Over the past three weeks since I’ve been at the University of Florida, I have come to the conclusion that I could never permanently live in Gainesville. Ever. I enjoy the campus – it has many beautiful buildings, the grounds are spectacular and I like the overall atmosphere on campus. In many ways it reminds me of BYU. I’ll tell you why in a future post. Despite the fact that Gainesville is fairly large geographically, it has a very podunk feeling. Downtown is a reflection of the typical old, small town downtown areas, there aren’t any tall buildings, etc, etc. But I have to admit that the people are very friendly and I like seeing palm trees every day. 🙂
I tell you all of this because this weekend I rented a car and drove over to Jacksonville to spend Friday evening and Saturday morning with my dear friend Diane and her husband and two children. As I entered city limits and made my way towards downtown Jacksonville I felt so relieved to be in a “real” city once again. Huge, complicated interstate interchanges, big bridges spanning the river, lots of traffic, 5 or 6 lane highways, tall buildings – I wouldn’t classify them as skyscrapers – railroad depots, green parks in the middle of downtown, etc, etc. I loved it! I also love driving in downtown Chicago, Milwaukee, Salt Lake, Memphis, Minneapolis/St. Paul, Orlando, St. Louis, San Diego, Atlanta; walking the streets of Paris, Marseille, Nice, Bordeaux and other big cities can be wonderful, sensorial feasts. I don’t know if I would consider myself to be a “city girl” because I love being out in the country just as much as anyone… I guess I just couldn’t be completely isolated or live in a sleepy little town for the rest of my life.
I see extreme beauty in the wide, sweeping landscapes of southern Utah, the giant rocky sentinels that protect the Salt Lake and Utah Valleys, the majestic mountains in northern Wyoming, the muted tones of wildflowers growing in the plain states and the lush forests of Minnesota and Wisconsin. I often find myself examining the details of rock formations, the color of leaves, the variant hues of the sky, the ripples of wind that blow through green meadows or dry prairies and watching and/or listening to water tumble and froth over rocks as it rushes along riverbeds. I love contemplating the handiwork of God and often times I find myself looking at the land and taking mental notes of how I would transfer what I see onto canvas. Jennifer Orcutt, my high school drawing and photography teacher, told me that once someone learns how to draw, paint, or to see the world through a camera lens, he never sees the world in the same way again. He learns to see rich details and compositions in every day life and the world is laid before him in indescribable vividness. Experience has taught me that she was right.
Perhaps the exhilaration of being in the city stems from my love of architecture… I don’t know. But I can tell you that despite the dirt, bustle, the stark dichotomy between poverty and affluence and finally, the overabundance of cement and steel, cityscapes are art and can be seen as paintings. The interplay of lines, the color of the buildings or windows, the way the light hits the buildings and makes them glow… when seen with the right attitude, it can take your breath away.
Consider downtown Chicago at sunset or early evening – the view is equally spectacular whether you are in the thick of the buildings or whether you’re standing on the curvature of Lake Michigan’s shore looking north toward the whole skyline. Have you seen Washington D.C. from the air? Unbelievable. The next time you see a picture of the interchanges of the major transportation arteries in LA, try to look past the headaches of traffic jams and the possibility of missing an exit. Examine the negative space created by the various lines and curves of the highways – I promise you that there’s something quite beautiful in it all. Aesthetics do exist in cement mazes!
So back to Jacksonville. It’s a gorgeous city. The water and palm trees help create this atmosphere, certainly. But the city aesthetics are fantastic, even without them. I could definitely live there. After eating a scrumptious meal at the Cheesecake Factory (the next time you’re there, order the Luau Salad – its to die for) we drove around the hospital district of town near the riverfront trying to find a new park that features a large fountain which is synchronized to music and colored lights. We giggled over our inability to find it, but as I said, I had already fallen in love with downtown, so I didn’t mind the detour. And it allowed me to see how kind, friendly, helpful, and hospitable the people were. The park is right on the waterfront and the fountains and lights were synchronized to patriotic music. There were even fireworks a little further upriver! We had a lovely time there and we had fun taking night shots of the fountains and of the buildings across the bank. I’ve posted some of my favorite pictures below. Thanks, Diane, for a wonderful time!! It was definitely worth the trip to experience downtown Jacksonville!
**Author’s note: All photographs are property of LarkPrints Photography. Other than including my signature and vignetting the engagement photos, all pictures are unedited**