Being from Florida and going to college in North Carolina, the natural questions often arose as to whether I kept an alligator as a pet or whether I lived in a swamp. The latter question was more on point, as most of Florida is a swamp. We live near two nature preserves, Guana Tolomato Matanzas National Estuarine Research Reserve and Nocatee Preserve. I love taking Kemper in either, as his wonder for nature is still brimming with optimism and zeal. I could not pry him away from his animal figurines, and so I went to Nocatee Preserve by myself. I made a concerted effort to view the swamp that surrounds the paths through his eyes, and I snagged a number of photographs that captured a child-like whimsy that I had lost long ago (when it comes to swamps). This photograph of grove of bald cypresses (Taxodium Distichum) typifies this approach. I have seen so many in my life, that I take their majesty for granted. In the wild, these august trees can live for thousands of years. The largest and oldest, the “Senator” was estimated to be 3,500 years old. One of the bald cypress’ most unusual characteristics is its “knees.” The knees are conical growths protruding up from the root system that radiates out from the tree’s trunk. They often have a knobby, knee-like appearance at the top. Their function is unknown, although studies suggest they may help the cypress absorb oxygen and remain stable in loose wet soils. Approaching the swamp with a renewed perspective (a truly Florida tack) was a great lesson for me to learn. As this photo attests, there is beauty even in the brackish, tannin-dyed waters of the Florida swamps.
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