Friday, March 17, 2017

Piece of Land, Peace of Mind

Does this path look as inviting to you as it does to me?

I hadn't realized how much I love quiet walks in the woods until friends Mickey and Connie invited us to check out the local nature reserve, called Crane Point.  It's the last bit of virgin hammock (equivalent to old growth forest, but with mangroves) here in the Middle Keys. The word "hammock" comes from an old Indian word meaning "cool shady place" which certainly seems to describe the path we walked!

Another extraordinarily inviting path to walk

These islands are a unique ecosystem: they get the easterly trade winds, so many of the plants here come from the Caribbean and Africa. But the animals are North American, having walked a land bridge when water levels were lower during the last ice age. So, an odd but beautiful juxtaposition. We were so enchanted that we bought a family membership at the end of our visit so we could come back as often as we wished, and have been visiting for an hour or two, at least a couple of times every week since then. Photos and factoids follow.  But what has impressed me the most, is how much those visits help my head. Whether anchoring out ("angering out") on the water, or these simple walks on land, immersion in nature really is the reset button for my brain.

Intense tangle of mangrove roots reclaiming the land

The Gumbo Limbo tree is nicknamed the "tourist tree" because it stands in the sun, turns red, and peels.

Florida thatch palm. Properly woven, these make a roof that can outlast modern shingles. The Seminoles are expert at this, but they carefully guard their secrets; if they notice you watching them at work they will simply stop until you leave.  They also harvest the leaves very sustainably - one stalk from this tree, one from the next, and one from the tree over yonder, instead of getting them all from one tree, which would stress it so much that it would die.

The grounds are also home to a bird sanctuary. Here, a green heron with a dislocated wing. Sadly, it didn't heal right and he'd be unable to survive in the wild, so he's now a lifetime resident and educational exhibit. Bird bones are hollow, which saves weight for flight, but also makes them more fragile. On the other hand (other wing?) a break heals in 2-3 weeks, instead of the 6-8 weeks it takes a human broken bone to heal.

More gumbo limbo tree 
This is a milkbark tree; habitat for a species of local butterfly

The aptly-named poisonwood tree. It is in the same family as poison ivy and poison oak (and, oddly, mango) and it's oily black sap is an extreme irritant to humans. Some birds and insects enjoy its berries.

Closeup of gumbo limbo bark

An intense tangle of mangrove roots. Underwater, these make great nurseries for baby fish to hide in, as predators can't fit through the spaces between the roots.

Fallen flower from the "shaving brush" tree. If we were naming this tree today, I'd vote for "fiber optics" tree.

A single flower from the unusual local tree called the "shaving brush" tree for its resemblance to an old fashioned shaving brush.

Sunlight illuminates bottles on a table in the kitchen of the Adderly House.

Many textures and shades of green

Someone had the imagination to see a heron in this piece of wood displayed in the museum onsite

A room in the Adderly House. The half-height walls allow air flow for cooling breezes in summertime

The oldest house in the keys outside of Key West belonged to Bahamian settler George Adderly. It is made of tabby (a building cement made of crushed seashells and lime) and would originally have had a thatch roof. Windows and doors perfectly oppose each other on opposite sides of the house. This symmetry allowed cooling breezes to blow through -- and in the case of the doors, allowed hurricane flood waters to pass as well.  The kitchen is in a separate building behind the house, to minimize the chance of damage from fires.

Bird sanctuary director Kelly prepares to release a red-shouldered hawk that had been recovering in the bird hospital. But first, a bit of education for the bystanders. 
Mangrove roots

Pelicans and cormorants recovering at the bird sanctuary

Zebra (?) butterfly

The view of the Florida Bay, looking north from the "point" for which Crane Point is named

Very large, and perfectly symmetrical, spiderweb of the Golden Orb Weaver.

Beautiful, fragrant, and endangered sea lavender

A white heron and an egret at the bird sanctuary

Bird sanctuary volunteer with a young pelican who is recovering from an encounter with fishing hook

Close up of a section of the beautiful copper doors at the entry to the museum


No comments:

Post a Comment