Abstract, Animals, Birds, Black and White, Butterfly, Caterpillar, Damselfly, Florida, Hike, Humor, Insects, Merritt Island, Misadventure, Nature, Photography, Story, Sunset, Swamp, Video, Water, Wildlife, Writing
The Swamp may one day claim my body. This past weekend I was found sinking into the muck, yet again. I never mean to deviate out into those gurgling and gushing, reedy and thrillingly mucid marshlands but something always draws me in.
In this case, it was vultures…
A great cluster of black vultures descended right in the middle of the great sprawling mire below and I just had to go tumbling down after them.
They wheezed and grunted and hopped about in a frenzy as I sloshed near. Then in a great charcoal gust they fluttered up and adorned the palm trees above, their crinkled heads bent with sharp, bilge-water brown eyes studying me, looking like dark-frocked, feathered judges scowling down at me.
I sifted about looking for a corpse. To no avail. Disappointed, I continued on. I was soon slopping along in happy oblivion until the mire became a river and the reeds turned into mangrove trees; and even then I ventured further. A tiny gator slipped away and a flurry of silver bodies slapped the surface of the water as they swam away in a fast flash. Little black minnows danced in the golden, tea-stained waters bathed in warm sunset.
Suddenly I remembered that I do not live in the Swamp and that these ruddy parks always have a blasted time-limit. I turned and squished back toward the great sprawling knoll where the path was. I clambered and crawled up through an impenetrable green fog of knotted grass. A merry wind casually chucked vulture feathers, globs of yellow pollen, sticks and burrs into my wild, tangled mane as I clawed along like a blind bear.
At last I popped onto the trail, adorned in Swamp.
I began to concoct a haphazard smile, realizing the squeak had issued forth from a wide-eyed dog-walking lady that had been startled by my sudden appearance. I guess she had no idea someone had been crawling around in the somnolent mire below all this time. She rapidly gathered up her canine companion and shielded the small and thoroughly fascinated terrier from my ghoulish and slovenly sight. The pair darted away as I said with a stumble, becoming entangled in some gigantic weed I hadn’t noticed, “Lovely time for swamping, eh?!” She didn’t reply…I don’t think she heard me…
I immediately became distracted by the lake on the opposite side and soon found myself in the water, yet again, joyfully fiddling with the camera. Time was forgotten yet again as the sun was swiftly hoovered away and squeezed to rust. The phone deep in my pack tootled but I couldn’t be bothered with attempting to dig it out, so I continued to film as I slowly made my way back.
Then I heard a great booming cry warble across the glimmering waters glazed in purple dusk, “PARK CLOSING!”
Oh dear…THE TIME!
I tried to assure the little black dot (that was an irate ranger) that I was hurrying as I called out, “I AM COMING! DON’T WORRY! BE RIGHT THERE!”
He was miles away…well, perhaps just one mile.
I wasn’t very near and the wind was probably erasing my calls, so I gesticulated wildly in order to encourage the ranger that I was hurrying. He continued to hop up and down.
Then I started splashing back as quickly as possible.
And then I crouched down in the water to film a rock.
“PARK CLOSING!!!!! PARK CLOSING RIGHT NOW!!!” came a very jarring, caterwauling cry.
I decided I should put the camera away…this was a very difficult chore as my arms suddenly weighed about 18,000 lbs.
I managed to make it back and even avoided being pounded by the red-faced, snowy-mustached ranger as he crammed me into the car and Sir rapidly peeled away (well, rapidly for a tortoise, that is, as Sir is a very sedate, I mean careful, driver- to the outraged ranger’s dismay…). I was able to obtain enough footage for a few wee videos featuring some minute creatures. Here is one below, shot at Pine Island Conservation Area in Merritt Island, FL. Thanks for drizzling by,
(Some feeble footage above of some hunting bull-shark chums of mine as they spilled up into the shallow swash as the tide began to recede. Is there anything better than having a shark swim up into one’s lap? I think not!)
