David and I recently visited Solomon’s Castle, a quirky structure built entirely of junk. It is located near, but not in, Ona, Florida, which is near Wauchula, which is near Bradenton, which is near Tampa. (I placed as many points of reference as necessary to orient those who are unfamiliar with small towns in Southwest Florida.) Solomon’s Castle was built by an artist named Howard Solomon. It is located in a rural area that, upon many people’s arrival, can be referred to as “the middle of nowhere.” Mr. Solomon evidently disagreed with this perspective, instead referring to the location of his castle, which was his home in addition to being an art piece, as located in “the middle of everywhere.” I paused upon learning about this description, pondering on its meaning. How many times have I, in my exasperation over driving to an out of the way destination, described it as located in the “middle of nowhere”? Or, as my mom used to say, “in the plumb and nearly,” as in “plumb out of town and nearly in the country”? Maybe these faraway places, often requiring excellent navigation skills in addition to relying on a GPS, are actually located in “the middle of everywhere.” It’s all a matter of perspective and orientation. Someone else’s “middle of nowhere” could be my, or the late Howard Solomon’s, “middle of everywhere.” These places could also be, to their owner, the “center of the universe.” The next time I travel to a faraway, rural destination, I will think twice before referring to it as “the middle of nowhere.” Instead, I will look around and be glad I drove to an interesting location off the beaten path.
I’ll tell you what, driving to Solomon’s Castle did seem like the middle of nowhere in that we ended up on some roads which, though paved, were very narrow and if not “nowhere,” certainly they were out in the country. That doesn’t mean they are bad roads, or the country wasn’t pretty – it was, it is. It is real, old Florida scenery, complete with cattle, vultures, hawks, horses, and farmlands. But, when one arrives at Solomon’s Castle one knows they are somewhere. Somewhere special. Somewhere unique. Somewhere where an imagination was very active and there were no idle hands. It is pretty amazing to see the products of such a creative mind, most of which is in 3 dimensions. To consider that Howard Solomon utilized other people’s discards in such ways was inspiring. He even wrote the tour script that was followed carefully by a beautiful tour guide, Rochelle, who managed to keep a straight face telling the very corny lines he left for her to recite. In today’s fast paced world, it is refreshing to stop at places like this – far from the Disney created fantasies which aren’t that far from this part of Florida. The beaten path isn’t all that it is cracked up to be. Slowing down to get off that path is often very rewarding.