Wednesday, February 13, 2013

The Everglades

Yesterday, we drove to Everglades National Park that encompasses the lower 20% of Florida.  According to Wikipedia, it's the largest subtropical wilderness and third-largest national park in the continental U.S. (after Death Valley and Yellowstone).  It is an International Biosphere Reserve, a United Nations World Heritage Site, a Wetland of International Importance-- and one of only three locations in the world to be categorized as this combination.
The tremendous wetland is a system of forests, canals, estuaries, lakes, rivers, mangroves, fresh and saltwater.  At practically a million visitors every year, it's possible to observe 350 species of birds, 300 species of fish, 40 species of mammals and 50 species of reptiles.  The ancient, brilliant American alligator is easily spotted wherever there was a stream of water and a sunny embankment.

It's incredible to find these creatures everywhere that withstood against the tests of time, evolution, climate change, humans and everything in between.  This alligator here was an easy 13 feet in length..!
Even amidst the marshes and swamps, there was charred evidence of brush fires.
We actually didn't go too far into the park-- it requires a lot of driving, or $40 a piece for an airboat ride-- but we explored a bit of the Big Cypress National Preserve.  The bald cypress tree dominates the coastal plains of the south with their unique root system that grows stump-like knees to maximize water absorption.  I was astounded to learn that they can be over 1,700 years old!  Talk about another well-evolved specimen.

I loved the air plants nestled in the nooks of trees.  They are bromeliads with dangling roots, but secure water and nutrients by growing on other trees.  Pineapples are bromeliads, if you didn't know!

Ha, and that's the end of the nature lesson.  It was a cool opportunity to see a culture and ecosystem that is truly distinctive of the American South.  The cities are far and few between, but I had the distinct impression of struggled existence.  The Everglades greatest threat is human development.  Yet, the only people you saw were tourists and southern transplants in trailers, between the rickety, wooden crab traps, abandoned boats and restaurants far past their hey day.  Then again, we just drove through.
At home I finished another acrylic painting on stretched canvas, this time of manatees!  As you probably know, I'm quite fond of these docile sea cows.  I was trying to push the envelope a bit and go beyond my usual one-note realism of landscapes.  The original inspiration came from a painting we saw in a store, but I took my own creative license: repetition of brush stroke movement and slightly surreal, fauvist color usage.  
Yay manatees!

Major Florida vibes goin' on here.  I have one week to crank out a few more paintings, roller blade my heart out and soak up the sun before I leave for Boston, and 9 days until China!  I'm rewriting my notes from my freshman year of Chinese, but I'm worried that it won't stick.  If I won't do well on the proficiency exam, I'll end up in a lower level class relearning everything, rather than progressing.  Ah, the curse of procrastination; or better yet, selective productivity (doing everything except what needs to be done).  Whatever, things will come together as they always do.  Happy hump day!

Listening: "Waste" by Foster the People

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