By a Bay Now Called “Biscayne” ___P. Crockett
ONCE again revisiting the site of the Devil’s Punch Bowl freshwater spring along the shores of Biscayne Bay, this time with the benefit of a little time travel, and imagination. Here you see taking shape a scenario that easily might have once been, yet now seems so…. dreamlike.
Was it we who began dreaming of a teeming metropolis here only decades ago , when the area now bisected by I-95 and US-1 must have seemed only a sliver of thick green jungle floating improbably between the vast flat flowing waters of the Everglades in every direction “inland,”and the Bay’s blue horizons to the East? In those days, the very idea of a modern, “magic city” taking shape in the ancient fastness of the subtropical wilderness thriving there must have seemed utterly audacious, or ridiculous, or both.
Just as likely, it might have seemed, the Emerald City of Oz and its tall spires of glittering jade would suddenly one afternoon appear there intact, offering no clue as to how, or why, it had come!
YET the vision indeed took shape and form, and continues restlessly to do so today. Anyone or anything perceived as standing in its way has not been tolerated. In a sustained and notable tantrum of Human hubris, nearly all of the ancient rhythms of the waters and lands of the place, of a richness, variety, and abundance we can now scarcely imagine, have been systematically, persistently, and ingeniously undone or dismantled. All things must give way to the coming order, in this case modern man’s “better idea.” So has it always been.
Neither the native peoples nor any animals were considered, much less consulted, and any dissenters worthy of note pushed promptly and summarily to one side. The biggest dreamers remained willfully blind to the wisdom of the place itself, even though that exactly, and nothing more nor less, is what had called them to the grand vision in the first place. The art of “listening” was not high among their considerable list of skills, nor was (for that matter) even asking any of the great and important questions. They were far too occupied with the thrill of manifesting to stop and consider.
Considering the vastness, crazed diversity, and veins of rich paradox running all through this Great Dream of a new kind of metropolis now ready at last for its own place in the sun,
one must at least pause to wonder why exactly it had to be that neither the native people nor the panther that had both once thrived and belonged here, even co-existed side-by-side for millennia, could ever be given even the smallest place within the new vision.
Yet the answer is clear and comes all too quickly: the very idea is foolishness, for we were afraid.
Water under the bridge with respect to the Natives that long preceded the people today called the Seminole and the highly endangered Florida Panther, perhaps, but might we now be free to act in a different and wiser manner with respect to the future challenges and clashes of culture that seem so inevitable in a world growing ever smaller? All I can venture to guess, with some certainty, is “Yes, we might be.”
That will be up to you, and to me.