San Agustín & the Castillo de San Marcos

For all purposes, most of Florida’s peninsula is part of the Caribbean. And because of this location, our history is a rich one of early colonization, Indian wars, pirate legends, Spanish gold and maritime battles; the fact that my little place in the world is the stuff of legends and old sea sagas thrills me.

Florida was in the mix of much of the New World trade goings-on during the late seventeenth and early eighteenth centuries. The Spanish, English, and French (and even the Dutch later on) were all vying for dominance in the newly discovered West Indies. Who could colonize the islands quickest? Who could strike gold and gems and thus build their wealth? With all the ships traversing through the Florida Straights laden with riches, it’s no wonder pirates also made their mark around the area.

Many a Spanish treasure ship was looted or at least picked as much as possible along the Florida coast. For treasure hunters and enthusiasts, the Treasure Coast of Florida offers a paradise of charted wrecks for recreational dives and tons of beach on which to metal detect. Many ships were lost off the east coast, due to hurricanes, running aground, or being incapacitated during battle. I wonder how many shipwrecks go undiscovered just on the other side of the Intracoastal and A1A. How much gold is still sitting at the bottom of the Atlantic/East Coast Shelf?

But it is not that activity I had planned for my impromptu trip to St. Augustine. I’m in love with the history and the old buildings, the fort, the land and the beaches. And besides, the fam damily was getting stir-crazy being cooped up inside during all the sporadic thunderstorms over the past few weeks, and I thought a trip over to the east coast was warranted… So the Fourth was spent over in Deland, fireworks in Port Orange, then a sightseeing drive up through Flagler to St. Augustine– the oldest European-settled city in the US.

I have always been in love with the St. John’s and coastal St. Augustine areas. It’s a mix of factors that draw me in: the history, the culture, the parks and beaches and the number of nature- and history-based attractions. For being so populated in the city propers of St. Augustine and up to Jacksonville, there’s still a lot of empty property. Land. All around. We love seeing all that expanse.
Inland, in Deland, and northward, it rained just as we had anticipated. It had rained most of the drive over. Thursday late morning had us in plenty of sunshine, though, as we strolled to the entrance into the Castillo de San Marcos.

So the sporadic thunderstorms that had followed us from inland west coast to inland east coast did not bother us as we walked in the heat along the gunwall of the Castillo de San Marcos. But then, Florida has her way of relieving even the worst summer heat–if you can be lucky enough to be on the coast. Her sea breezes are a literal thing– cooling coming off the Atlantic, and much appreciated. And in that heat, it was relieving, though at that point, even the rain would’ve been welcome.

Heat and sweat and all, though, the Castillo never ceases to stir goosebumps out of me. The oldest stone masonry fort in the US, the Castillo is as close as you can get to old European history in America. If walls could speak, indeed. I have a strong want to know. And supposedly, the fort is haunted. I can understand why many would think so.


As for spiritual phenomenon, I can only say I feel as though the movement of bodies, the battles, the events over time, the sheer humanity of this particular place, moves me deeply, like the fort itself is the collective spiritual remnant of everyone and everything that took place here. Greed, it makes me think. So much thrown into the winds so Europeans could make their mark, demonstrate their power and wealth. Anybody can head to Wikipedia and read about the history, but it’s the feel and experience of the place. The physicality of it. The coquina stone that still stands after 450 years of sand and sea, storm and wind. [Mind you, the masonry fort was not present during Menendez’s time in 1565, and construction wouldn’t begin on the Castillo until 1672, over 100 years after Menendez’s founding]

How can that not inspire just a little bit?

The taking of the land from the Timucua is not lost on me, however. The marshlands and coastal plains were theirs before any stone fortress or canonfire or churchbells ringing across the “Place of Slaughter” [Matanzas Bay]. Yet the foreign invaders would build a lasting tell of their landing and subsequent conquering of the wilds that were Florida.
I wonder about the Timucua tribe and how they must have perceived the arrival of Ponce de Leon in 1513, and later Pedro Menendez de Avilés and his crew in 1565. If it was any different than the New England tribes’ interaction with European settlers. I wonder how long it took during that century before European disease and corruption killed them off. I wonder at what Florida would be like if the Spaniards had never ventured upon the Caribbean.

