Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Azaleas at Bok Tower

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Bok Tower Gardens

The Book Posse headed to Lake Wales to visit Bok Tower Gardens, a National Historic Landmark. The Posse enjoyed the acres of flowers, tranquility and communing with nature. They also enjoyed the ice cream and the weather. But mostly they enjoyed not hearing the constant hum of traffic.

In the spring the azaleas are starting to bloom along with the magnolias and camellias. The Gardens cover about 50 acres. They were designed by Frederick Law Olmsted from 1924 -1928.

Visitors can thank the vision of Edward William Bok; because of him this piece of land has been preserved and the tower built. It stands 205 feet tall. Construction started in 1927 and was completed in 1929. It weighs about 5,550 tons, and is built of steel, marble and coquina, a type of limestone containing shell and coral fragments.

The tower’s bells play carillon music several times a day. It has sixty bronze bells ranging from sixteen pounds to over eleven tons. It plays a full concert at 1:00 and 3:00 pm as well as tunes on the hour and half-hour. Sit by the reflection pool, listen to the music, and watch a pair of swans frolic in the water.

The tower is located on one of the highest points in Central Florida, around 300 feet above sea level. There is some debate as to whether it is the highest point or the second highest point, but regardless, the vista from the hilltop is one of the grandest in Florida.

The Gardens sit on an ancient sand dune system called Lake Wales Ridge. The ridge itself sits on top of an iron deposit. The sand and soil display a reddish tint from the oxidized iron.

The Window by the Pond exhibit and the Pine Ridge Nature trail offer an opportunity to observe animal life. The Window overlooks a manmade pond, and provides bird watching opportunities. Along the Nature Trail the Posse spotted gopher tortoises, a raccoon and various reptiles. The Gardens are part of the Great Florida Bird Trail.

Edward William Bok (1863-1930) immigrated to the United States from the Netherlands at the age of six. He edited the Ladies Home Journal from 1889-1919. He won a Pulitzer price for his autobiography The Americanization of Edward Bok (1920).

We can thank Edward Bok’s desire to preserve Earth’s beauty making it available to others and for the existence of Bok Tower Gardens. They offer a beautiful place to visit, relax, and step back to a more sedate time.

Friday, February 11, 2011

Books for Valentine's Day

There may have been as many as three men named Valentine martyred by the Romans prior to 300 A.D.  Pope Gelasius recognized them by officially declaring February 14th St. Valentine's Day. It wasn’t until 1381, that Valentine’s Day became associated with the holiday of amour. The grand master of words, Geoffrey Chaucer wrote The Parliament of Fowles to mark the engagement of King Richard II and Anne of Bohemia.

While there is little evidence the martyred Valentines were overly romantic, a pagan celebration of fertility, Lupercalia, also occurred in mid-February. As time passed the two celebrations became one. In 1969, Pope Paul VI removed St. Valentine’s Day from the Roman Catholic calendar, but this didn’t stop people from celebrating.

Readers may choose to skip the crowds at the restaurants and movie theaters, and spend the evening celebrating with a good book. Here are a few ideas for the romantics and non-romantics.

A couple of romantic classics include Gone with the Wind and Pride and Prejudice. Margaret Mitchell won a Pulitzer Prize for her story of love and the Civil War in Gone With the Wind. Scarlett O’Hara wants the man she can’t have and loses the one she needs in Mitchell’s historic tale. Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice explores romantic love and familial duty through the eyes of the five Bennet daughters as their mother negotiates matches and marriages for them.

Try a combination of fantasy, adventure and romance in The Princess Bride by William Goldman. The story features pirates and giants, a kidnapped princess, and a dashing hero. For the adventure lover, there’s plenty of swordplay and battling evil on the high seas, and for the romantic love conquers all.

The Time Traveler’s Wife by Audrey Niffenegger combines the paranormal with love. The hero, Henry Detamble travels back and forth through time, meeting his wife, Clare, at different times and ages throughout their lives. More intriguing is Niffenegger’s use of point of view, moving smoothly between the stories of the protagonists and creating a complex story of love and “what if.”

For the historical fiction fan The Outlander Series by Diane Gabaldon feeds the love of history and the romantic at heart. Jamie and Claire Fraser were born two hundred years apart yet found a timeless love in the Scottish Highlands. Gabaldon entwines time travel with authentic historical events and likeable characters into a story that will make the reader laugh and cry at the same time.

Have a happy Valentine’s Day, and enjoy a good book.