Driving along US 41 through Florida, the Tamiami Trail as it’s known, a show rarely seen in this nation displays non-stop just north of the road, as a plethora of birds make their fisherman’s living out of a man made ditch full of water.
When the road was built, decades ago, machines dug dirt from the north side to fill in the swamp enough that a solid base for cars to traverse the state could exist. In doing so, they opened up the Everglades to the masses for the first time, and allowed cities like Naples and Miami to begin their conquest of southern Florida.
At the same time, the road became a massive statewide dam, and the Everglades to the south have been slowly disappearing ever since.
Such is the state of our nation as a whole. Everywhere you travel, every beautiful place you encounter, at the same time a sad story of diminishing resources, of “what used to be”, accompanies.
So the story is sad, but appreciating what’s left is perhaps just as important as reclaiming what’s lost.
And what is left is impressive.
Uncountable birds, at times during every day, cover the sky, like black shooting stars in the daylight.
Though incredibly rare, panthers still patrol the swamps of Big Cypress National Preserve, their raw power more beautiful than any artwork mankind has ever created.
Alligators are abundant, and though crocodiles are rarely spotted this far north, they are known to still patrol the same brackish waters of their darker, less endangered relatives.
There is civilization here, but it’s pocketed. Most of the campgrounds offer no electricity or water hookups. Even the lone private campground isn’t “full hookups”. The town of Everglades City is primarily a hub for airboats and restaurants, even their grocery store couldn’t realistically support the town.
What’s left instead of civilization is expansiveness. Open swampland that glows golden twice a day, as the sun trades places with the night come each rise and set. Stars can be seen, layers and layers, a truly rare sight in this modernized, illuminated East Coast United States.
Silence can be obtained, true silence, the kind absent of background traffic hum and the progress of industry.
It’s as close to peace as I’ve experienced since we arrived in Southern Florida, and I’m constantly aware that we’ll need to dip back into all of the scars of humanity before we can leave the state and begin another migration westward. So we spend most night’s watching that sun go down over Mother Nature nothingness, everything.
The sun goes down, our eyelids follow, and each morning as the light comes pouring back through our van windows, a natural alarm clock, I watch as the same great blue heron fishes his breakfast out of a pond just feet from our door.