Monday, April 19, 2010

Slow Down

There's no supermarket in White Springs.  Actually, these days, there's not a whole lot of anything.  There's a post office, of course ... a couple of fuel stations which offer some convenience items ... a Dollar General store, a bank, maybe a couple of antique stores and the Suwannee Yoga Center.  And a few churches.  The State Folk Culture Center is here, and when it hosts the Florida Folk Festival in May, the town's population will temporarily swell to about ten times its usual 800-900.  It's a sleepy, tranquil place; as Greg observed today, "Life's a lot slower here, and it forces you to slow down too ... and that's nice."

In its heyday, White Springs was a busy place.  It was Florida's first real tourist attraction, drawing visitors to the healing waters of the White Sulfur Springs as early as the 1830's.  The excellent surrounding land supported a thriving cotton industry, and the pine forests provided timber and other products such as turpentine.  White Springs became a refuge for Southerners displaced by the Civil War.  Centuries prior to all that, the healing mineral springs were considered by the Native Americans to be a special, peaceful place where warring tribes could come to put aside their differences as they drank and bathed in the waters.

But all that was long ago, and though many of the old structures remain, White Springs itself no longer bustles with commerce.  It probably began its decline before the advent of the supermarket.  And since White Springs does not boast any of the components that make up the modern supermarket -- bakery, butcher, green grocer, dairy market, etc. -- I headed over to Live Oak, one of the neighboring towns 14 miles away, to do our weekly shopping.  Such an arrangement requires considerably more planning than I've become accustomed to.  But this is the way I grew up, so I know it's entirely possible! 

Live Oak is much larger than White Springs, but it's still a fairly small town.  My shopping experience was at first a bit frustrating, as it seems that the Publix grocery store is the place to meet and visit friends.  When I shop, I'm used to being able to easily navigate nice, wide aisles; I didn't care much for dodging shopping carts while their drivers chit-chatted about yesterday's church social, or the upcoming school function.  But I remembered what Greg had said earlier, and I eased up and slowed down.  I also remembered how, growing up in a small town very similar to Live Oak, I hated for people to come in and try to impose their standards on our way of life.

Leaving the store with my purchases, I was assisted by one of the "baggers," an older gentleman who commented on the day's beautiful weather.  "Now if it was just like this every day of the year, it'd be all right," he said.  

I smiled and said, "If it was like this every day of the year, everyone would want to live in Live Oak, then pretty soon you probably wouldn't want to live here any more."

"I reckon you're right," said he.  "I lived in Miami for a while and it got to be too much of a mess for me.  That's why I moved here; it's quiet and it suits me just fine."

Yes, life's a lot slower here.  It forces you to slow down too ... and that's nice.