ALS, Black and White, Cancer, Commentary, Death, Disease, Event, Florida, Hope, Ice Bucket Challenge, Inspirational, Life, Loss, Lou Gehrig's Disease, Motivational, Nature, Ocean, Pete Frates, Photography, Sea, Stephen Hawking, Steve Gleason, Story, Sunrise, Video
In general, I live a life fairly indifferent to social media. Indeed it has many lovely advantages, but I just end up spending a lot more time in Nature…being bullied by mobs of roguish manatees attempting to overturn my craggy old kayak as it wheezes through the silky water; or swamping about through black plumes of swooping bats and amorous mosquitoes, with logs of alligators leering up at me through the glorious green murk with smiling eyes the colour of tea; or being pinched by wee crabbies in the ocean and dragged along in the frothy white wake of a rambunctious torrent of sharks and tarpon.
Sometimes, too, I just snail along a pale, sandy trail that snivels through the verdant sylvan shadows, looking for the perfect place to nest and paw through an old dog-eared book for a little while.
Through all this, me dear ol’ camera abides with me as my constant companion. Matters of social media rarely invade this photo-snatching wilderness-lifestyle (with occasional bouts of city-noir-grit).
I am not completely, immune, however. The Ice-Bucket Challenge somehow managed to creep into my hushed little tent of a life. And somehow, I found myself capitulating, as my friend, Kayla, of the northern end of the county, splashed me with details.
She had messaged me, and then suddenly a video was shimmering before me, and there was my chum, blathering away at the camera. She challenged two people, her sister and someone other victim, and then, after a pause, she suddenly blurted out, “and BABS!”
“Who on earth is Babs?” muttered the filmmaker, her mum, just before the roar of a gelid waterfall cascaded onto Kayla’s head, rendering her a corpse; and a snickering man quickly bolted from the scene of the crime.
“Er…I am that ‘Babs’ I fear,” I said to the video bleeping on the screen.
“You have 24 hours!” Kayla then bassooned at me, unfurling like a resurrection fern, as she began to recover from the glacial onslaught.
Usually, the fads that scurry across the net are resisted by me. I shun them. If I happen to hear about them. I was going to happily shun this one, too. But then I probed, like a long-billed ibis probing the soft earth for grubs on a soggy morn, and I discovered what was behind it all.
“I have lived over two-thirds of my life with the threat of death hanging over me. Because every new day could be my last, I have developed a desire to make the most of each and every minute.”
– Dr. Stephen Hawking (from the documentary “Hawking”)
This was different. To me, this was an event revealing the best in human beings- their sense of love, compassion and community, and their endless capacity for Hope and Triumph.
“Concentrate on things your disability doesn’t prevent you doing well, and don’t regret the things it interferes with. Don’t be disabled in spirit, as well as physically.”
-Dr. Stephen Hawking
How could I not participate? I decided to accept the challenge.
Naturally, this act of frigid, muscle-paralyzing sluicing had to take place at the Sea. An old brine-faced block of barnacled driftwood like me could have it no other way.
So, this past Sunday, only having known about this challenge for less than a day, I dragged some camera equipment, a bucket with some ice, Sir and another poor victim, Thome, to the beach at dawn.
Time to be sluiced in some icy brine.
Sprinkled with quotes from some amazing individuals having been diagnosed with ALS, here is the video I shot at the beach, documenting the cold and salty event.
Other related links:
– To learn more about ALS or to donate- http://www.alsa.org/
– More about Peter Frates, creator of the “Ice Bucket Challenge”- http://petefrates.com/
– More about Steve Gleason, of Team Gleason- http://teamgleason.org/
– Short ALS “Health Matters” educational video- https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1X4Af…
– Beautiful documentary “Hawking” 2013 (also on PBS in HD)- https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=shbs13XM3k0
– Doleful short film, “Broken: ALS and How it Hits Home”- https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8inVFUAqe1c
Thanks for sluicing by.
She swallows the
Evening’s clear cries
of dark-dipping gulls
flung across the sunken wound
her cloudy dress of Pastel Sadness
dragging carelessly behind.