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Experiencing Glover Bight Trail at Rotary Park

May 1, 2020
By JOSEPH BONASIA - Guest Commentary (Special to The Breeze) , Cape Coral Daily Breeze

I am eager to return to Glover Bight.

To be at the shelter at the end of the Glover Bight Trail in Cape Coral is to have dense mangrove swamp behind you and the blue Caloosahatchee River before you. It is to smell the swamp's pungent, primal fragrance, to hear mullet jumping and ospreys calling, and to see from wet pawprints a racoon had been there not long before you.

It is also to be informed by signs that mangrove forests stabilize shorelines during storms and that eastern oysters play a vital role in our marine ecosystem. Ninety percent of oyster reefs, one sign states, has been lost locally.

Article Photos

Photo provided

A portion of the Glover Bight Trail at Rotary Park in Cape Coral.

When guest teaching college classes, I sometimes first share a photograph taken at the shelter and have each student write a journal entry as if he or she were there in the morning as the photo depicts. Only afterwards do I tell them about conversations I've had with other visitors to the trail, such as the retired computer technology professor who said he went there often. I asked him why.

"For the solitude and quiet," he replied. "This is a place of contemplation. I can think clearly here."

Upon further consideration he added, "This is a place for new beginnings."

Glover Bight can have that effect upon people.

"Humans after all," as David Abram writes in "The Spell of the Sensuous," "are tuned for relationship. The eyes, the skin, the tongue, ears, and nostrils - all are gates where our body receives the nourishment of otherness."

Twenty minutes into my presentation I ask students to share their journal entries. No one writes about how many gallons of water eastern oysters filter a day, or just what variety of mangrove trees they are looking at. Not one wonders about salinity levels in the river or comments about the importance of mangrove forests in stabilizing shorelines.

On another morning at the shelter, I spoke to a snowbird from Massachusetts and asked him the same question I had asked the professor: why had he come?

"For the peace and quiet."

"You can't get that at home in a corner room of your house with the door closed?"

He shook his head.

"This is different. This place is beautiful."

No one would say otherwise.

"It's so peaceful here," one student writes in her journal entry. "I love seeing the movement of the water. It's very slow-tranquil. I don't see a lot of wildlife, but I like knowing animals are close by."

"This landscape of shadowed voices, these feathered bodies and antlers and tumbling streams-these breathing shapes are our family, the beings with whom we are engaged, with whom we struggle and suffer and celebrate."

On another morning I came upon a young woman writing in her journal. She would peer out over the scene and write, peer out and write, and it was evident that some vital chemistry existed between the outer landscape of trees and water and her inner landscape of thought and emotion. To adapt what John Muir said, looking out was really looking in.

I asked her the same question I had asked the two gentlemen.

"Coming here is my soul-cation," she said smiling, and added unabashedly, "I love nature."

Simply said, and profoundly true for most everyone.

People don't walk the Glover Bight Trail in order to learn about eastern oysters or the varieties of mangroves or other scientific information. It's more important than ever that we as a society know such things, of course, but that is not what people seek from the trail.

We seek, we need, intimate connection with the natural world. That's because a love of nature is in our DNA, the evolutionary result of having lived 99.9% of our existence outdoors in direct contact with nature. In our collective human psyche and in our individual souls is the imprint of having looked upon blue water millions of times, smelled the primal smell of fecund swamp millions of times, followed softly laid pawprints millions of times.

"For the largest part of our species' existence, humans have negotiated relationships with every aspect of the sensuous surroundings, exchanging possibilities with every flapping form, with each textured surface and shivering entity that we happened to focus upon. All could speak, articulating in gesture and whistle and sigh a shifting web of meanings that we felt on our skin or inhaled through our nostrils or focused with our listening ears, and to which we replied-whether with sounds, or through movements, or minute shifts of mood."

"I feel very close to God when I'm surrounded by nature," another student writes. "I love being alone by the water or hidden in the trees. I feel calm. I enjoy the beauty of life and being able to experience it."

(And these students weren't even at Glover Bight, but only looking at a photo! Such is the bond between humans and the natural world.)

Scientists call this innate love of nature biophilia, and studies indicate that "the human need for nature is linked not just to the material exploitation of the environment, but also to the influence of the natural world on our emotional, cognitive, aesthetic and even spiritual development." Our inner ecosystems are not independent from outer ecosystems. It's just the opposite: an intimate relationship with nature is vital to human well-being. This COVID crisis with its stay-at-home conditions has made this fact is all the more evident.

"Today we participate almost exclusively with other humans and with our own human-made technologies. It is a precarious situation, given our age-old reciprocity with the many-voiced landscape. We still need that which is other than ourselves and our own creations. We are human only in contact, and conviviality, with what is not human."

To be at the shelter at the end of the Glover Bight Trail in the morning is to have the mangrove swamp behind you and the blue Caloosahatchee before you. It is to smell the swamp's pungent, primal fragrance, to hear mullet jumping and ospreys calling, to see from wet pawprints a racoon was there not long before you, and to experience the deep connection to nature that poet Lucille Clifton so well expressed:

"light keeps on breaking

i keep knowing

the language of other things

i keep hearing tree talk

water words

and I keep knowing

what they mean"



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