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Narrative by: Margaret Ross Tolbert
Lost Springs paintings depict springs on the Ocklawaha river in North Florida, and in Rodman Reservoir, a vestigial remain of a defunct project, the Florida Barge Canal. The Rodman Dam restricts the flow of the Ocklawaha, vivisecting the migration route of fish and manatees, incapacitating the river and its ability to restore and denitrify itself, and backing up waters over beautiful freshwater springs upriver. I explored these springs during the drawdown of the Rodman Reservoir, which occurs every 4 years and reveals a hint of the wonderland under the backed up waters.
Catfish spring burbles away in the actual Rodman reservoir, waters flowing from the small cave whip strands of hydrilla in a dance of energy, scarcely glimpsed from the surface. Dive down amidst the thousands of dead and broken cypress trees to see this incredible small spring, golden and green and clear, underneath the brown waters. Look out for the alligator that frequents the area.
In the midst of tortured trees, struggling, foundering and submerging off the banks of the Ocklawaha, unified by the indelible mark of the high waters from the dam, the run leads magnificently to Cannon Springs, whose azure boil and vents seem to float in an ocean of silted darkness surrounding it. Fish course through the transparent waters, green mosses cover pebbles in the boil. As I left the spring, a large alligator led the way back down the springs run looking like the germinal idea of the Hiram Williams alligator paintings in the golden magic of the late afternoon light.
The long run to Tobacco Patch Springs has palms at crazy angles, cypress and hummocks of vines floating in the air, in odd protuberances that would touch the surface of the water at its normal high level. Margaret Ross Tolbert on the Lost Springs of the Oklawaha: Like a scene from The land that time forgot or Planet of the Apes... Florida gar crisscross the shallows at the beginning of the run, as the water picks its way through the wreckage and confusion of trees and forests that struggle to survive in the fluctuating waters. Grasses and wildflowers burst off the exposed river bottom, in a last spasm of green brilliance before they are covered anew by the rising waters. At the end of the springs run, a fierce opalescent turquoise, much like the blue of Manatee springs, greets you, in dimly glimpsed steep walls of the small headspring. Dive in the spring, and before the chocolate silt explodes into the clarity of the waters, see the startling impression of an assembly hundreds of fish aligned in concentric circles from the uppermost waters to the canyon-like depths of the spring. At the bottom, a sulky bowfin rouses itself, and just above, on a ledge with a tiny cave, a pinwheel of light floods the largest bowfin I have ever seen, as it readies to prowl its domain.
It dwarfs even the large bass and chain pickerel that patrol the waters, as well as the enormous turtle hiding under the rocky ledge. In the silence of the waters, this caucus of a multitude of fish and water denizens seems to create a rousing noise and tumult .
LOST SPRINGS will open at Thornebrook Gallery on February 9th with a public reception from 6:00 p.m. until 9:00 p.m. The show will be on exhibit at the gallery from February 10th through February 24th.
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