Essential belongings were packed and loaded onto the canoe that served as the only method of travel through the lands which the natives called Okefenokee, the Land of Trembling Waters. I paddle alongside a caravan of others seated on the long silver boats, over water so shallow my hand could reach down and grab the muck of plant growth and scaled monsters that lived in the bottom of this serpentine waterway. We travel through this flooded prairie for five days, turning darker under the southern sun.
We strained our backs as we hauled the boats over the semi submerged grasses, bent down to avoid the films of spider silk that blocked our passageway and crouched in our vessels just enough to keep the branches from sticking their wooden fingers in our hair. Plants living on the malnourished soils of the banks, became carnivorous, enticing the poor buzzing victims with their vibrant colors of swaying flesh and stench of sweet nectar. Scaly meat eaters lying still on the caked mud absorbed the winter heat through tough black scales, their mouths open and eyes alert.
Ancient skeletons of those lost in flames still stood high, piercing the horizon with their charred bones, uselessly collecting tears that the clouds let out. Cicadas rose the temperature a few more degrees with their simple love songs. Eyes rimmed with teal that watched us from below the swamp’s dark water watched us from above as well with feathers glistening as they dehydrate in wait. Under rotten logs hide freshly painted slithering treasures, immobile till found and reached for.
Arms grew heavy, sounds became louder, colors more vivid, smells more putrid yet more appealing, the swamp, receiving of guests, became survival, became comfort, became living. With the dip of the oars in the black tea current, an exploration of the Earth’s past and current living was formed, we paddled into the prehistoric and became momentary people of the swamp.