Saints of Old Florida was released in 2016.
What hasn't happened since then!? Our area endured category 5 hurricane Michael in 2018 and is still rebuilding. Together we weathered a global pandemic, and from a national exodus to fresh salty air, we've seen significant growth in our otherwise non-commercialized area. Through considerable change, I've found it even more critical to embrace daily joys and hang on to them. And for me, I find much of my happiness in place.
When I began co-authoring the Saints book, I had recently left Atlanta and moved back home to Port St. Joe, Florida. I craved everything that was home – nature, beauty, family, pace, and gentle acceptance when striving to check boxes of young adulthood that didn't fit. Home provided that for me, and that meaning of place became a salve, an artful muse, and a true north.
Yet, since 2016, I've grown and changed, too. Reflecting on my experience collaborating on Saints of Old Florida – conception, creative directing, and writing sonnets to a place I loved – it grew me in countless ways. The book helped me to find my voice and to embrace my love for the creative realm -- beauty, tactile, words, and pictures.
Saints of Old Florida was always about appreciating place, too. You may know that this stretch of rural coastline is revered for its grit, honest beauty, and friendly people – but beyond that, Saints celebrates a spirit, too. The energy found along the Florida Panhandle that those with a keen eye and appreciation for "The Simple Life" can easily engage with. The holy things that we cherish daily – a dozen raw oysters, bare feet on pine porches, dinner around the table, and nights spent too long at beach bonfires. These experiences are the faithful "Saints" of Old Florida.
Upon release, the book was coined a "love letter" and a "romantic travelogue." The enthusiasm for a self-published book blew me away. I remember driving to the next county to buy the Sunday newspaper that ran a front-page feature on launch weekend. Every moment of its debut was enriched and magical for me. The former editor of The Bitter Southerner, Chuck Reece, described it as a "remarkable, whopping book," and Garden and Gun magazine called to run a feature. I traveled to book events, and signings, where we had raw oysters, splashed with Crystal hot sauce and Oyster City beer -- a new thing then. (Thank you to our kind, generous hosts!)
Everything related to the book has since become a warm memory. So many of the storied scenes filling the book's pages are now mere memories, too. So many were washed away by Hurricane Michael, and some escaped with the growth storming into our small "Forgotten Coast" counties like a wind. I cry seeing the towering hotel next to my parents' historic home on St. Joe Bay. It seems unreal that the iconic Apalachicola Bay is closed to oystering, possibly indefinitely.
Much has changed here. Yet I still feel that immense compass of place in my life as my husband and I have since put down roots in Apalachicola. Nothing incidental, as last year we bought our first home, also featured in the Saints book. True north shines bright.
Suppose you want to find tastes of Old Florida that still exist or honor the ones that have gone on. In that case, I encourage you to enjoy Saints of Old Florida with fresh eyes and embrace it as a memoir. Even if you already have a copy of the book, I hope you'll use this pre-order as a chance to gift, share with loved ones or start your own stash for safekeeping.
So often, once the stories of Old Florida are shared, a sincere hope to preserve and protect this place is born. As I renew and re-print this meaningful memory of a book, I hope this will happen for our BECASA family.
A place and spirit that we can always keep alive in our hearts.
Cheers to Old Florida,