Walking the Everglades, camera in hand, surrounded by Spanish Needle, now full in bloom, like miniature daisies, which enjoying Florida’s daily rains and the lack of weed-whackers and obsessive suburban lawn community regulations, has proliferated all along the canal, I heard them before I saw them, the bees. Not normal, almost cuddly honey bees, like the bumble bees of my childhood which seemed quaint by comparison, but large, all in black ferocious looking things, set off against the white flowers of the weeds, ignoring me because I posed no threat, their faith in their numbers, which were many. My return to Everglades photography has taken five months, me having given up my weekly excursions around the time that the perfect storm of convenience departed, with my oldest boys finished with the spring college classes, and the stress of Holy Week and Easter and the loss of my office administrator due to budget cuts.
One small step for me, I suppose, covered in mosquito-proof clothing sweating under the 95 degree heat and humidity that is Florida in the summer.
In the winter and early spring the canal would be full of hundreds of birds stopping over on their journey north, their full-on breeding plumage drawing photographers from all over the country, if not the world, as if the bank of the canal were some red carpet and they the paparazzi angling for the next money shot destined for National Geographic. Cormorants, Majestic Snowy Egrets, Green, Blue and Tri-colored Herons, Black-Crowned Night Herons, Roseate Spoonbills, and the Great Blue Heron and many more crowded the canals and trees and ponds and nested and raised their young and posed for pictures, unconcerned about modeling fees and copyrights. But by the summer, they were nearly all gone. I counted two birds in two hours.
When the birds and I last met through different ends of a a telephoto lens, the stresses of my life had been packed away in some leaky container buried in the soil of memory. The birds were beautiful, but the leaching out of so much that I had failed to address, that I had rudely shoved aside in the name of being too busy and too much work and moving on with life, tainted the joy from my smile. Now in place of birds, there were bees, huge and dark as night and a few bumblebees, but like some experiment gone horribly wrong, their eyes were green, pea soup green, rather than black. I have the photos, trust me. With the bees came the Lubber Grasshoppers, a sickly yellow, easily the size of your middle finger and just a thick around, fearless, staring into the lens a few inches away, wondering, perhaps, if they might want to eat that, too. Five months has brought many changes to the canal.
For me, another week has passed. The new depression meds and doses seem an improvement, but I have felt better before only to end up disappointed. Too soon, then, to claim a victory of sorts. Lurking somewhere in the near-future is my next appointment to receive the results of the blood work and the doctor’s opinion on the possibility of an auto-immune disease. But yesterday, for a few hours, amid the changes and fears, I could walk and take photographs of butterflies and dragonflies, and fill my nostrils with the acrid smell of alligator scat desiccating in the warm afternoon sun along the pathway. They wouldn’t dream of using the canal in which they live and swim as a toilet. At least this one thing remains unchanged and familiar.