First Words — 30 November 2013
The gifts that we give to ourselves

I look for gifts that say South Florida, but all I find is beach debris.

A “Sealife Natural Driftwood Bundle,” defined as “a piece of driftwood, seastar and twine,” for $11.99 on A “Jellyfish on LED Light Stand” for $26.99 on eBay. A set of “Seahorse and Starfish Shadowboxes” for $23.23 on Amazon again.

I try to remember the last time I saw a starfish or seahorse on our beaches. Or fancy driftwood. Or jellyfish lit up with LEDs.

I can’t.

Do any of these gifts really say South Florida to you? Does it seem someone actually from South Florida thought any of them up? If not, when did we offshore our vital gifts-that-say-South-Florida-shore industry?

We have so much to give here. How could we have strayed so far from the gentle footsteps of Julia Tuttle, who set the gift bar high for us in the 1880s?

The story goes the “Mother of Miami’’ sent a branch of fresh orange blossoms one winter to railroad magnate Henry Flagler, hunkered down up North. The story goes on that the railroad builder was so impressed he dug himself out of the dreary snowdrifts and pushed his tracks to Palm Beach, Miami and, for good measure, across the warm and glistening seas to Key West.

Tuttle’s simple, brilliant idea has held on through the years. How many of us still send boxes and bags of fresh orange and yellow citrus to friends and family up North? How many of us act surprised when friends and family shake free of their own snowdrifts and show up at our door? (Hopefully, not C.O.D.)

We tempt the world with fruit from our winter garden. We should not be surprised when the world arrives to throw us out of Paradise for a few weeks in winter. Or at least out of our beds and onto a sofabed.

This being the holiday season, our minds naturally turn to gifts – and we have found some great ones for this issue, pgs. 25-30. No, you won’t find any seahorses or starfish or fancy driftwood or electric jellyfish here. And while our collection of treasures may not immediately say South Florida, they are certainly gifts that say we care.

The gift that truly says South Florida doesn’t come in a box. You won’t find it on a beach, or light stand or shadowbox.

It’s the door we leave open to this place we love, the gift we share with the world. Even if it’s from a sofabed.


Mark Gauert

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