Friday, October 14, 2011

AIRIE Residency: Prologue

Tomorrow night, I'll fly from San Francisco to Miami, Florida. Early on Sunday morning, I'll drive a rental car southwest into the Everglades National Park, the site of my 2-week-long Artists In Residence In the Everglades (AIRIE) writing and art residency. In my application to the National Park Service program, I touched on one of the many reasons I want to explore a park and region that I haven't visited in many years.
"Each fall and winter, when I travel to my childhood home on Virginia’s tip of the Delmarva Peninsula, I assist my father on the farm, and also hunt, fish, and walk the fields, woods, and salt marsh. The mid-Atlantic wetlands are my home ground. Although I've traveled to a range of ecosystems in many countries, I'm intimately tied to the ecology of my youth. The sawgrass marshes and swamps of the Everglades are a subtropical version of Virginia’s wetlands, and I am eager to become better acquainted with the ecosystem."
I was generalizing. The marshes, mangrove and cypress swamps, and hardwood hammocks of the Everglades are a far cry from the mid-Atlantic salt marshes I grew up alongside, but there are some similarities I intend to consider (and write about) while in Florida.

One unfortunate likeness: mosquitoes. October is the last month of the warm, wet season in the Everglades; water levels will be high and biting insects, plentiful. Fortunately, birds and reptiles also thrive thrive in the Everglades, and I hope to be too distracted by creatures I enjoy watching to notice the drone of the "skeeters."

Most of my 2-week term will be devoted to hiking, writing, reading, and photography, but I plan to work on some painting and drawing studies, too. I'll present one lecture on art and ecology to a class from Florida International University, after which I'll join them for a "slough slog," an off-trail hike through the Pa-Hay-Okee, the Seminole name for the Everglades (which translates as "grassy waters"). I've inquired about "shadowing" wildlife researchers in the field and/or assisting park rangers with their work. I was informed this should be possible, so my fingers are crossed.

While at the Kimmel Harding Nelson Residency in Nebraska City, Nebraska, I provided regular updates about my experiences. I'd planned to do the same during my time in "America's Subtropical Wonderland," but no Internet connection is available in the park and the closest coffee joint with WiFi access is a 20 minute drive outside of the park, in what I expect is Florida City's suburban sameness. As a result, I'm not yet sure how often updates will appear. More to some point.

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