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Peace This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine.

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     Peace. This is the word that stays with me as I leave the Naples Swamp Sanctuary today. Beautiful, alive, inspiring - these words also come to mind, but peace is the most appropriate.

I took a walk today into a slice of Mother Nature tucked quietly in busy Naples, Florida. The lady at the entrance explained that the wildlife would be minimal due to lack of rainfall. I didn’t let this bother me though: I tend to find beauty in the simple things, and what I experienced was plenty.

Signs told me the best way to preserve the wildlife here: make minimal noise. So, as I traveled the wooden planks of the trail, I tried to stay as quiet as possible. Every shift of my weight made the boards creak. From above I must have looked pretty silly. Notebook in hand and tiptoeing along the narrow paths of the forest, I stared deep into the trees in search of life. I was thankful that it was a slow day. There was no one around to see my fascination with the trail.

Around me, hues of green of all shape and size teemed with life - plants, vines, and fruits with names I don’t remember. Next to my cheek, bark turned from a dead brown piece of wood into a camouflaged lizard that flicked its tail and caught my eye. The humid air hung like a heavy cloud of smoke around my face. I should have prepared for warm weather.

About 30 feet above, I spotted my first bird: a hummingbird; a sweet ball of life springing from sprig to branch to leaf to twig, singing “Catch me if you can” to its fellow teammates. Its chest was a soft gray, almost like dust, and its eyes shone black and glossy. It was a courageous little fellow, flying down to join me and hopping to the handrail. The thousands of visitors have made it quite comfortable with human company.

As I went deeper into the woods, the calls of the birds increased. Chirps, whistles, clicks, and sounds I cannot even name vibrated the air. I sat on a bench and let the choir entertain me. I wondered what the lyrics meant, or if they meant anything at all; but what purpose would such voices have if not to communicate with each other? The band continued to sing, and I took in my surroundings. A stage of lilac flowers and beds of lettuce leaves lay before me like in a movie. The greenery danced and jerked like piano keys as their inhabitants played throughout their roots. The creatures were invisible ghosts, sounds and flashes of color, most too quick for me to catch.

There is so much I could describe; I don’t even know where to begin. Each new sight would lead me down tangents and roads only a writer would enjoy babbling on about.

I have decided that nature cannot be described on paper, or through pictures; all five senses are needed to experience the full effect, but I will try my best. There were red-headed woodpeckers that etched holes for shelter, and green balls of fruit that hung so low you could skim them with your head if you weren’t careful. Bees, flies, a dead grasshopper and its mourning relative. There was a creature so small and translucent that up close it seemed to skate across the surface of a shiny green leaf. It reminded me of the chlorophyll that I once inspected under a microscope. You see, I could go on so many tangents.

Lots of insects seemed annoyed by my presence, circling my body, pushing me along, making sure that I couldn’t stop without sacrificing a bit of my blood or a nibble of skin. I should have brought bug spray. I will allow more time to explore next time, but now work called me. It was time to go. I will return, though, and soon. I think I may have found myself a new piece of life to explore.

This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.






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