Closing Comments at Matheson Museum Screening

The Matheson History Museum hosted Lost Springs for an audience screening and panel discussion on Friday, June 23, 2017. The screening was an opportunity to gather feedback which will be used to strengthen the story and structure of the film. More than 210 people viewed the screening. At the end of the evening, Matt Keene delivered the following thanks:

Matheson Director Peggy Macdonald, St. Johns Riverkeeper Lisa Rinaman, Lost Springs Director Matt Keene, springs artist Margaret Tolbert, #UNF Galleries Coordinator Jim Draper and environmentalist Karen Chadwick at the “Lost Springs” audience screening June 23.

There is no other river in Florida like the Ocklawaha.

I doubt there is any river like it in the world.

With Silver Springs–that mighty artesian well–as it’s buttress, with the slow and steady flow of rain percolating from the ancient sand hills of the Lake Wales Ridge, with its dance with the indigenous, the dignitaries, the explorers and the artists.

If I were to anthropomorphise the Ocklawaha, I would say it is selfless and humble, not the least bit boastful as it weaves through the floodplain shade. It is an ancient, ancient river that drained off the newly-emerged land of Florida thousands of years before we occupied this place. In its age and wisdom, it is content to pair itself with the St. Johns and melt into the ocean with no fanfare, at peace with its coastal companion.

The Ocklawaha is a playful and quick river, ready to surprise.

It is a regal river, with that rare quality of cloaking it’s grandeur in the earthy mundane. It embodies that expressiveness one feels when entering a spring or encountering the sacred, that set-back sense of awe, overwhelming in its clarity and rightness.

It is a river willing to carry the burden of our mistakes and will be there with a parental patience, an unreciprocated forgiveness, on that day when we finally right this wrong.

The more I look at this, the more it feels like an obituary.

That has been the sharpest edge in this film, understanding and accepting the tragedy that soaked through every image we captured.

I’ve come to think though, that if this is an obituary it is us who are on the other side, the side of stubborn resistance to preventative measures, to healing. The side of stagnation.

This is, then, and must be, as I hope it is in the film, a celebration of life, a symbolic release of the river we now know, with its roughened body and patchy scabs. With its giant’s stubble, as Margaret so acutely refers to the Drowned Forest.

This is a release to become again what it once was and what it will be long after we are all gone. This is a gesture to that grizzled giant, a token of our understanding of its place in this world and a request for it to continue to reveal its beauty and it’s secrets on every occasion where we take the time to tromp through the cypress and meander along its run.

I’d like to thank Margaret for her magnetic passion in telling this story, in being a part of this story, in recognizing what we’ve lost and pushing for its return. I’d like to thank Karen and Jim for their work, their focus on the issues as well as the structure. Their weaving together of the story we’ve presented. The four of us still have a ways to go before we release the final version, but I couldn’t imagine more capable and insightful partners. I’d also like to thank everyone that’s traveled to see this film and that’s experienced this face of the Ocklawaha that is both so close and so distant, so memorable and so hidden.

Matt Keene discusses the lost springs of the Ocklawaha River.

If you feel the least bit curious or moved, remember that we are fighting for purpose and calling for recovery. Remember that the striped bass and the shad, the mullet and the manatee, still return to that earthen berm, that they are waiting just like us for this river to be free.

Thank you all, deeply, for your support of the Ocklawaha’s Lost Springs.


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