The reputation of Florida goes so far beyond it’s own borders that it’s likely people who have never been here and never will are aware that this is a land of oddities, contradictions, and downright jaw-dropping absurdity. Social media has made this a near certainty. So opening up with a statement like, “Florida is a strange place” feels a bit redundant.
Why the Army Corps? Honestly, the full blame for the mess the Everglades is in doesn’t entirely rest with them. They came in at the behest of politicians, developers and agriculture business to try and “fix” the flow of the Everglades to prevent coastal flooding in urban areas like Miami, Fort Lauderdale and West Palm Beach and the agricultural areas surrounding. By using two different rivers as drainage for when Lake Okeechobee got too high and by putting a dike around the lake itself, the course of tens, if not hundreds of thousands of years of a highly evolved ecosystem were immediately altered. Imagine that… trying to fix nature.
Like I said, Florida is a strange place.
Because I live here and benefit from what’s been done, I bear some of the responsibility for these actions, whether I directly caused them or not.
By way of introduction, this is my place. Like a majority of folks in Florida, I’m not from here originally. A long circuitous trip brought me here and the double whammy of the full force of a hurricane and a new love lead me to stay. You’ll find out more about me as I contribute a new post every other week to this blog.
I’ve grown to love it here, and I’ve learned to work with some of the spirits that occupy this place as well. Let me tell you, they are some tough ones. In my recent quests for connection and communing, I sprained my ankle while seeking the horned god, Cernunnos, who I believe to be here thanks to a large number of early Irish settlers. I found myself face down in the swamp, being attacked by fire ants immediately. It was a bad enough sprain that I couldn’t put any weight on it, which forced me to hobble on my walking stick the three miles or so back to the trailhead. With mud in my beard, exhausted and in excruciating pain a sullenness overcame me for a few days. Eventually it gave way to near ecstasy though, when I realized that I had a brief dance with the divine, even if it had thrown me to the ground.
About a month later I broke that ankle on the same hike. One hell of a dancing partner.
Florida is a strange place, and it may make people strange.
Recently, I found myself in the Everglades National Park. The presence of spirit there is palpable and so unmistakably everywhere around you. In every direction, 360 degrees, you’re surrounded by blonde sawgrass in standing water. It looks harmless but if you’re wearing shorts you’ll quickly find your legs covered in tiny bleeding knicks from the sharp edges that give it it’s name. As you continue your circumambulation, islands of cypress pop out of the landscape. Called domes, they are like lockets, hiding precious animals, herons, egrets, forests of bright pink catopsis or bromeliad perched on the cypress trunks and occasionally an alligator, waiting in the pond at the center. On my trip there, the presence of spirit became so overwhelming that I actually ended up retching. I’ve heard some in the community calling this type of experience a ‘puking in the cauldron’ moment.
This is the side of Florida that not many get a chance to see and, to me, this is the ‘real’ Florida. Wild, dangerous, strange, even while ailing from human interference. This is the side that I hope to share here with you.