Author Archives: drgnflyz
I first heard of Mark Renz through a fellow rock hound, who invited me to hear him speak at a Rotary Club meeting in Ft. Myers. Having recently moved to the area, my sons were enjoying their holiday break from school, and were not enthusiastic about spending their time at a lecture. Mark’s passion and enthusiasm for paleontology, nature and life, shined through his every word. The boys wanted to learn more about fossils in the area, so we decided to take a guided trip with Mark on the Peace River, in search of fossils.
I cannot say enough how much we enjoyed our time with Mark. His conversational approach to teaching allowed the boys to have fun while learning, and wow, we learned a lot! Not only did we learn how to search for fossils and identify our finds, but Mark painted a picture for us about what the area might have looked like over the past few million years, and how the animals whose bones we held, might have ended up where we found them. Our day was also filled with laughter- Mark is a funny guy! Darwin, one of his cattle dogs also came along for the ride. He was calmly reserved, well-trained and mannered fellow.
Spending several hours on a dig was great for the grown-ups, but when the boy’s attentions waned, Mark gently guided them to explore the area in ways that kept them safe and engaged. He is one of those gifted and rare people who truly seems to enjoy sharing his considerable knowledge and ideas. I asked the boys to help me think of words to describe Mark- here is some of what we came up with- Smart, funny, tall, inspired, adventurous, kind.
Unfortunately, my little camera took a dip in the Peace River on this trip, so not too much to share in the way of photos, the few here are from our iphones..
Thank you Mark for sharing with us your passion and knowledge and for inspiring us to see and do and learn! You can reach Mark and Marisa Renz through their web site Fossil Expeditions
Here are some of our finds-
Everyone in my family loves to read, but my son and I do not get excited about the same kinds of books. So when my twelve-year-old brought home a copy of A Land Remembered and said I HAD to read it, how could I not be intrigued?
We recently uprooted our fifth and seventh grade sons from the only home they’d known in Idaho, and moved them to Sanibel, Florida (a place they had only visited once before.) At school, Jacob was given an annotated version of Patrick Smith’s novel as required reading. For six months prior to our move, I had tried to help Jacob find books outside of the ‘fantasy’ genre he enjoyed, without much success. Hooray for required reading!
As he handed me a copy of the book, (he actually checked an extra copy out of the school library) I shot a quizzical look his way, so he said “Mom, I know we don’t really like to read the same stuff, but you will LOVE this book, and I want to share that with you.” Wow. This book must be something, right? I started reading A Land Remembered that night and from the first page, I was swept away to a time and place and people, with whom, by the end of the book, I felt a kinship and connection. I am touched my son thought of me as he was reading this book, certainly our connection is stronger for having shared the journey through this beautifully written novel.
Jacob is now enjoying reading books in genres other than ‘fantasy’. He has picked up more Patrick Smith books to enjoy, and has branched out to nonfiction books! A Land Remembered has given me much to think about as I put down roots here on Sanibel. I hope the connections I make to ‘natural Florida’ are as deep and meaningful as the ones Mr. Smith has made.
As I mentioned, every exploration of flora and fauna on Sanibel is a beautiful confusion of the senses. I am happily overwhelmed in my early days of learning about what grows and lives here. I am first ‘wife’ and ‘mom’ and this part of my life keeps me very busy. But every day (okay almost every day) I leave my ‘real’ life behind for an adventure. I need only step into the sunshine and look about to find a tiny ambassador for the natural world. A brown anole or tree frog is inevitably perched on a bromeliad or hanging on the wall of the house, head cocked, eye upturned, gaze steady. This ambassador usually bids a quick adieu, skittering off to more important matters, and I am free to explore.
Leaving home for the beach I am barefoot, having left my winter boots a thousand miles from here. I walk down the middle of our street because here, I can. For the first few steps I am acutely aware of the absence of familiar noise. Little, if any, traffic. Rarely do I hear the distant mechanical rumblings I associate with all my days of city living. There is just the hush of the wind, and the warmth of sun on my skin.
I walk in silence for only a few moments when overhead the screech of an Osprey awakens me from my delusion of quiet. Suddenly, it seems each of my senses is competing to take in something from this ‘other’ world I have entered. Feet leave pavement, and toes sink into almost-but-not-quite too hot sand. Everywhere my eye lands there are tiny explosions of color and texture. Flowers wave brilliant red and yellow petals in the wind, motioning me towards calm, aqua water.
Ocean breeze blows. Sea Oats rustle. The smell of the sea signifies my arrival at water’s edge. The rolling body of a dolphin breaks the surface of water then disappears, leaving my eye searching for another graceful pass. A squadron of pelicans slide silently across the water in a precise single file, then rise high into an unbroken expanse of blue sky. They target a school of fish, and fall, one splashing after the other into the sea, where they fill their pouches with wiggling, silvery mullet. My ears are full of the sounds of nature. Shells tumble in the surf, each begging me to look and touch. Waves break around me, endless in their song. I step into the ocean, splash cold clear water on my face. I taste salt, feel the sun upon my shoulders and sand between my toes. I close my eyes and know that I am home.
The beaches of Sanibel are littered with treasure. People (and I mean me) pick up the darndest things! Inevitably, I hear someone, or I myself ask, “What is this?”
Identifying the ‘stuff’ you discover on Sanibel can be overwhelming. There is a staggering abundance of native flora and fauna, and then there’s what is on the beach. Not a single day since moving to Sanibel, have I walked the beach and come home without a new treasure to identify.
There are many good ID guides available, but two stand out for me. The first resource I turn to is not a book at all, but an amazing blog.
iLoveShelling is a comprehensive and well organized blog, crafted by longtime Sanibel resident Pam Rambo, which chronicles the island’s common (and not so common) sea shells, beach bling, flora and fauna.
Pam is an artist, photographer and lover of all things ‘seashell’ and ‘beach bling’. She shares in stories, photographs and videos what she, and other folks, are finding on Sanibel’s beaches. Her creativity and love for life on Sanibel shine through every post and photograph. Even if you aren’t a sheller it’s worth a visit to her blog. Her posts will transport you to our little paradise here in SW Florida.
If I’m in the mood to peruse an ID book, Florida’s Living Beaches is most used in my home. Purchased in January 2012, it is already dog-eared from use. Many shops on Sanibel have copies for sale. I found mine at MacIntosh Books and Paper.