Sharing Books with Kindred Spirits

During the past year I’ve written several posts about camping. I’m not always out in the wilderness with Herb and Buddy. At home, I like to read and hang out with friends. Here I am with my Kindred Spirits Book Club.

Our book club celebrated its third anniversary this month. Some of the members, myself included, are retired teachers. We spent most of our careers teaching children to read. Now we have time to read for our own enjoyment. We’ve discovered that books are much more interesting and memorable if shared with friends. We chose our name from Anne of Green Gables by L.M. Montgomery. In the book, Anne referred to her closest friend, Diana, as a “kindred spirit.”  Together, they shared similar interests.

Our group meets monthly for lunch, usually at one of the members homes. Before the book discussion, we chat about our personal lives. After the dishes are cleared away, we conduct our “business.” During the business meeting we make decisions about future books we plan to read, and set dates to meet. Our group is very accommodating of each other’s suggestions. A member will suggest a book title and author, then tell something about it. We bat the idea around a few minutes, and come to a consensus.

Unlike some book clubs I’ve heard about, we actually do read and discuss our book of the month. After all, teachers are very responsible regarding their homework.  Whoever is leading the discussion drafts specific questions and emails them to the group a few days in advance of our meeting. We’re a serious book club.

I love hearing the members reaction to some of the books we’ve read. Here is a snippet of one discussion.

“Why do so many books seem to be about dysfunctional families?”

“Because if everything was hunky-dory you wouldn’t have a story.”

Over the past three years we’ve read thirty-one books.  At our last meeting I asked the group to share their favorites.

Our number one book is A Land Remembered, by Patrick D. Smith…. The story of three generations of a pioneer family in Florida.

The Nightingale by Kristen Hannah …  Two sisters struggle to resist the German occupation of France during World War II.

Take Me With You by Catherine Ryan Hyde …  A burned out teacher turned foster parent travels the country in an RV.

Same Kind of Different as Me by Ron Hall and Denver Moore…  The true story of a friendship between a homeless man and an international art dealer.

Redeeming Love by Francine Rivers …   Retells the biblical love story of Gomer and Hosea in the times of the California Gold Rush.

Life From Scratch by Sasha Martin … a memoir of food, family, and forgiveness.

The All-Girl Filling Station’s Last Reunion by Fannie Flagg … A comical novel of two women who gather their courage to learn to fly, each in their own way.

Lay That Trumpet in Our Hands by Susan Carol McCarthy ….Historical fiction based on true events of racial violence set in Florida.

The Giver by Louis Lowry … Young adult dystopian novel.

Red Midnight by Ben Mikaelsen … Two children make a daring escape from war-torn Guatamala.

As you can see we love fiction, and our favorite books are those which inspire. Many of these works feature admirable characters who overcome poverty, war, and racism.  A good book is one that you want to read again. Even if you read it as a young adult, and pick it up later in life, you still learn something from it.

Life From Scratch is Sasha Martin’s memoir.  The court declared the author’s mother unfit, and terminated her custody of her children.  Sasha lived away from her mother for most of her teen years. Cooking provided a way for her to remember the family she lost. She includes recipes from her culinary journey around the world in this book.  During the Christmas season our group met to share our own family recipes and memories associated with each dish.

If you enjoy reading inspirational books, and can recommend any titles or authors, leave a comment below.

“Kindred spirits are not so scarce as I used to think. It’s splendid to find out there are so many of them in the world.”      L. M. Montgomery, Anne of Green Gables.

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Posing with “Anne” at Green Gables, Cavendish, PEI

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Florida Caverns: A Refuge for All Seasons

We pulled into Florida Caverns State Park at dusk, checked in at the gate and drove a couple more miles to the campground. Great, we need to set up camp in the dark. I turned on my flashlight and guided Herb as he backed the trailer close to the hookups. Now it was dark, very dark.  There were few lights or campfires in the area. After all, it was a Wednesday in December, with temperatures expected to dip into the forties that night.  The distant sound of dogs barking added to my apprehension.

Fortunately, we brought an extra light which Herb attached to the side of the trailer. He could see well enough to unhitch and level the Viking. We were tired after six hours of driving from Orlando to Marianna, located in the Florida panhandle. Our mission: experience the only caves which exist in Florida.

That’s right, there are caves in Florida. Millions of years ago Florida was submerged under saltwater. During that time shells, corals, and sediments accumulated on the sea floor. As the sea retreated, all of these materials hardened into limestone. Groundwater eventually dissolved crevices in the rock and shazaam! Caves were born.

Our first night in the park was eventful. Herb stepped in dog poop in the dark. By the way, it wasn’t Buddy’s. Later, I forgot to turn on the overhead stove fan when I cooked dinner and set off the smoke alarm. Buddy responded with a panic attack and tried to run out the open trailer door. After everything calmed down, and Herb left his shoes outside, we relaxed in our warm trailer with a hot meal.

The next morning Herb gave Buddy some anti-anxiety medication, and made him comfortable inside the trailer. We met a guide at the mouth of the caverns for a tour.

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During the tour we learned the Civilian Conservation Corps enlarged the passageways during the 1930’s. Known as the Gopher Gang, these young men worked for a dollar a day to dig out trails and chisel tunnels through solid limestone. They also wired the caves with electricity.  Without light, none of the calcite formations would be visible.

 

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It takes one hundred years for one cubic inch of calcite to develop. These stalagmites formed from water dripping year after year in the same place on the cave floor.

Colored lighting in several of the rooms created unique special effects.

 

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The Christmas Room

 

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The “Heart” of the Cave

The temperature inside the caverns is a constant sixty-eight degrees. With fifty degree temperatures outside, we enjoyed the warmth the rooms provided. In the summer, tourists visit to take refuge from the heat. However, during the summer rainy season, some passageways are flooded. The caverns do contain animal life. Bats flew over our heads. Blind crayfish scurried about in pools of water near our feet. After five p.m. a guide leads flashlight tours. When the lights are off, the rooms appear like they did to early explorers.

Herb and I have traveled all over the country to experience areas with different elevations and climate. Now we know we can drive six hours and feel like we are in the foothills of Appalachia.IMG_2021

When Britain ruled Florida between 1763 and 1783, this area was called West Florida and extended all the way to the Mississippi River. The Apalachicola River, located east of Marianna, divided East and West Florida. The river still marks the division between Eastern and Central Time zones. Florida Caverns is on Central Time.

The park is located in a temperate hardwood forest. Unlike most of Florida, this area is far enough north, and high enough up (two hundred feet above sea level) for the plants and animals to expect chilly winters. The forest experiences four distinct seasons and many of the trees lose their leaves in winter. We enjoyed seeing the fall colors as we hiked through groves of beech and maple trees.

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We stayed at the campground for five nights. As the weekend approached more campers arrived. A special note: Unlike other Florida State park we’ve visited, the shower house has central heating, which we appreciated on these cold December mornings. The campground also features sewage hookups at each campsite.

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Buddy in his “exercise pen”.

Florida Caverns, a refuge for all seasons, and an experience to remember.

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