By Kurt Zuelsdorf
Just the other day I had a rare opportunity to visit the bayou on my own, not to pick up trash but to reacquaint myself with the nature that started it all. I paddled silently around the south pass and admired the clean habitat. I stopped momentarily to see the progress of a recycling project put on by the Little Green Heron's. They lost their eggs last year in a Tropical Storm you know, because they built their nest too close to the water. This year they took apart the nest and moved it up higher! Our construction industry could learn a thing or two from these geniuses.
The wintering pelicans and Willits fed calmly on pristine oyster bars and shimmering shallow grass flats. The mangrove's legs look better than ever these days and the herons are moving about under the clean canopy. I've been searching so hard for things to clean up lately so it was nice not to. At times I lost myself in the peacefulness of the bayou and wondered; What now? What to do without trash to pick? Have I been "trashing" so long that I've lost my place or have I found a new green thread to attend?
I found my answer when Wilford Woodruff Academy from Winter Park came to town to help restore our bayou. They sat intently at the Outpost with Carol on a cold morning and artistically worked on coconut doorstops. Alex Russell went to work immediately on his project like he had a purpose. A coat of red paint and a black overlay ala Spiderman. Another nut read "Peace". A few had colorful flowers, all showed extreme creativity! What goes on in a young person's mind these days? What inspires them to learn & grasp the importance of the environment? We shared ideas on recycled art that could help raise money for their school's cause and at the same time help the environment. The "treasure bottles" for restaurant tables is sure to be a winner! (Attn teachers; send me a note and I'll share more on this one)
After a chilly launch from the shelly shore the stiff northern breeze literally blasted us out the south channel of the bayou. A brown pelican dove in between the us and sifted mouthfuls of small minnows in front of a eleven-year old giggling girl. Before I could ask my usual question on the most common death of a pelican a youngster asked me..."is it true that most pelican's die from blindness? From diving into harsh elements that wear away their eyelids and expose their eyes to ultra-violet rays?" The #1 answer is always "fishing line" but this boy somehow knew the correct answer. When I asked how he knew he said, "Because I'm Robbie Pellicane!"
Greg McIntosh from Nature Matters Inc provided some great entertainment for the crew. He instinctively jumped out of his kayak in a popular trash-catching corner and thrashed around the heavily polluted mangroves tossing bottles, cans, bags, & balls out to the eager cleaners to pick from the water. I was standing knee-deep pulling bags when saw a red football come flying straight out the top of the canopy. A long arm from the back of a kayak stretched tall and with the talent of an NFL wide receiver snatched it one-handed! To my surprise (but somehow not really...) it was Alex Russell who grabbed the Spiderman ball from the air. It matched his already painted coconut perfectly!
Somehow, some way, and always, nature finds a way to educate!
Kurt Zuelsdorf. Writer, Urban Tracker, Outdoor Enthusiast at Kayak Nature Adventures kayak and sup rentals