Eguanulti means “light on the water”, waters reached by threading through jungle growth to descend to the river. Trees studded with airplants twist like sideshow contortionists, branches gesticulating. Cypress tower overhead, shaggy palms lean flat out over the river, bearded with ferns like giant tire treads, heads spiraling to the east. Banana spiders, mammoth asterisks in a brazen sky, span the river with their webs. Each visit to Eguanulti shows changes; more palm trunks fallen in the water, weeds sprouting off the stump, the inexorable pull of the swanp. as more lean out to take their place. A smokescreen for the essential: at Eguanulti, where the black waters of Spruce Creek meet the muddy banks, the enormous energy of the swamp condenses at the microcosm of the water’s edge, in a chalkline of miniature lights and movement. The translucent world of the water’s edge glows in the eternal jungle twilight. Even in the midday sun, Eguanulti is sullen and brooding. The air is still and heavy. At first nothing moves, even the river surface betrays no current, constellations of particles are held taut, like stars trapped in the tension of the water’s surface. The popping and sucking sounds of bream touching the surface. A strange mewling sound in the dark woods. A giant bubble of swamp gas erupts on the water’s surface. The shoreline is caked with gloom, the only light a reflection off the oily banks. Cicadas sigh uneasily, all the twilit estuaries rise and fall with the giant breath of the swamp. The river bank a receding soft blackness, dark earth glistens when the sumbeam hits it. The beam of light probes and passes on, picking out minute roots; brilliant green shoots, flames in the darkness; mahogany and purple shadows in port wine waters. Ellipses of reddish amber in the surrounding blackness. All life appears and is extinguished as the slow searchlight beam of the sun passes along the bank. Now the light changes, locusts sigh more intensely, thrumming in a frenzied chorale. The sun, low in the sky, angles into the water’s edge, up to the baleen of millions of roots, its subtle grin filtering the dark waters where they meet the earth. The spotlight turns on the smallest of events: a fidget in the shallows, an alligator gar eyes me. A mossy cypress knee, a feather stuck to the end of it. The elephant ear bends, a gymnastic of yellow and green, the leaf crumpled in the water. A dusky blush, a bloom of light on the surface, a blur of rapid motion. A small lochness monster trawls miniature tunnels on the bottom. Minnows race around a glistening log in a moire of sharp shadows. In the reflection of the sky overhead, a design pools in oily richness. A translucent spider fingers a leaf, a slim root projects from the shallows. The tip crawls with thousands of insects. A spider lily, a small white burst in the darkness, blooms in the void. All along, the reflection of arcs. pinpoints and trajectories of light marks the seam where earth and water meet.
The tide begins to move in, it seems the elastic and glutineous earth stretches to meet it. Blackened and wet, the shoreline basks in its primordial soup. The strained roots settle into the netherworld of muddy swamp shallows. Around the bend, a huge splash, the gator has left the mudbank and is preceding me in the black waters. Glassy golden light filters through the cypress’ pale flattened needles. Twilight estuaries, a hall of mirrors of smaller and smaller channels and reflections. The sing-song of swamp bugs seems to emanate from every single thing in the swamp. It is inside me as I paddle up the river.

 

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