And yet I’m fascinated by the enduring history, the sagas of discovery and expedition, the underlying desperation to control outposts on the fringes of the known world, just to exert power over nations. What kind of world was that? How is ours any different today?

Grounding in the Sea

The beach is one of those places I go when I’ve a need to ground myself– to feel the connections and energy currents that help release the constraints and stresses of modernism.

It is here at the shoreline, at this place of in-betweens, where I let my feet sink into the sand as the surf rolls in and out, pulling with it that which I choose to let go. It is remarkably easy to do, like a sigh of contentment exhaled from a happy soul.

The Sea is so effective in Her ability to heal, cleanse, and recharge, that I favor grounding my energy in this manner. Earth has its methods and own currents of energies, but the Sea is so mutable, so ever-changing, that these characteristics are what makes seeking comfort there so desirable.

So how can one ground themselves, in general and at the beach? Is it all just an elaborate placebo effect? Does grounding really work?

Just start by getting there. [Or at least get outside in nature if you’re not able to get to a beach.]

Once at the beach, find a spot near the shore to set yourself up. Walk in the surf, search for shells and treasures, let yourself become aware of the salty breeze, the sound of the waves and gulls, remind yourself not to hurry. Seeking solace in the sea is just as effective as using Earth to center yourself.

Stand in the surf, with your feet shoulder-width apart, and let the surf rush in to cover your feet, pulling the sand you felt was stable away as the waves recede. Each time the waves roll in and back out, your feet will sink further into the sand. Each time the waves pull away, the sand with it, imagine that all your stressors, anxiety, exhaustion, stale energies (or anything you feel you need to release) are being pulled out to sea with the sand that leaves the soles of your feet along with the waves.

Let yourself be in the moment, in the present. Imagine you are an electrical current in human form, and let your feet be the conductor through which the polarities exchange: absorb the flow of energies from the ground through your feet, while allowing the positively-charged energy currents release through the crown of your head along with those emotions, negative thinking patterns, etc. We are healthier when we vibrate in frequencies in tune with the environment. Birds, fish, mammals–they all operate at this frequency. When we attune ourselves to this frequency, we ultimately give permission for all that is at ease to enter us, as well as allowing that which doesn’t serve us to float away with the tide.

Pray, chant your certitude, meditate on your strengths and vitality. There is an ocean of wisdom in front of you when you stand on the shore, and the answers you seek can be better realized through the practice of grounding yourself.

When you attune yourself with the energy frequencies of Earth and Sea, what once were obstacles should now be nothing more than signposts pointing you in a different direction. No blockages, just alternate pathways. Similarly, you can catch a suntan while meditating. Soak in the solar energies, pray and meditate on the force of life given to us, and the vitamin D will do the rest.

Science has already given us proof of the healthful benefits of soaking in nature at the beach (but hey, intuitively and instinctively we already know), and it’s no doubt consciously grounding ourselves while beach-going can heighten these benefits and bring spiritual health around to being in tune with nature–both our innate/inner nature and that of our physical environment.

Where are some favorite spots of yours to go to ground?

 

Spring

My favorite season is spring…

I have pondered beyond mere daydream, letting my heart & soul wander to where they will, and have arrived at conclusions that bring me joy.

The East Wind stirs; blows the Breath of Life across barren soil and the browned and deadened things left behind after a short Winter’s calling. I feel Spring coming.

The way the sun plays bright fingers through the trees’ freshening greens, the light that dances upon hardy Winter Rye, still flashing verdantly, oppositional to the brown Florida Bahia, killed with the last January frost, speaks to me of growing seeds.

I have favored Spring even before my heart could recognize the cause of such connectedness to earthly things. This is the time of awakenings, the beginning of all things and the ending of all things before. Weeds and thistles give way to dandelions and lyreleaf, mullein will still hold out, but primrose slowly creeps up to take her place.

Winter calls me home to pray, reminds me of ancestors and reckoning and solitary pursuits, and Summer fires my Spirit to craft and make music, Autumn is stern and working class, demanding preparedness and steadiness in the months thereafter. But Spring pulls my heartstrings, makes magic of my feet. I feel new and reborn and almost glowing. I hear more from the plants, I can talk longer with the trees, having caught them waking and joyous at the turning to the season. Birds always visit when the Land is budding again.

So it is here, where I feel Spring coming, that I feel most pleasant. Yes, Spring is my favorite season.