Thoughts on Thanksgiving, ISIS, Terror, and Being Grateful

Yesterday I was out in the Everglades backcountry on my annual pre-Thanksgiving anticipatory calorie reduction kayak trip.  It was a beautiful day—sunny sky, and the wind hadn’t kicked up yet.  OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAI was gliding over the crystal clear, copper-tinged water with a smile on my face.  But like every fishing/kayak trip this past week, something was gnawing at me.  It didn’t feel right to be enjoying myself so much and soaking in the wonderful gifts of nature all around me when there seemed to be so much hurt, so much evil in the world around us.  In France, in Mali, in Lebanon common folk like me were suffering terrible pain at the hands of misguided zealots from ISIS and other fanatics. 

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Halfway Creek–Deep In The Heart Of The Big Cypress Preserve

November 8, 2015 

“Most people cannot see beyond the Tamiami Trail to the heart of this vast region.  Many look but few see.  Few see the harmony of nature’s creation;  few understand the relation of terrain to animals, of animals to plant life, of plant life to water, and of water’s importance to the survival of man, beast, and plants.”–  From an historical study of the Big Cypress Swamp 

Satellite View Of Halfway Creek
Satellite View Of Halfway Creek

One of the real joys of living in Everglades City is being able to explore hidden wild creeks that flow slowly out of the Everglades, under the Tamiami Trail, then through the Ten Thousand Islands National Wildlife Refuge or the Big Cypress Preserve into the Gulf.  The Big Cypress Preserve covers almost 600,000 acres.  It is still home to the Seminole Indians who sought refuge here and were the only tribe never to surrender or be subdued.  One of my favorite haunts in the preserve is called Halfway Creek, a twisty turny creek deep in the preserve.  It gets its name because its mouth is located halfway between Everglades City and Chokoloskee Island.  Even on weekends it is rare to see anyone here although less than an hour from the teeming masses in Miami.

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Back In The Glades

There are no other Everglades in the world. They are, they have always been,

one of the unique regions of the earth; remote, never wholly known.

 Nothing anywhere else is like them.

Marjorie Stoneman Douglas

That half inch of snow and 25 degree temperature at my cabin in Salida a week ago were sure signals to head south for the winter, so I loaded up my travel trailer and hit the road.  Four long days later—Jack Kerouac where are you–I cruised into Everglades City which was basking in a bright sun and 90 degree temps.  Nirvana!

After getting set up in camp (I’m still looking for a condo down here), I hit the water the next day.  It was another fine sunny day with a nice breeze as I headed out in my kayak to explore the hundreds of islands that dot the waters just offshore in Everglades National Park.  Being here is like cruising into another world.  I love the high peaks, cool dry air, icy trout streams, and meadows rampant with wildflowers of Colorado.  Here I cherish the mysterious allure of the islands and marshes, the incredible diversity and richness of nature—lush vegetation, flocks of birds, scads of fish, and critters like the gators and crocs, and the outrageously Kodachrome sunrises and sunsets that all the moisture in the air generates.  Did I mention the Florida Cracker culture—quite an education for a Midwest Kansas boy.  This area was the setting for Peter Matthiesen’s highly praised historical novel, Killing Mr. Watson, which is filled with memorable and semi-lawless set of rascals whose descendants still live here.  More about that in a future blog.

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Celebrating Mom

Today we celebrate the life of a smart, classy, lovely lady–my Mom–who passed away earlier this month at age 91.
My Dad gave me my love of the outdoors, taking me fishing and bird watching as a kid…he fed my soul. Mom nourished my mind and fascination with science and nature, making sure I had the books to explore my curiosity–like birdbookthe giant Audubon bird guide  that she surprised me with on my 10th birthday. It’s still one of my treasured possessions over five decades later.
She did that for all her four children while raising and advocating for my sister Susan who had cerebral palsy. In an era when kids with disabilities were often shipped off to state institutions for education, Mom made sure Susan was “mainstreamed” in local schools before anyone knew that term. Susan graduated with a Masters Degree and went on to a career in vocational rehabilitation counseling, a shining example of possibilities for other handicapped people. Then when most people start to kick back, Mom, who was married the day after she graduated from high school, went to college at age 50 and got her nursing degree. She had a fulfilling career as an RN for almost 20 years.

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