From The Observer News (

Wandering Florida
Wandering Florida - ‘Small Moments of Grace’
Mar 15, 2007, 11:09

In the summer of last year my wife and I moved to Hernando County. We had talked about moving for years, and it was always floating around as an idea. One evening we were out to dinner with my folks in Hernando County and picked up a realtor’s newsletter. The next thing we knew, we had bought a house and we were packing boxes. We tend to move at warp speed, or not move at all.

It took us a while to agree on where we would want to move. We thought of High Springs or Gainesville. I always have wanted to move to Cedar Key. Eventually we decided that Hernando County would be the best fit for us. My wife is a native of Tampa so it would be close to her roots, and I grew up in Hernando County. My parents are here and we would be closer to them if we moved here. We decided, then took the plunge.

We bought a 1960s Florida ranch home on an acre in a neighborhood in the far eastern corner of Hernando County. We have incredible public lands and open spaces just minutes from our house. Our neighborhood is filled with old live oaks and majestic pines. I do believe our dogs think that between their new home, and the acres they can roam when we travel to places just minutes away, they have gone to heaven.

What sold us on this house, in this place, was the lake behind the house. It is when I watch that lake, and I wander its shores, that I have found small moments of grace that I will always treasure.

Lake Francis is part of a small chain of lakes in our community. It is at its smallest size now in these times of drought at roughly a few acres.

Neighbors tell us it swelled into a large lake in 2004 after hurricanes filled it to the top. I’d like the lake to be larger and deeper so I could chase some bass, or canoe across it, but there is some magic in its current size. It is essentially a wetland these days, shallow and teeming with life as it offers the liquid of life to creatures who depend on it.

Small moments of grace on the lake come in the mornings when the eastern sky fills with the sun’s light and the fog on the lake begins to drift away. Something is always moving out there. Shorebirds, ducks, frogs, turtles, and even an occasional alligator move and wander as I sit on the banks and watch or listen. The other night the moon was almost full and its light reflected off the still and cold surface of the lake. It is truly a gift to find such splendor and beauty just out our back door.

We need large, wild places in Florida where there are no houses or strip malls and there is just habitat and open space for wildlife. We need to protect our rivers, and stop treating the Gulf of Mexico like a sewer. Sometimes it is overwhelming to consider what we are doing to Florida.

When I reach that point I head out the back door and haul the old lawn chair down to the lake. Soon, thoughts of loss are replaced with amazement as a kestrel flies over, or a family of ducks waddles past. If you care about Florida these days you take your small moments of grace where you can.

You can contact Joe Murphy about his columns by e-mailing him at

© Copyright 2006 by The Observer News Publications and M&M Printing