I have been somewhat scarce lately. I was a bit under the weather all last week. I don’t know if it was a case of nerves, with the stressful situation we are going though, or a virus — but the headaches, body aches, and sore throat were crippling at worst; mind-numbing at best. I was feeling quite a bit better by Friday, so when Rob had to go to a doctor’s appointment an hour away, I figured we’d all go along with him so we could turn the trip into a little educational excursion (read, “field trip”).
That Friday excursion led us to the Crystal River State Archaeological Site in Citrus County, Florida.
This pre-Columbian site, also a 61-acre state park and National Historic Landmark, is a six-mound complex believed to have been started by the Indians of the Deptford culture (500 B.C. – A.D. 300). Within the complex are burial mounds, temple mounds, a plaza area, a large midden mound (village mound), and two stelae (which are not generally found in North America, and may have been used to mark the solstices and equinoxes — no one knows for sure).
Artifacts found at the Crystal River site, dating from 200 B.C. to AD 1400, suggest that it is one of the longest continually occupied sites in Florida (1600 years). The site was also believed to be an integral part of a major trade route from the Yucatan to the Ohio River Area.
This first photo was taken from atop the first temple mound, and the second photo was taken from the base of it. I was impressed with the height of the mound (this is Florida, which means there are no natural hills), until I found out that this is only 1/3 of its original height. Apparently 2/3 of the structure had been removed by a previous owner of the property.
All of this Indian artifact exploration, proved to be a bit boring to the children — but the wildlife in the area grabbed their attention; particularly the large black snake, and the mating lubber grasshoppers. Aren’t they beautiful? (Apparently it is mating season because there were pairs of them everywhere!)
After eating our picnic lunch, coating our bodies with bug spray, observing the local wild life, and exploring the park and museum, we headed for home. It soon became a two-turtle day! After pulling into our neighborhood (which backs up to a nature preserve) we stopped not once, but twice, to rescue two separate turtles from the roadway.
I failed to get a good look at the first one, as my husband climbed out of the van to deposit the lost fella back into the lake, but he appeared from a distance to be either a Pennsylvania cooter or a red-belly. The second, which I HAD to get a photo of, was definitely a softshell. I had never seen one out of the water before.
Saturday, while an un-eventful day, turned out to be a much TOO exciting evening.
We headed down to the local beach to watch the sunset. The beach’s parking lot circles a small playground, with the beach on the other side of the parking lot. It was a beautiful, mild evening; breezy and warm. The children had fun playing. The olders played hide-and-seek and freeze tag with another group of kids, while I kept Rey on the toddler playground and swings.
After the sun slid behind the clouds, the crowds dwindled. There were soon only one or two other families occupying the playground. From where I was pushing Rey on the swing, I could see everyone…except Curly-Top! She was gone! — VANISHED! I asked the older children. They all said they hadn’t seen her in a while. I thought I was going to collapse. I could *see* the whole playground. She wasn’t there!
I feared this would be the last ever photo of her! (She’s the one on the right).
During my panic, Boo (age 6) piped up, “I think she said she was going to go swim.” More horror! I had never even entertained the thought that this child would leave the playground without telling us, much less cross traffic to do it, and then enter the water (which she knows she is NEVER to do without supervision). We raced to the beach, branching out in groups of two or three. Rob ran to the concession stand to have an announcement made. I stood in terror, visually scanning the beach, with no pink bubble suit anywhere in sight.
In what seemed like several minutes later (but was actually only seconds), I saw the three oldest children DRAGGING Curly-Top in from the water. She had been obscured by a stone retaining wall, and when they came to get her she realized she was in trouble and had tried to flee, running in the opposite direction.
This story has a happy ending, but while the scene unfolded, all I could do was replay the footage on the television of the Jessica Lunsford case…and far too many stories just like hers; stories of children who have been abducted and faced tragic brutal deaths.
I always thought I paid close attention. I always thought my children wouldn’t be the type to just wander off. I never thought anything like this could happen to us. This was a harsh wake-up call. Wow! It can happen so quickly! And if it could happen to us, it could happen to anyone.
I have never been so thankful to see my little Curly-Top as I was on Saturday evening — even amidst a full-blown temper tantrum. Too much excitement for one day!
Sunday, thankfully was a little more low-key. We headed over to Weeki Wachee Springs, where we have a pass to get in free. The boat ride didn’t materialize, and the mermaid show was rained out, but the children enjoyed the animal show, where they were able to observe enormous hairy spiders and an array of reptiles and amphibians.
These are my favorite residents of the park though! Peacocks roam freely throughout the park. We even caught a glimpse of a peahen with a chick.
After a thunderstorm forced us out of the park, we headed home to play pool and ping pong at the neighborhood clubhouse, and enjoy the sunset from the clubhouse pool between thunderstorms.
Now off to face another week!
*NOTE: If you ever happen to wander off the beaten path while visiting Florida, and would like to explore little towns with funny names like Weeki Wachee, drop me a line. I can recommend some fantastic little mom-and-pop restaurants in the area.