by Ian Briscoe
It was a hot and humid evening in Tequesta, Florida. The air was so dense and sticky, it was almost as if you were drowning. You could hear a pin drop on the water, which was also warm on the bottoms of my feet as I carefully, but quickly, worked my way through the guardian trees. They were surely close behind and I had to keep moving. The trees will protect me, as they always have. I am reminded to be careful within these trees in the dark, immediately slicing my hand on a barnacle as I reached out to pull myself forward. The sand crabs scatter with each step I take, and I can hear fish feeding close by. The rays of light behind me dance through the trees, creating long and eerie shadows that stretch into my vision as I glance back. The hoots and hollers of my stalkers become louder as they seemingly close the distance between us.
Do I continue through the trees that I have maneuvered so many times before? Do I take the plunge and swim away to an unknown location on the intercoastal? Surely, that would make far too much noise. I can’t climb these trees without being seen; however, I could go under them. How much longer will they chase me? A clearing between the trees opens up and I dash through quickly to the left to hide beneath the largest tree in the grove. Silence, for the moment, but as my hunters near, that quickly dissipates. The pounding of their boots on the sand, the jingle of keys in their pockets, and a few belches from all that beer they had been drinking.
They had reached the clearing, and were now within fifteen feet of my wooded hiding spot. “Where the hell did he go?” “I swear I just saw him!” The trees will protect me, as they always have. I stay beneath the tree, completely silent, completely still, listening to their voices fade away and watching the rays from their flashlights flicker across the water and sand. I’ve been here before; I feel the etchings of my initials paired with someone else's, within a carved heart on the inside of this magnificent tree. This is a place of love, not fear, and those who fear the trees become lost within them. Silence again, until I start listening, the sound of the wind whistling through the trees, the occasional splash as fish break surface, various critters nimbly navigating through the trees just as I was a moment ago. Then, the sound of slithering paired with what sounded like a tire losing air within my immediate area. This tree is not my home, and it is time for me to move on.
As I work my way back through the trees, memories of easier times flood my mind. Climbing and playing among these trees, jumping from the trees into the water, fishing and netting within the trees, catching sand crabs, trying to snag a mullet out of the water with your bare hands to see if you can create your own fable. I emerge from the grove to be greeted by a calm, cool, and consistent breeze that carries the salt from the ocean to where I am standing. The trees kept me safe, and they always have. Thank you Mangroves.
Ian Briscoe is a 24 year old transfer student from South Florida currently living in Boulder, Colorado studying Environmental Studies. Follow Ian on Instagram at @Breeeezzzyy.
Photo: Mangroves in the Florida Everglades, from Wikimedia Commons.