Along the Georgia coast, about 250 miles from Atlanta, we possess a rare and magical environment—one created by a string of barrier islands. Seemingly permanent to us mortals, these islands shift and change incessantly, becoming less at times and more at others as sand is washed away or accrued.
(The mural art you see here is done by Buddy Hale.)
It is right here at Jekyll Island, where I am now (as well as the other Georgian barrier islands), that LIFE from the mainland merges with the sea, at first pausing in the marshes, hesitating at fiddler crab burrows and meandering along well-traveled raccoon networks before oozing out into the Atlantic. Sea turtle hatchlings intuitively find their way from the hot sandy dunes to the surf past hungry ghost crabs. The foam along the shore whispers of the teeming life surging beneath the sea’s surface.HALLELUJAH for this coastal abundance! Hallelujah for the mud, the plankton, the callianassid shrimp, for the sea pansies and mollusks! Hallelujah for the plovers, grackles, seagulls, and pelicans! Hallelujah for the palm trees, saw palmettos, the live oaks with their strands of Spanish moss and the raccoons, deer, opossum, and tortoises that live beneath their shadows! Hallelujah for MOTHER SEA, SKY, and EARTH!
HALLELUJAH to the LOVING SOULS of ARTISTS who respond to the richness of this coastal environment by making ART. The ART that I found at Tidelands Nature Center, a small edifice sitting on the western facing marsh near the amusement park, is a gloriously thoughtful and educational response to the various coastal habitats and their denizens. Clearly and effectively, this ART is used to instruct! Let me illustrate!
A tantalizing silvery life-sized sculpture of a newborn Right Whale made by artist Thomas Prochnow greets visitors before they enter Tidelands’ front door. Because of the beauty of the “beast” as conveyed by the ARTIST, we humans stop to admire the baby whale sculpture and discover the informative sign next to it. We learn that this endangered species, hunted almost to depletion because of its “rightness,” is unique to our coastline. In the early winter months, mother Right Whales travel to our Georgia shore from the northeast to give birth in the shallow areas called the Georgia Bight. It is possible to sight these creatures off the coast from December to April! HALLELUJAH!
Round cerulean blue discs with mauve and green accents drift effortlessly over the heads of Tidelands’ guests at the door as they deposit the 2-dollar entry fee in a large pickle jar. Odd creatures peer down at the viewer. What are these fantastical creations?
My Chiboogamoo, a regular fount of knowledge, whispers in my ear—“Protozoans--single celled organisms…maybe plankton….” Each living thing is abstracted in clean line and form, left in simplicity to radiate out from its spinning orb. Once this mobile had captured by my gaze, I found it difficult to pull away--so subtle, so available for instruction about LIFE at ITS most elemental level! ART and SCIENCE wedded!
Advancing through the Tidelands’ center after stopping at displays that illustrate the mysterious but predictable cycles of marine life, such as the whelk, and peaking in at LIVING guests like the baby alligators or sea urchins in aquariums, the Tideland’s guest approaches ART in a big way!
Buddy Hale, a Jacksonville artist, continues to depict the multi-various LIFE of the maritime forest on a large mural that has exploded from the wall opposite the turtle tanks onto the ceiling. Viewers are challenged to find specific birds and mammals in the dark woodland painting—an excellent activity which mirrors real LIFE since much WILDLIFE can only be spotted after quiet and patient waiting and seeking.
Walking outside the Tidelands’ inside teaching facility, guests see more of Buddy Hale’s ART. His sculpture of a large gray manatee hovers next to the door with instructional information beside it. Out near the turtle pen, an architectural structure has been constructed to honor the oyster, recognizing it as a “keystone” species for the life of the marsh. Dubbed the “Oyster Gate,” by its creators, Buddy and his collaborator Daniel Harris, this ARTful archway frames the marsh. Each of its “building” blocks is a work of ART depicting various creatures essential to the coastal eco-systems.
HALLELUJAH to ARTISTS! HALLELUJAH to SCIENTISTS! HALLELUJAH to the GEORGIA COAST! Artists like Buddy Hale, Thomas Prochnow, and Daniel Harris help us to SEE what is around us. HALLELUJAH to the host of scientists from the University of Georgia, who use these ARTIST’s work to TEACH us all about LIFE! I am celebrating LIFE in its ABUNDANCE! HALLELUJAH!
LIFE is so precious and beautiful. Protect our Georgia Coast with all your Heart.