Thursday, March 10, 2016

Life in the Everglades

This month, I am a Fellow at AIRIE (Artist in Residence in Everglades).  To find out more, check: AIRIE Link
This residency is fascinating. Biologists, botanists, archivists make themselves available to the artists for maximum exposure to the harsh and subtle landscape. For back up, the excellent book on Everglades history, Swamp by Michael Grunwald, makes the socio-political history of the place come alive. I'm reading in tandem with Terry Tempest Williams' Broken World and Mission 66, extant 1956-66, to interpret landscape for national parks visitors. 

The Everglades is known for its grasslands (properly, sedge) submerged in water. The levels have been high this year, so animals not out in as many numbers despite the perfect weather. The color! Subtle and rich, in sky and water, and the synergy between them. I've been very lucky: Ranger Shawn Bawden, Biologist Keith Waddington, Botanist Jimi Sadle have shown me how to read the Everglades landscape in ways I never would have known. Yesterday, Sadle and I slogged shallow waters near Mahogany Hammock to peruse mangroves. Here, Sadle peels a spongey layer of paraphyte from the limestone substrate. This makes a slippery surface to hike--wade?--like mud, feels like despite the clear water. Makes me curious about horror films from the 1950s and '60s depicting quicksand--fear of the landscape seems to have ruled much of its history.

Free-floating paraphytes. Phosphates in this climate are 4 per billion, which is as low nutrition as plant life can get to survive. So what you see here is life form that survives against all odds. The peraphytes feed the small plants and fish, which in turn nurture the larger life forms. They look like sweaters...and tofu, when they don't congeal.

Mangrove roots in watery foam, making magical patterns.

This beautiful, mustard-color water is the foam generator.

Shifting gears, the sky this morning at Anhinga Trail - one of the most popular, and certainly beautiful sites fusing willows, mangroves and palms in an amalgamation of natural communities. It's like painting: all applications on fire,  evolving a topography.

6:20 am water reflections.

Stay still long enough in this landscape and all things show up.

Alligator resting in the bulrushes, mid-left.

Water - 7:15 am.

2 comments:

Margaret Ann Withers said...

Cool - I can't wait to see how it influences your art.

ec said...

Margaret Ann Withers, copy and paste this link to see what I made there:
http://www.elisabethcondon.com/images/images-2013-2016-places/florida-everglades-watercolors-2016/1/0