The Everglades National Park
FIU IDH 4007

The "Unknown"

Aviva Rose-Avila
IDH 4007
Fall Semester 2006

   Sitting at home, I close my eyes and listen to my surroundings. The most prominent noise is the motor of the fan, always going and never stopping. I hear music in the background and a child crying, my mother doing the laundry and an occasional car passing by in the front of my house. These noises have engulfed my ears for the majority of my life. Not only have familiar noises become a significant part of my surroundings, but also the company of man made machines. In a single day I will interact with and depend on my car, television, computer and my cell phone. Not a single day will go by that I will not have my hands on a man made machine. The absence of these familiar noises or my machines ironically makes me feel out of my natural element. I do not feel comfortable or secure without what I have become so accustomed to hearing or using as a part of every day life. These things have been so interwoven into my life that only a few hours or even an hour without them, I unconsciously begin to feel strange.

   Nine Mile Pond is where we began our journey through the everglades in our canoes. Canoeing across a man made lake until we began our trail though the everglades. At every bend we would find a marker that would guide us along. Even though there were markers to point us in the right direction and a path which was created by the ones before us, I still felt as no one had been there before. At no point could I hear a man made motor or sense civilization near by. On our canoeing trip, the everglades had become another planet, far from anything I could call familiar.

   This strange place, The Everglades, started to take its affect on me way before we even entered our canoes. Although I was confined to the safety of my vehicle, my surroundings quickly changed. As far as the eye can see, there are houses, stores and gas stations all along the turnpike. There are cars, people and there is pavement that never ends. Once you enter Everglades National Park this all ends abruptly. There are no buildings, no stores, and no gas stations. For an hour, while driving into the park I did not see any sign of civilization other than the paved road I was on and the car I was driving. This road quickly became my path to the unknown.

   Stepping out of my car, with the sun beginning to peek out above the trees, I could smell that the air was different. I could only make an educated guess that this is what fresh air smells like, free of pollution, since the smell was not familiar to me. When do I smell air that is not a mixture of odors from carbon monoxide, food, air-conditioning, or perfume? What a contradiction, I smelled fresh air and yet my brain could not interpret what it was. As strange as the fresh air was, it was refreshing and soothing to the lungs. At that point, this strange place began to further separate itself from what I call familiar.

   When I entered my canoe and pushed off from the shore, I looked back at my car. I found myself sitting on a hard seat, with no air conditioning and physically moving the canoe with my own energy, this was not normal. Looking back, even though my car sat lifeless in the parking lot, it looked to me as if it was depressed. I believe this was a projection of my own feeling of now traveling in a mode of transportation unfamiliar to me.

   My car quickly disappeared as we began to journey through the unknown. We would paddle through vast open areas and then quickly be surrounded by mangroves. This would continue for most of our exploration of what seemed to be uncharted land. When surrounded by mangroves it felt as if there should be land below my canoe. Never had I been surrounded by trees and no land in sight. This was not natural to me and only made the experience more unique.

   I knew that there was something else that was different yet I could not figure it out. Not until half way through the trip did I come to realize that I could not hear anyone make noise other than the talking from my fellow classmates and the splashes in the water from the paddles. I strained my ears to hear something that I could call familiar, but there was nothing to be heard. There was not one sound of a plane in the distance, or a car honking its horn, there were only the sounds of "silence" of the Everglades. I could not comprehend that we were so secluded from civilization that we could not hear it from where we were. I began imagining the Everglades as a distant planet, far from the earth I was so used to.

   As we started the third hour of my journey I was fully aware that this place was nothing that I had experienced before. My arms were beginning to hurt, since I had never used them as my source of transportation for so long. My arms became my car. The sounds I would hear quickly became a natural part of my surroundings. The mangroves that would quickly creep up on the canoe were no longer frightening and the vast open spaces quickly became peaceful. Although this land was strange, it was also one of the most beautiful things that I had ever seen.

   Even though I was fully aware that the Everglades were only 30 miles down the road from my house, I believe this might be what it feels like being in space. Nothing was normal to me. I was not using things that I was used to or hearing things that were familiar. I was completely out of my element and yet I was probably in the most natural place on earth. Will the idea of natural no longer be considered normal one day? It has become much more "natural" for many of us to no longer experience nature and the out- doors. Has our man made surroundings become so familiar to us that true nature is no longer natural?

This site is designed and maintained by the Digital Collections Center -
Everglades Information Network & Digital Library at Florida International University Libraries
Copyright © Florida International University Libraries. All rights reserved.