The silence back in the mangroves allows my mind and imagination to wonder. Back here on this pond, surrounded by foliage its easy to imagine being somewhere else, some-when else. The canoe gently coats along the placid water. Here is a retreat that is sheltered from the world, hidden away from all the busy rush of everyday life. A peer over the side of canoe. The water is shallow and a ghostly underwater world lays just inches beneath the surface. Twisting branches rise up in the water and light filters down around them, forming otherworldly shadows. Everything is a single uniform gray-black color, almost the color of ash. Here and there a single bright red leaf breaks up the monochromatic underwater world.
The boat rocks as my boating partner plunges the dip net beneath the surface of the water. I resume rowing, the process now made much harder by the lowered net. A minute later he hoists the net back up. It looks like a poop-filled diaper; a bulging white container filled with black goop. The air is filled with the noxious smell of decay. The peaceful world below is a fetid mix of dead leaves, dead animals, and sloppy mud. My boating partner begins to shift through the muck, and it slips through his fingers. The smell grows worse as he rummages through his catch. Out of the filth he draws a single Faygo soda can, its base crusted with a few barnacles. Just as Bartlettpond has become a dump for decaying natural matter, so to has it become a place people dump their unwanted soda cans, liquor bottles, and other assorted trash. This single small pond, secluded as it is, could easily be some place in the Everglades, if it weren’t for the accumulated trash and the steady buzz of traffic from 22nd Street that is just audible through the dense mangroves.