The two kayakers clamber unsteadily into the boat. It bobs in the water, loosely tethered to a post on the dock. Unstable, unbalanced, they carefully give each other aid so as not to be dumped unceremoniously into the water.
A muggy day. What other kind is there? The canoe is bright green, “Koreshan State Park” emblazoned on the sides; their yellow lifejackets are equally bright. They are interlopers here. Everything around them is brown, green, dull burnt orange. They are candy-colored intruders drifting on the murky emerald canal. The sea walls on each side do nothing to repress mangroves: mangroves in the water, creating tangling enclaves for small things to hide; mangroves on the shore, roots draping into the water like straws into lime soda.
Seemingly still, but stirring with movement. Brimming with life. Tiny things move on and beneath the surface. Skittering water-bugs cause tension on the surface of the water. Dragonflies dance about snakes coiled on floating logs. Herons peer above the tall waving grasses on the shore. A spider busily spins its web on the inside hull of the kayak; it is flicked unceremoniously into the water with an oar. It is as if the canal holds its breath. All there is to hear is the soft splashing of unseen things in the murk, the soft shifting of the bamboo that lines the shore, the soft humming of one thousand insects as they thrum in midair. Soft, soft, soft: hush.
As if sensing the heartbeat of the water, the two kayakers don’t speak much. They paddle, accompanied by the Florida symphony. Their nostrils are filled with the smell of decaying plant matter. Sweat beads on their necks, and their skin begins to wrinkle with the wetness of it all: water seeping into the boat and pooling at their feet, water splashing from their oars, water dripping from leaves onto their heads. The sun can only filter down intermittently through the canopy, but the humidity makes it sweltering enough. When they take breaks, guiding their kayak into weeded alcoves away from the meandering current, they take water bottles from their coolers. The cold perspiration on the bottles mingles with the salty perspiration on their hands.
Maybe it’s because the sun is so concealed, but it feels timeless here; with a jump one of the canoers notices the silent alarm flashing on her waterproof watch. Water splashing and birds erupting into flight is the canal giving a little snarl of distaste as they erupt into movement. The tourists have such trouble with truly understanding the holiness of the canal. But nonetheless, far after the two shake off the mud as they climb back onto the dock, the canal will remain the same… though perhaps a little less disrupted without the neon intruders in its midst.