Monday, July 14, 2014

The Octopus' Garden

 At the Lake Bottom (detail), 2014

(Click on images to see larger.)

I'd like to be under the sea
In an octopus's garden in the shade
He'd let us in, knows where we've been
In his octopus's garden in the shade

Beatles lovers will recall these lyrics from Ringo Starr’s The Octopus’s Garden. Grammar apparently is not Ringo’s strong card, but maybe the additional s after a plural possessive is one of those British things. In any event, I borrow them here because they’re the first thing I thought of when I saw the view above. 
[You might want to click on these images to see them larger.]
A few weeks ago I happened to find myself in Keystone Heights, Florida, a small town in North Central Florida that appears to have had nothing major going on for it but a location among a variety of spring fed lakes.
One of the biggest of these, formerly covering nearly 650 acres, is Lake Brooklyn. Local lore has it that the lake’s named for the many Northerners who came down and settled around its shores.
I say formerly because over the last sixty years Lake Brooklyn has been emptying. Most of pristine white sand beaches are well above and hundreds of feet away from the nearest water. The man resting his feet in the scene above would have in days past been fifteen feet or so under water. Now the deepest place he can find in the lake isn’t even deep enough to submerge his beach chair.

At the Lake Bottom (full view), 2014
Hydrological analyses blame evaporation, diminished rainfall and Florida’s famously porous limestone foundation for the lake’s demise. Locals, on the other hand, believe Lake Brooklyn was the victim of progress and politics; namely, that a state water commission diverted water from the aquifer that fed Lake Brooklyn to industrial users and to the booming Orlando/Kissimmee metropolitan area to the south.  

Save Our Lakes, 2014

If this sounds like something out of Chinatown, it’s because that’s how some people in Keystone Heights talk about it. When a local resident burning some trash in the former lakebed saw me taking pictures, he was so convinced I was a state employee that he ran indoors to get a gun with which to threaten me. We eventually got things cleared up, but that gives you an idea of the intensity of feelings about the lake.



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