I challenge you to find a ghost orchid with as many firsts as the Ghost Orchid of Blair Audubon Society Corkscrew Swamp in Naples, at the edge of the magnificent Everglades.
My ghost orchid, the inspiration for my recently released mystery novel, Ghost Orchid, is the most spectacular of all ghost orchids native only to Cuba and the Everglades.
Corkscrew Swamp called me today, in spite of threatening cumulus and certain downpours in the afternoon tropical rains of summer. I watched the sky with its ominous warnings on the 22 mile jaunt to my serenity.
Today was lavender as I crossed the marsh toward the cypress trees beckoning with their cool welcome. Large cups of lavender morning glories waved in the slightest movement of air. As I entered the cool and welcoming cypress canopy, large, blood red swamp hybiscus (the size of a man's hand) accompanied by white swamp lilies were in profusion everywhere. "I know," the muse in me thought, "they envy the attention given to the ghost orchid whose exploits are even more grand with each passing year. They want their place in the sun. They are shouting to be seen as the red hybiscus plants tower as high as the giant alligator flags and the cluster of white swamp lilies fill the spaces below.
Fresh, wet imprints from a crossing raccoon were visible ahead on the boardwalk as a squirrel danced on the rail and bullfrogs complained about me interrupting their day. Every species of bird was singing at once, a melodic chorus with every sound perfectly blended with the rat a tat tat of the woodpeckers bobbing their red crowns incessantly.
I was on a mission. I had missed my ghost orchid lately, my walks in her beautiful Everglades and the serenity for which my soul yearns more often than it can be delivered. Thunder continued to rumble and a few sprinkles, either dew drops or reminders of the threatening sky, dropped on my forehead.
Like the photographers in Ghost Orchid, looking for the perfect subject in the perfect light, I felt the ghostly breeze prickle the hair on my arms, a telltale that my ghost was not far. Perhaps it was nearly 100 degrees outside the swamp, but I nearly had a chill, even as the beads of sweat gathered at my hairline on the back of my neck.
The scope was set up and like a novice, I peered eagerly through the lens, glad I was alone and no person shook the boardwalk. I could look as long as I wished. There, in its own perch, high in the crotch of an ancient cypress, was my ghost orchid, my birthday gift again this year, three ghosts floating in the breeze, catching an occasional ray of sunlight they fly so high. One more bud was opening, a perfect time for time lapse photography. Once I had clearly seen my ghosts through the lens, I could focus with my naked eye and watch them in less detail, but with the panorama of the Everglades everwhere, my ghosts, the center of my universe at that moment in time.
"All I know is in this moment," I thought. This was a moment of perfection. No earthly cares interrupted my communion with a rare and endangered ghost orchid that returns to me faithfully each year for my personal enjoyment since its first blooming on my birthday in July of 2007. Its delicate and gossamer petals danced away from its host, its tendrils kissed by the swamp breeze. And there are ten more buds to open -
It's worth the drive, the airplane flight the trouble to get there for just one view of nature's perfection in a single plant. What if Corkscrew Swamp had not been preserved? This wonderfully accessible boardwalk gives all of humanity the chance to understand the importance of just one little piece of land as a special habitat for endangered species, flora and fauna.
I really disliked leaving but I don't enjoy swamp ice, slippery cypress leaves on the boardwalk in the rain. So, I finally hurried the rest of the walk back to its beginning, my thoughts on my ghostly vision and the book I wrote inspired by its mystical magic. I hope those who read Ghost Orchid gain an appreciation for the impact one flower might have on the heart and soul, one flower deep in the heart of the Everglades.
Causes DK Christi Supports