Tarpon Bay near Catbird Key – March 1, 2013
Broad Creek is a lie. It may start as the truth, but wind your way far enough up its twisting course and it is a lie. Broad Creek narrows down into a weave of mangroves and mud. The sun disappears behind green leaves and hanging roots. Fallen trees crowd the sides until all that’s left is a tongue of brown water an inch wider than the boat.
At least you hope it’s that wide, but doubt slips up close and whispers in your ear from the hanging roots, makes it feel so wild.
We pushed deeper, sliding over mud banks and across sunken logs, pulling ourselves by mangrove feet as the tide slipped away underneath us and we stared at each next bend, wondering if we could pass, drawn further and further into the lying Broad Creek.
Until it lied no more and split open like the tightness had been nothing but imagination, broad and sharp as a shout emerging from a choked throat.
And there on the other side, down another river that flowed backwards when the moon pulled heavy, past a dozen turns that you shouldn’t make, into a skinny bay, lay the Swamp Lily.
Donna stood on the porch of the old houseboat, a floating chunk of civilization in the wild horizon of the Everglades, and waved us in. We scrambled on the deck like two salt-stained pirates and unloaded the loot of three days in the Everglades–stories mostly, and that old red paddle, stories of wrong turns and a thousand channels, of snakes hanging in head-high limbs, of gators sinking in the water, of eating peanut butter and a makeshift cheesecake, of sharing chicken soup with a pair of strangers, of how John found me on Lulu Key.
Donna cooked a big pot of red-sauced pasta and swore we would have leftovers, but John and I sat until the spoon scraped on metal, laughing on our stories, eating like wild men who’d forgotten the taste of real food. Then I crawled up to the roof of the Swamp Lily, peered over the mangroves, and watched stars, hoping to catch a sliver of reception in my phone so I could call home and ask why, why I never came to the Everglades in 31 years, glad that it wasn’t 32.
This place is wild to the point of magic.