Thursday, October 02, 2008

Paynes Prairie

I moved to Florida after what had been up to then a lifetime of living in Texas. The shift from the big city of Dallas to the much smaller city of Gainesville was abrupt in many ways, but one of the most unexpected adjustments to be made was to get used to the trees that are EVERYWHERE! I couldn't see anything. Out West, if you're driving along the highway, you can see houses and farms and towns way before you get there. In the East, houses and farms and towns tend to be surprises because of all the vegetation shielding them from view. Within a few weeks at UF, I felt claustrophobic while outdoors. Until one afternoon when I went for a drive south of town and all that foliage parted and I emerged onto Paynes Prairie.

What a relief it was to see the horizon again!

My undergraduate botany and ecology courses in Texas focused on tall grass prairies rather than wet prairies, so it was bewildering to walk along the boardwalk into the prairie and be over water and amongst non-grassy plants. Spotting a herd of buffalo heightened this sense of being out of synch with time and space. Nevertheless, over the next several years, the prairie gave me a place to exhale.

Good thing I didn't live there when it was all one big lake.

For more information about Paynes Prairie:
Paynes Prairie: The Great Savanna, A History and Guide, by Lars Andersen (Pineapple Press, 2003)

Friends of Paynes Prairie

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