October 01, 2014  •  32 Comments


Lake Bradford was our backyard for 12 years.  That's where the kids grew up, learned to swim, and came to love nature as much as I do. Where the Junior Museum (they considered an extension of our backyard) was a short bike ride or paddle away. Where the sunset reflected across the lake through silhouettes of the cypress and tupelo trees. From where we could paddle up a long and winding canoe trail through narrow cypress-lined creeks that connected our lake with Lakes Hiawatha, Minnehaha, and Cascade, and into wild swamps of the Apalachicola National Forest.  Paradise right on the edge of Tallahassee.

Lake Bradford SunsetLake Bradford Sunset Cypress PanoramaCypress Panorama

I have paddled these waters countless times over the past 35 years, and though I now live in woodsy Wakulla County (south of Tallahassee), I still return to visit the Chain of Lakes several times a year including every October 1st. That is the day our son, Daniel, died in a boating accident while fishing there in front of our home exactly 15 years ago.  Fishing is what he most loved.  He was almost 12.  It was a time of  inexpressible grief and enormous adjustment, but also a time of great lessons and gifts - about priorities in life and love and death - from a boy whose vivacity and generosity had never been in short supply, even in death.  For many months after his death, we had unexpected visitors come to our yard from the lake for what seemed like condolences  - the kingfisher who took up fishing from Daniel's "secret spot" on the dock for weeks, the bald eagle who lifted a giant bowfin from just beyond our cypress while Marley and I watched, the white squirrel who took up residence in our live oak by the lake, the otter who hung out under our dock for days... to name a few.  All rare or first occurrences.

White SquirrelWhite Squirrel

So with reverence and a tender heart I pay homage to Lake Bradford and the Chain of Lakes, and through it, I also honor the memory of my beloved son.

Daniel in Lake BradfordDaniel in Lake Bradford

Cypress_SilhouetteCypress_Silhouette Catch of the DayCatch of the Day Bradford CreekBradford Creek Exploring Bradford CreekExploring Bradford Creek Dock in FogDock in Fog Baby_DanielBaby_Daniel Fisherman DanielFisherman Daniel Textures of the SwampTextures of the SwampDried Dog Fennel and Spanish Moss laden Cypress Trees at Lake Bradford. Sunset CanoeSunset Canoe Oaken Shadow WebOaken Shadow WebLake Bradford BelovedsBeloveds

Daniel and Marley, best buds

Net FishingNet Fishing Swim LessonSwim Lesson

We saw times of flooding...

Lake Bradford FogLake Bradford Fog Fire Ant IslandFire Ant IslandFloodwaters call for desperate measures. By clinging to each other, the fire ant colony creates a floating island. Apalachicola National Forest, FL

Fire Ant Island

And times of drought...

Hiking the Paddling TrailHiking the Paddling Trail

Crystal Sue Jeff and Jupiter hike the paddling trail.

Double Tree DryDouble Tree Dry

Lake Bradford and beyond is where Crystal and I had our first date - paddling and a picnic.  A place and activity that bond us still. 

October FirstOctober First Silhouette from Sunrise MistSilhouette from Sunrise Mist Hiawatha LakeshoreHiawatha Lakeshore

Crystals CathedralCrystals Cathedral

A prime place for photo-adventures.  Not long after John Moran and I met, I took him there.  We both got portfolio shots and became fast friends.  And from his deep well of knowledge and experience,  I began receiving invaluable teachings about "seeing outside the box", about lighting, and about impeccability of composition. Below is my version of Double Tree - a shot John spotted, and through which he showed me the value in spending a couple hours or more making a single photo. 

John & PodJohn & PodLake Bradford paddle with John Moran

John setting up his Johnnypod at the double cypress

Double Tree VistaDouble Tree VistaLake Bradford paddle with John Moran

 Needless to say, I have found the chain of lakes a place of heart and healing, and one of boundless beauty which I sometimes am able to capture through my lens.

Lily & CypressLily & Cypress Light at the End of the TunnelLight at the End of the Tunnel Bradford CreekBradford Creek Pre-dawn Mist Lake BradfordPre-dawn Mist Lake Bradford Sticky SwampSticky Swamp Lake Hiawatha GrassesLake Hiawatha Grasses Dog Fennel AbstractionDog Fennel Abstraction Lake Bradford SunriseLake Bradford SunriseLake Bradford paddle with John Moran Cascade_Cypress_SwampCascade_Cypress_Swamp

Sail on, Son Daniel, and thank you for teaching me so much.



I’m not sure what led me to thinking about your son or that day this morning but my wondering thoughts led me this site. My friends and I were in the boat across the lake that came over to assist after we saw the collision. This memory returns to me from time to time. Mostly small visions that cannot be forgotten. As a parent now, I cannot imagine the horror you all went through that day. I hope time has healed these wounds for you.
Gary Weinkle(non-registered)
Yes, with all, a deeply touching sharing, thank you
Tara Tanaka(non-registered)
Thank you for sharing your photos and your heart with us. I'm so very sorry for your loss.
Chuck Jacobsen(non-registered)
Fifteen years and yesterday.
Geoff Brown(non-registered)
Thanks for sharing insights of how you were able to reach and find beauty in such a personal place of darkness and loss.
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