The Everglades National Park
FIU IDH 4007

A Virgin's Interpretation

Breny DeParre
IDH 4007
Fall Semester 2004


    "We have to be careful. We have a slough slog virgin in the back." When one of my professors said this, I said to myself, "Oh lord, what have I gotten myself into?!" In the previous class, I had to miss the second of half due to family vacation plans, making me miss the slog in Pa-Hay-Okee. I was a little upset I had to miss it just because I did not want to be different from anyone else in the class, but I must admit I was a bit glad because I hate water. So when we were having lunch and find out that we would do a "minor slog" at the Clyde Butcher studio I had a conniption. Where is this photography studio that a slog is actually possible?

   Surprisingly enough, it was one of the best times I have had in class all semester. I could not help but remember Ranger Maureen's interpretation speech. How when you undergo events differently, sure, it may seem odd, but it allows you to experience it in a way you normally would not, which hence enables you to construe things in a unique way.

   Going to class every other week, people often ask me where I am going, and I normally just answer, "going to the Everglades." We drive, meet, discuss, interact a bit, and go home. Granted, we have done some interesting things, but never did I imagine that I would literally be in the Everglades. We were sticking to the ground beneath us, in the wilderness, nothing surrounding us but nature; I felt so outdoorsy. But what of puzzled me a little still was "normal" people who would actually do this every day of their lives.

   When we got to the Clyde Butcher studio, and met the receptionist, I was surprised to see her. Someone who looked as pretty and trendy as her, you would not expect to see out in the middle of no where, let alone actually living there! You would expect to see biologists, ecologists, and other such scientists, but not some dainty young lady. A few of us actually made a joke about her, correlating to the Matthiessen book, saying that she was trying to run away from her past and just hiding out. I mean that place does not even have a city assigned to it! You would think that someone who looked like an outcast or vagabond would be the only person who lived out there, someone "country" or hill-billy, someone with an odd name, someone like, well, Zeke, our slough slog guide.

   Do not get me wrong, he is a super amicable person, but for a little while there, it did look like a bad swamp mystery: a group of students go on a tour in the Everglades and no one makes it out except the odd tour guide. It honestly did not help keep my nerves at ease. But I had to do it, and, as our professors say in their syllabus, "without whining." Boy, was that a test!

   Stepping in I had A LOT of reservations, and especially being the last one, I was whining a heck of a lot more. The water was dingy and cold, and I was scared to walk into a spider wed or fall into a sink hole. I was barely concentrating on anything anyone was saying, because, as I said in my last journal, I HATE water; it terrifies me. And sure, the water is only about two feet high, but still. It was nasty, filthy water, and all I kept thinking about was that movie Anaconda. Not to mention Robert was not helping my cause, fearing some random creature would pop out and bite him.

   As we walked along, the classmates that were in front of me reassured me that it was going to be alright, and that it was nothing compared to the slough slog I missed. Stopping for identifications so often allowed (well, more like forced) me to stop and look around. At first, I must admit, I was doing so out of pure paranoia to try to be aware of my surroundings, but eventually, I actually got pretty comfortable. It gave me the opportunity to soak in the beauty of nature. I was picking things up, joking around, asking identification questions, and, get this, actually enjoying myself! I know, what a surprise, huh? I was actually a little bitter I was not able to go to the full slough slog in the previous class. For a moment, I understood why the receptionist actually chose to live here.

   Having this experience, especially near the end of the semester, I believe has allowed me to realize the great transition of opinions I have had. At the start of the semester, I thought there would be absolutely no way I would pass this class. Now, I do not think I would be as happy and enthusiastic about learning in another section. We have done so much in only a few weeks. I have learned so much: about the Everglades, my classmates, and definitely about myself. Most importantly has been my perspective, outlook, and interpretation of the Everglades. This class was the pinnacle of my experience. Yes, we have more classes to come, but it has given me that different perspective of appreciation.

   Sure, in class we have gone into the pinelands, walked into the hammocks, and canoed around the mangroves. And, yes, we have touched, seen, smelled, heard, and even tasted the Everglades. But to be completely surrounded by and literally doused with this remarkable environment was something out of this world! Who would have thought that walking through the nasty, sticky muck would be so awe inspiring?

   In my second entry, I spoke about the "shock and awe" factor of the Everglades; how I took for granted, and overestimated, all the wonders in this national park. But now, after being submerged in it, I have come to the full realization of what is is. It is simple, yet complex. It is chaotic, yet orderly. It is unattractive, yet beautiful. There truly are "no other Everglades in the world."

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