I have become an acolyte for the Spirit of the Everglades, who has also been called Our Lady Florida and Lady of the Land of Many Waters. (The different names perhaps reflect a being of such power, but perhaps also her acolytes’ lack of a proper name, fitting the human naming convention. So, instead, we have titles.)
Confession: I am worried about what this means. See, up to now I was pretty happy to idle along in the pools of “pagan agnosticism” and sometimes even “atheism” period. The gods of the ancients were nice ideas, but the philosophies of unity with Nature in mind and body were better. I was already packaging the concept of “spirit” for permanent storage. There wasn’t a single experience that I couldn’t explain with just mind+experience and a lot of wonky neuroscience and dodgy physics. I was at a stable position.
Then, I had the first contact with Our Lady Florida, unbidden, in the middle of a random meditation. She presented herself like La Señora de la Caridad del Cobre (Cuba’s patron saint) and gave me a geohistorical tour of the peninsula and the eco-spiritual function of her free-flowing waters. I was speechless, so I ran to a friend of mine who is far more experienced in this matter and told him everything, panicking I was losing my sanity now, for good. He was intrigued and we agreed to have him try to match the experience and gather details to corroborate or discard mine. And, though his experience of the Lady of the Land of Many Waters was somewhat different, there was no doubt this was real and it was happening.
Needless to say, my comfortable retirement from theism has been put on hold, though strangely enough, La Florida isn’t opposed to my non-theistic formulations of a world of mind and matter, not spirit. She is remarkably tolerant–though I suppose that’s inevitable when you live in a place like Florida, melting pot of the world’s peoples/cultures/beliefs. At the “bedrock” of her (see what I did there, hue hue) she is the rocky foundation upon which millions of years of limestone/sandstone has built up, then was uplifted out of the sea. She claims everything from miles off our current shore–her ancient shorelines and part of the continental shelf–to the Everglades proper, to the rains that fall, to the living things that swarm upon her. She’s seen many people settle and flourish on her natural bounty, and perhaps made herself known to a few (difficult to prove, archaeologically). Didn’t matter how those people chose to see her, but those that turned to her with appreciation and love received her bounties. The ones that saw only the challenge of dominating the landscape were met with nothing but the wrath of the elements.
She is aware of how the Everglades–her circulatory system–has been disrupted and is slowly withering, but she will not die from it. Living things will carry her spirit as will the soil, and however long the aquifer lasts. But in the future, the sea level will rise beyond her ability to keep out with flows of fresh-water. It is already happening, ever-so-slowly. In time, the salt waters will reclaim the land and she will slumber again. It is nothing new. She’s spent dozens of millions of years that way before. However long it takes, the waters will recede again and she will start anew.
But we’ll be gone. All that we could have built to house and nourish her spirit will be gone. The world might be inhospitable to our species, by then, not to mention the many we’re already marching to their death. Florida will remain, as will her spirit. Who knows what will come after us.
Perhaps it isn’t too late to fight these changes. Perhaps we can remain in some form, even as the waters rise and most of our southeastern megalopolis is drowned. On what remains, I would build her temple of shell-encrusted sandstone, cypress, live oak, and slash pine.