Sunday, September 15, 2013


From a young age, we learn many of the unfortunate effects of gravity – we take our first wobbly steps only to tumble to the ground, hit the pavement riding a bike, trip, fall, and hit our heads, bang our knees, and scrape our hands. We learn that when we throw something upwards, it will come down (unless of course it’s a balloon), but we don’t necessarily learn the fun part: that what goes down will come up and that falling isn’t always in a downward direction.

Seeing as gravity is quite essential to life on earth, I have no problem with it - although escaping its gripping force once in a while is magical – especially in the springs. Where else can you be completely upside down, suspended in gin-clear water, propelling yourself downwards, then stop and hover with no effort at all?

With the flick of my finned feet, I duck dive down, dolphin kicking and feeling the onset and relief of different pressures – I feel the pressure of the water surround me while at the same time, the pressure of all stress and cares in the world disappears. For as long as I can hold my breath, it’s silent, life is trouble-free, and I exist in a world where fish and turtles swim in the sky above my head.

As I reach the spring vent, the forceful flow from the aquifer below gently whips and swirls my hair like algae as I hold on to a piece of limestone rock and gaze from the mysterious opening in the ground up towards the blue sky to take a photo. Looking upwards, I release my grip and drift freely, falling upwards towards the surface. And for just a moment, I am convinced that gravity does not exist and that falling down and falling in love are not the only types of falling that we experience.

Keeping my body horizontal and dipping only a few feet beneath the surface, the sky totally disappears. If you go way too far under and look up, all you see is the sky, and if you go only a tiny bit too far, there is a neat view of half sky, half spring- bottom reflection. But the most amazing view is the perfect mirror that the water forms as the sand, vegetation, fish, turtles, surreal blue of the spring vent, and everything before your eyes is flipped upside down above your head, completely eliminating the sky and the world above. If the sky is the limit and there is no sky… is there a limit? I think there is not.

I took the photos in this post on September 13, my 11th visit to Gilchrist Blue Spring since May.  Every time, I see something new, whether it’s a new type of plant, fish, or snail, a friendly group of people, a familiar face, or a view of the same things from a unique perspective.  I am happy to report that 5 days post-turtle-capture and tagging, there are still almost 300 turtles in the spring (via my visual count, which tends to underestimate), including almost 50 that we didn’t tag.  The white paint spots made for an even more interesting reflection at the air/water interface as hundreds of white spots reflected in the sky.

After counting the turtles, making observations about the vegetation, snails, and distribution of the turtles, I relaxed with my camera, trying in vain to capture the feeling of falling upwards in a seemingly impossible and physics-defying world with no sky.

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