The Caloosahatchee – A River In Florida
by Patricia Lewis Speir
Eerie shadows spread across the narrow, twisty river,
reflections, perhaps, of a Calusa Indian’s spirit
lingering in the dense cypress and palmetto hammocks
readying his canoe of yellow pine.
Reflections, perhaps, from senile oak trees
that once hugged the river’s banks —
their sprawling gray limbs reaching
into the churning black water,
their shrouds of moss pulled into mysterious vortexes,
down to buried memories
of ocean life, of roaming mammoths.
This once feral river succumbed to the destiny of progress,
to a kind of carnage that tamed and controlled —
its soulfulness dredged
and dumped like garbage,
its delicate bends that took centuries to carve
its enchanted fingers, lush and full of life,
were drained and left to die —
for pleasure seekers speeding past life
on sweltering summer days.
Exploring a small creek to see where it went,
digging with bare hands into the cool mud
for fossils that tell stories —
too small an adventure now
when in the palm of your hand
a gadget can hold the world.
A fifth-generation Floridian, Patricia Lewis Speir is from La Belle, a cozy, small town located in south Florida between Lake Okeechobee and Fort Myers. The Caloosahatchee River, part of the Intracoastal Waterway, was and continues to be La Belle’s feature attraction. “In the 1950s, leisure time with family was often spent on the Caloosahatchee in a small boat pushed along by a sputtering Evinrude,” says Speir. “I learned to water ski while keeping alert for submerged alligators and water moccasins. On hot afternoons, I met friends at ‘branches’ or ‘holes,’ pools of water formed by springs that were connected to the river by tributaries. It was common to find fossils, shark’s teeth and Indian Head coins washed up along the riverbank.” Speir now lives in Charlotte, North Carolina, where she completed a BA degree from the University of North Carolina-Charlotte.