Tuesday, August 30, 2016

Florida’s Bok Tower landmark enchants with beauty of music and secret gardens


Make you the world a bit better or more beautiful because you have lived in it. ~ Edward W. Bok
Among the fragrant orange groves of Central Florida there’s a wonderful high-rise spot where carillon music filters through serene garden spaces; where visitors may wander among exquisite blooms,  gaze in reflecting pools at sky and trees, walk nature trails to the tune of singing birds and bells  — or simply sit in contemplation…‘and fill their souls with the quiet, the repose, the influence of the beautiful.’

This quiet place, rising above the bustle of modern-day Central Florida – the Bok Tower Gardens – is a national historic landmark. It’s a 250-acre sanctuary of pleasant gardens and signature 205-foot tower of pink and gray Georgia marble and coquina shell stone which houses a 60-bell carillon. The Bok sanctuary and Pinewood Estate was dedicated in 1929 by President Calvin Coolidge.

Known as the Singing Tower, this place held a magical spot in my memory. No, not because I’d been there; it was because I hadn’t been there. My only thread of connection with the Bok Singing Tower was a distant, but persistent memory — an image that would remain in my mind for decades – an image on one of those antique style post cards.

My grandparents wintered in the Bradenton area for many years. They’d always send home enticing post cards with pictures of orange groves or palm trees, or shells and ocean beaches or flamingos and cypress swamps. Once they sent a postcard of The Singing Tower.

“What is a singing tower? I’d wonder. Well, I tucked the image into my memory bank. “One day,” I vowed, “I’ll go visit this Singing Tower.”

Bok Tower  Reflecting Pool
Bok Tower Reflecting Pool
My family never traveled to Florida to visit my grandparents, like my other cousins did. After all, there were five of us; and that would be a major undertaking. One January, when I was in my teens, we finally planned to go; but then a cousin, who was my age, died suddenly. So the Florida trip died, too. Perhaps I wouldn’t have seen the Singing Tower; but somehow it remained on the backburner of my mind.

Do you hear the people sing? Go tell it on the mountain!


Gratitude flows from the recognition that who we are and what we have are gifts to be received and shared.”  — Henri J.M. Nouwen

Do you hear what I hear? Carols of Christmas ringing into the New Year…

A song, a song, high above the tree, with a voice as big as the sea. Go tell it on the mountain….over the hills and everywhere.

A new song resonates carol-like with me during this Twelve Days of Christmas, while gliding into the New Year toward the celebration of Epiphany:

Do you hear the people sing, singing the song of angry men. It is the music of a people who will not be slaves again. When the beating of your heart echoes the beating of the drums, there is a life about to start when tomorrow comes. 

The days from Winter Solstice, the longest night of the year, and the twelve days of Christmas are a naturally reflective time. Always the spirit of solstice is to usher in the light, making our own spirits brighter with ever longer daylight.

Moon of wintertime, ushering in the New Year
Moon of wintertime, ushering in the New Year
And, always this time casts its magic for me, as I imagine wonderful possibilities, in anticipation of the New Year. It’s a time of transformation. With each calendar day comes renewed hope for peace to break out across the planet. On Christmas Day we pray for peace for people everywhere…to see the star, to dance joyfully with the winter aurora, to find goodness and light in their dreams.

Christmas Day 2012 held its own magic. It was the first time my siblings and spouses had no other familial obligations. While we had a large family gathering planned the weekend after, on Christmas Day we discovered we were free – all but one brother who was flying in that day. We’d meet when he arrived.

The much anticipated movie, Les Misérables,was opening in theaters Christmas Day. We decided it would be fun to spend the afternoon together while waiting, experiencing some sibling togetherness and this amazing film.

Director Tom Hooper [The King’s Speech] set out to create a big screen version of the beloved musical Les Misérables, which told  Victor Hugo’s tragic 19th Century French tale of  redemption of prisoner Jean Valjean.