“Salvaging the Real Florida: Lost and Found in the State of Dreams,” by Bill Belleville. University Press of Florida. 240 pages. $24.95.
People who spend their lives marching in the parade of what we call progress need passionate artists like Bill Belleville to help us see – or see again – the natural world. Not just see it, but feel and respect it. Not just that, but blend into it, merge our souls into a wilderness landscape and match our heartbeats to the rhythms of flowing waters, birdcalls, and swaying branches.
Mr. Belleville is a cautiously hopeful elegist and a word wizard. In his earlier books and in the 47 brief essays – most of them meditative narratives – that comprise “Salvaging,” he presents himself as a committed seeker of whatever he can learn about his own place in the world of living things, and the place of each in the whole. Most often, the whole is the microcosm known as Florida, or a region of Florida. It can just as well be a nature preserve, a fishing camp, a cave through which spring waters burst, or his semi-wild back yard in Sanford, Florida.
One theme is loss: how mismanagement, ignorance, and abuse of the land and its creatures threaten our humanity on several levels. Bill Belleville’s elegy is rich in reminders of how immense the value is of what we allow to be destroyed.
Because we don’t really know what we are losing, Bill Belleville takes the time to educate us. However, his exposition is not primarily technical, but rather a blend of science and poetry. He respects myth, and he conveys it. He teases us into caring about the apple snail and the sand dollar. For Mr. Belleville, ecology is spiritual as well as material. To read him best, read your favorite passages aloud so that your lips join in prayers of praise for the created world and prayers for the wisdom and fortitude to love it actively.
Mr. Belleville writes, “We’ve compromised the river’s watershed with hard surfaces, and by doing so, have kept rainfall from soaking into the ground – and being absorbed by natural wetlands. Then, when things go terribly wrong, we blame nature, since blaming ourselves for our lack of wisdom is simply not an option.” Can we reverse flood-causing processes like this one?
To enjoy the full text of this review as it appears in the June 16, 2011 Naples Florida Weekly and the Fort Myers edition for June 15, click here: Florida Weekly – Bill Belleville pdf
See also the third item in this 3-part review essay: https://philjason.wordpress.com/2007/04/25/book-beat-41-three-best-bets/