In celebration of the 50th anniversary of the Wilderness Act, Everglades National Park and its partners proudly hosted the Everglades Wilderness Writing Expedition! This program engaged 10 aspiring writers and journalists, ages 18-25, on an exploration of wilderness, self-discovery and environmental writing. These aspiring writers embarked on the journey of a lifetime to discover the beauty and complexity of the Everglades wilderness.

Friday, October 31, 2014

Somewhere Between Dusk and Dawn (Night 1 in the Wilderness) By: Sabrina Diaz

It's somewhere between dusk and dawn and I am bundled up in a 20'F sleeping bag. I wonder "how is this possible? How can it be that I am camping in South Florida in October yet I am nestled in a 20'F sleeping bag". Despite my years in the outdoors I have grossly misjudged how quickly the weather in South Florida can change from HOT, HOT, HOT to COLD!

But it is not the cold that wakes me in the middle of the night, it's the sound of a Barred Owl. It pierces the silent cold of the night like a warm knife slicing through a cold stick of butter. The sound immediately brings warmth to my heart. I smile wide and long...no one is looking at me...I smile for myself; I smile to the heaven's above, I smile to a power greater than I, who always seems to wake me from my slumber at night to grace me with a wilderness orchestra. Owls. Every time I sleep outside I hear Owls. I wonder, what was this Owl doing in a mangrove estuary with no dry land around us?

As I lie in my sleeping bag listening I remember the last time I heard Owls. It was somewhere between dusk and dawn and I was camping with my 2 year old daughter. Two Barred Owls were right outside our tent hooting back and forth to one another. They were so loud that I was afraid we would not get any sleep that night...but what did that matter, my daughter was in pure awe as she enjoyed front row seats to the night time symphony, from her warm sleeping bag.

Suddenly, I am propelled back to the present time and I realize that this Owl was indeed for me. It was Halloween night and while I was away on this wilderness adventure my daughter was experiencing her first time of trick or treating. I had spent hours searching online for the perfect Halloween costume for her. I wanted it to be special...I wanted it to reflect her. Finally after an endless search I found the perfect costume. Even the girl in the online photo looked just like Sierra. I was sad that I was missing her cute little face going door to door in her costume.  But as that Owl hooted through the night I realized my daughter was never far from my heart.

Have you guessed what her costume was yet? A beautiful Owl.

My mind shifts to the wilderness writing students who are fast asleep around me. I hoped that they too were being awoken from their slumber to hear the sounds of wilderness.  And if not , I hoped that something inside them was internalizing that sound so that when they rose in the morning they would feel as though they had been quietly touched by this greater force.

I am no longer cold. In fact I am now craving more of this wilderness experience. I unzip my sleeping bag so that mt skin can feel the cool night time air; I unzip my Heli-Hammock tent so that my eyes can better view the stars above; I take a big deep breath so that my nose can smell the freshness of the Earth and water. I take it all in because this is my moment.


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