The Nature of Peace 

Find tranquility and peace at Florida’s Forgotten Coast. Nature softly beckons you to this peaceful wonderland. Picturesque rolling hills dotted with grazing cows usher you into Florida’s Forgotten Coast less than an hour’s drive from Tallahassee. Low lying clouds frame this idyllic setting along a winding quiet country road. This trip is easy on your eyes and your wallet. For the less than $20 a car, you can visit two of Florida’s hidden gems. 

Kayaking, hiking, camping, angling await you at Wakulla County. There’s an abundance of outdoor recreation and wildlife at Edward Ball State Park and St. Marks National Refuge at Apalachee Bay on the Gulf Coast in Wakulla County. 

Edward Ball State Park is home to Wakulla Springs. Take a refreshing dip in the swimming area and enjoy a relaxing cruise along Wakulla Springs. Get a glimpse of manatees, alligators and other wildlife in their natural habitat. The State Park also offers hiking trails and outdoor benches with grills. Stay the night at Wakulla Lodge and grab some ice cream at the parlor inside the lodge. 

Climb a beautiful lighthouse; witness a breathtaking view at St Marks.

Established in 1931, St. Marks is a habitat for migratory birds and other wildlife. During a hike, you may see deer, wild turkeys, owls, amphibians, reptiles and more. The lighthouse constructed in 1831 is on the National Register of Historic Sites. The light keeper’s house is attached to the 88 foot tower. Recently restored to its former glory, St. Marks Lighthouse reopens to the public in September. 

Your visit to Wakulla County will leave you with postcard memories and peaceful experiences and a bundle of cold cash in your wallet. 


Zero Chance of Manatees?

When I purchased my ticket for the Wakulla Springs boat cruise, my only question was “Will I see manatees today.” I love manatees and I had planned this side trip just to see them. But the man at the ticket counter replied there were no reported sightings of manatees for the day. With my hopes somewhat dashed, I purchased my ticket for the 4 pm cruise. After all, the forecasters predicted rain and there had been no rain. Could the manatee forecast be wrong? Zero chance of manatees, I wondered. 

Five minutes into the tour a huge manatee swam beside where I was sitting. I gave out a loud cheer. The guide was startled by the manatee and stopped for photo ops. He said this manatee sighting and a bird piercing a fish would be the highlights of tour. But he like the forecasters, was wrong. For a few minutes later, we watched a mother manatee nurse her calf before they swam away. Then sometime later, we saw a tiny manatee join his older sibling for a swim. Mom was overseeing the brood on the edge of the water nearby.

We had witnessed so many precious moments it was hard to believe that I had seen this all in the course of an hour. Before we ended the cruise, another manatee was sighted. Seven manatees in all. 

At the end the cruise, the captain said he had never seen so many manatees on a cruise during the Spring. I smiled lifting my hands with heartfelt gratitude to the One who had sent manatees and sunshine my way. Zero chance of manatees? Hardly. 

Honoring Those Who Soared

When I visited Titusville earlier this year, I was touched when I saw a street sign honoring Challenger Astronaut Ronald McNair. He was one of the seven astronauts who perished during the launch of the Challenger. A physicist and NASA astronaut, I’m sure he and his family had high hopes for his future. 

Like the most of the nation, I watched with horror as the Challenger exploded in 1986. Often our nation’s military heroes die on some foreign soil, a distant place on a map. Their deaths sadly seem so far removed from us. But our televisions brought this sorrow closer to our hearts and living rooms. 

In Titusville, I thought about the community, family, and friends who may be still grieving this loss. The “McNair” street sign became a memorial. On Memorial Day, we reflect and remember those who served our nation with the greatest of all sacrifices. We must also remember their loved ones who daily struggle with the emptiness in their hearts. Let us never forget. 

Charting a new course in London

I traveled to Trinity Buoy Wharf to sketch London’s only lighthouse, Bow Creek or Trinity Lighthouse, a day before my visit to see the paintings of JMW Turner in the Tate Museum in London. I admire the art of Turner and was excited about my upcoming visit to the Tate Museum. There was much to see-Turner bequeathed over 300 paintings to museum.

But first I was headed to the lighthouse. As we got off the Tube, we followed the directional signs to Trinity Buoy Wharf. Once there, we happened upon a lightship, in addition to the lighthouse. Two light vessels at one stop! Amazed, I hurriedly sketched the lighthouse. As the wind flipped the pages, I quickly sketched the lightship while my daughter took shelter in a nearby restaurant.

As I sketched the lightship, I thought about Turner and pondered how I could pay tribute to him. Pausing for moment, I became spellbound by the lightship that was now converted into a studio. It seemed pregnant with stories of its past.

Back in the United States, I looked at my yellow foreground and became inspired when I read how much Turner used yellow. According to the book How to Paint like Turner, “Some of Turner’s most daring and experimental innovations centered around his use of yellow. It seems to have been his favorite color and he used it liberally…For more than thirty years his use of yellow became one of the most frequently mentioned aspects of his art, with critics variously accusing him of ‘yellow fever’…”

Shop local at Made in Jax 

Experience the best of Jacksonville, Florida while exploring unique art, handcrafted items and custom jewelry at the boutique shop Made in Jax at the Jacksonville Airport. Over 60 local artists are showcased. 

Stop by to see my Archival Gliclee Lighthouse watercolor prints. Each print in the Escape Artist series is signed and features a narrative with visitor information, interesting facts and a fascinating tale. To learn more about me, visit my website, Elaine Marie Artist 

TGIF: Artists Explore and Paint Nation’s Oldest City 

Artists converge on the coastal town of St. Augustine, April 21-29. The Plein Air event features outdoor painting at historic sites, brunch, closing reception, demonstration, exhibit and more. 

Artists will begin checking in on April 21. The day follows with an orientation brunch and quick drawn on April 22. Celebrity artist Roger Bansemer gives a painting demo on April 26. He is one of the hosts of the PBS seies, “Painting and Traveling with Roger and Sarah Bansemer.” Roger was the show winner in last year’s event. The Plein Air Paint Out concludes on April 29 with a reception and Nocturne painting session. Following the Plein Air event, there will be a juried exhibit, May 4-27 at the St. Augustine Art Association on 22 Marine Street. 
There is a fee to participate as an artist in this event. For more information, call 904-824-2310. 

TGIF: Florida Lighthouse Day Getaway

Enjoy a day of fun in the sun. This lighthouse getaway features a day of celebration at two of Florida’s evocative lighthouses and much more. Experience snorkeling, shellings, swimming and exploring nature. You’ll discover shaded pavilions along unspoiled pristine beaches. 

Don’t miss this special opportunity. Limited spaces are available for climbing Port Boca Grande Lighthouse and the historic Gasparilla Lighthouse on April 21. Only 108 people will be permitted to climb the Gasparilla Lighthouse and the Port Boca Grande lantern room is open only on this one day a year. 

Savor cake and lemonade and join in on a host of festivities. Children nine and under are free but must be 44 inches. The cost to climb each lighthouse is only $5 per person. Cost for parking at Gasparilla Island at Florida State Park is only $3. 
For more information visit