, Oct. 28, at 1:30 p.m. Presented by Norm McDonald, the New Wine monologue is a composite account of The Great Depression in North Florida. The recalled significance is presented from a fictional character's view, growing up on the Cherry Lake Industrial Farms in Madison County. The narrative perspective is connectively enhanced with a cappella singing segments of popular songs of the time. Norm puts on a great show and always has an interesting perspective on our history and our future.

Don’t forget the White Springs Library’s weekly events. Monday, 1-3 p.m., Seed Library; Tuesday, 3:30-4:30 p.m., Beastly Book Club; Tuesday, 4:30-5:30 p.m., Makerspace; Wednesday, 4-5:30 p.m., Teen Anime Club; Thursday, 10:30-11:30 a.m., Story Time, and Monday-Friday, 1-6 p.m., Coloring

From Katie Bernier, Office of Greenways and Trails Regional Coordinator — “As October rolls around, a touch of fall can be felt in the air — perfect for getting outdoors! Florida has more than 9,200 miles of hiking, bicycling, equestrian and shared-use trails and over 4,000 miles of paddling trails that provide enormous benefits for Florida’s economy, tourism, and the health of visitors and residents.”

Long-distance trails in the state include the 1,515-mile Florida Circumnavigational Saltwater Paddling Trail, the 1,300-mile Florida National Scenic Trail, which comes right through White Springs, and the longest segment of the East Coast Greenway, an ambitious national trail project extending from Calais, Maine, to Key West, Florida. These trails attract paddlers, hikers and cyclists from around the country and world. October is brimming with statewide recreational activities, appealing to the varied interests of Florida’s residents and guests. Paddle Florida’s Suwannee River Wilderness Trail Adventure on Oct. 18-23 is the first of several fall paddling events. More information is available online through the Office of Greenways and Trails webpage.

Don’t forget the Free Swap Meets are starting back up at White Springs’ Suwannee Hardware and Feed this Saturday from 7 a.m. to 2 p.m.

Well, once again I’ve said enough, perhaps more than enough, but, as always, I do want to remind you that if you have news you want to share, you should let “Life in White Springs” help. We’re always glad to hear about goings on in the community and will be glad to share anything that is appropriate for this column. I am thankful that we can depend on each other, and I hope that we can continue to feel proud of who we are and where we’re headed, and that we all appreciate how White Springs and its surrounding region is a very special place, to be honored and protected. As always, I look forward to seeing you out and about, enjoying your community and your life in White Springs.

Walter McKenzie


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