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.

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

“The Turning Point” (By: Alina Rafikova)

What is it? “The point at which a very significant change occurs; a decisive moment” – that is the definition provided in the Oxford dictionary. However, it fails to reflect the meanings and memories we experienced in our exploration of Everglades. The turning point is an external factor that changes all your perceptions of current surroundings, or even of the whole reality. An unprecedented force that makes you look differently at things around you. You begin to look differently at yourself, at your emotions, your strengths, your threats, your ideas, your feelings. A turning point may change you just for a moment, a minute you are in, or it can change whole your life. Everglades Writing Expedition group definitely had such a point during the trip, we called it “dolphin moment.” The turning point of one of our days and even the turning point of the whole trip for some. It was sunset. Our group was both physically and emotionally exhausted. We had been paddling all the day, trying to reach the Picnic Key, a piece of land close to the Ocean. Unfortunately (or fortunately), we could not get through the Gaskin Bay due to the unexpected winds and choppy waves and had to turn back with the understanding that our feet will not touch land for another twenty—four hours more. How do you feel when you are not achieving your goal? Disappointed, upset, stricken? Scream! A thousand thoughts galloped through my mind. You cannot imagine what may happen in the vastness of the Ten Thousand Islands of Everglades. However, it was a positive shout of surprise, excitement and amazement. We saw a dolphin. He swam through the line of our canoes and jumped out of the water almost in front of each one, like tipping his hat for us. The grace and lightness of his movements made us forget about everything in the world at that very moment (I wonder how did not we drop our paddles unconsciously into the water). He shared with us the easiness of getting through the paths of endless waters of the Everglades and filled our minds and hearts with warmth, gratitude, motivation and passion to move forward. We were guests at dolphin’s “house,” house of nature and wilderness, and he welcomed us with all the compassion and fervor he could only express. Next day, in the early morning hours. Pristine untouched expanse of water around us, dew drops as droplets of liquid diamonds on each part of our fugacious home. The home-float which we built together. Just at the moment when the orchestra of sun's rays began its delightful performance, using leaves of the mangroves surrounding us as an instrument, the dolphin appeared again (of course it may be delirious to think that it was the same dolphin, although you never know what the wilderness can bring you), but I had a great inclination to think so, and let me admit the negligence to call him “our dolphin”. This time it was just a blink of an eye when he showed himself, just a glimmer of miracle, of a reminder and a hope. It seemed that he wanted to make sure that we were safe and sound, and if we were ready to continue our adventure. And we were ready! With the beginning of a new day we were ready to face new challenges and overcome new difficulties that the wilderness prepared for us. We were ready to accept new surprises and explorations that the wilderness was rewarding us with. We were also ready to thank wilderness for it allowing us to be its guests. We were ready to say “Thank you” to the dolphin for letting us feel the wilderness, to have the first wilderness experience in the Everglades, which will never be the same. Our trip began with the words of Confucius “A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.” We made our first step of eighteen miles into wilderness and this is only the beginning…

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