Ocheesee Venture Part I: Ocheesee Pond
By Nic Stoltzfus
Earlier this month, I invited a few of my friends from coastal Florida to come up and spend the day with us in the backcountry of Florida. I had invited seven of them–Leslie and Kent Kolovich; their daughter, Maddie; Joan Vienot; Karen Boudreaux; and Pat “Sheewho” Cummins–to paddle Ocheesee Pond and then go visit my aunt’s dairy farm, Ocheesee Creamery, in the afternoon.
Ocheesee Pond was recently added to the Florida Greenways and Trails as a paddling trail. However, calling it a pond is a bit of a misnomer–at around 2,000 acres, it’s more like a lake. It’s a beautiful paddle–the tea-colored pond is covered with cypress trees and, on previous paddles, my dad and I have seen all kinds of wildlife: osprey, owls, woodpeckers, turtles, to name a few.
My friends arrived around nine in the morning; a summer thunderstorm tailed them on their way from Panama City. My mom and dad suggested that we head over to the pond and begin paddling before the storm caught up with us. The ten of us quickly loaded up in our vehicles and made our way to the pond. When we arrived, the wind was whipping the water, and the sky was bruised black and grey. Thunder boomed and brackled, and the air was cool. My mom checked the radar on her phone and said that this band would soon pass. We stood on the edge of the ramp and waited.
There was a man sitting on the embankment beside the ramp with his feet and a fishing pole dipped into the water. I walked up to him and said hello. He eyed me suspiciously. “Y’all been here before?” I told him I was from Blountstown, and that I brought some friends from Panama City to paddle on the pond. We made small talk, and he told me that he caught a small three-foot gator while fishing off the side of the ramp. “He ate my cork,” he said in a syrupy accent. “There’s other gators further back, too. Big ‘uns.” I raised my eyebrows at that. “Might not wanna swim outchyonder.” I thanked him for his advice.
By that time, the blackened band of storm clouds had blown further east, so we pushed our kayaks and paddle boards into the water and began paddling. No one was in a hurry; the pace was nice and slow, everyone was enjoying the scenery. A gentle breeze blew through the Spanish moss draped over the cypress branches, and it was the coolest I had felt outside in months.
We paddled into a cypress dome, and it began to rain again. We sat there surrounded by the steady sound of rain and the sweet smell of blooming water lilies. The overhead storm cleared its throat and spat rain harder towards the ground. The falling liquid smacked the brims of our hats and the surface of the water. The wind picked up, and we shivered, drenched.
The rain finally lightened up and a few patches of blue sky appeared. When it stopped raining, my mom checked the radar again and said that another storm was coming through–this one more intense than the previous two.
We paddled back to the ramp, past wood duck holes and wasps’ nests, past cypress knees and and submerged stumps; we paddled, us adventurers ten, soaked with rain and joy and wonder.
Photography by Joan Vienot
Video Production by Leslie Kolovich
Standing Up for the Planet by Bob Purdy
World Paddle for the Planet Day is coming up on July 25TH!…
We can do this, the operative word being WE! I AM ASKING FOR YOUR HELP! I AM ASKING YOU TO SHARE WORLD PADDLE FOR THE PLANET DAY WITH YOUR FAMILY, YOUR FRIENDS, YOUR NEIGHBORS, YOUR COWORKERS, YOUR COMMUNITY GROUP! I AM ASKING YOU TO CONTACT YOUR LOCAL MEDIA AND LET THEM KNOW WHAT WE ARE DOING! I AM ASKING YOU TO SHARE WPFTPDAY ON SOCIAL MEDIA! I AM ASKING YOU TO SHOUT FROM THE ROOF TOPS, “WE CAN TAKE CARE OF EVERYONE AND EVERYTHING ON THE PLANET”! I AM ASKING FOR YOUR HELP TO TAKE WORLD PADDLE FOR THE PLANET DAY VIRAL!…
I am asking you to “Pick a change you want to see in the World, paddle for it on July 25th, then commit to that change until it becomes reality”. Join me on the Shuwap River in Enderby, Beautiful British Columbia or wherever you live on the Planet and paddle starting at noon! Pick your own change, or hop on board with my change for this year, “Changing direction from harm to care”. Let’s join together in massive numbers to send a “Wave of Change” around the World!
Thank you from the bottom of my heart, “WE CAN DO THIS”!…
My name is Bob Purdy, I am the Standup PaddleSurfing, Elder in Training from Paddle for the Planet. I have paddled every day since January 1, 2011 to “Change the Way we live on the Planet”.
Environmentally “Climate Change” is a hot topic, no pun intended. There is not a part of the Planet that has not seen extreme weather events, droughts, floods, storms, short intense weather events, some kind of abnormal activity. We humans continue to promote environmental harm by our refusal to take responsibility for our part in these weather events and other activities like resource extraction, deforesting, overfishing, pollution and more. We humans continue to promote social harm by our active or passive participation in wars, poverty, hunger, abuse, racism, addiction and more. We humans continue to promote economic harm with our belief and support of a capitalistic system of control that is out of control and borders on the psychopathic.
By far the number one comment I get from People everywhere I go is “I am only one person, what can I possibly do to make a difference”? What I have learned that I as one person can do can be summed up in two words, “Take Care”! Every single person on the Planet has the ability, the responsibility and the need to make decisions. Every single one of us makes a host of decisions during the course of a day. Here is what one person can do. Every time you make a decision ask yourself this question, “Is what I am about to do, the decision I am about to make, going to promote harm or care”. That’s it!
Does buying that bottled water promote harm or care? Does gossip promote harm or care? Are your relationships promoting harm or care? Are you taking care of yourself or promoting harm? Etc. Etc. Etc.
I am a fairly simplistic person, to me harm is bad, care is good! I don’t know too many people who prefer harm over care. Harm feels bad, care feels good. In my simplistic way of thinking and being the path seems obvious, find the harm in the challenges we are facing and replace the harm with decisions and actions that promote care!
That is what World Paddle for the Planet Day is all about. We live in a time and place where instant change can and does happen. All it takes is all of us! Can you imagine how much we can change if we all get on board and promote care over harm? I can, it’s what drives me to paddle every day to “Change the Way we live on the Planet”.
The Paddler’s Planet with Christian Wagley
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It’s a hot Sunday afternoon on the summer solstice, and with the sun at its highest in the sky above I take a ride to a rural swimming hole on the Perdido River along the border between Florida and Alabama. Parked cars line both sides of the road leading down to the water, hinting at the scene ahead.
The descending road levels out on a flat floodplain along the River’s banks, and the view before me makes my eyes grow wide. It’s a beehive of activity, as a couple of hundred people are in the River and along its banks–swimming, fishing, picnicking, lounging—enjoying a Father’s Day afternoon.
Young children wade gingerly through the shallows as parents hold their tiny hands. Older kids leap into the River from the sandy banks and bob their heads beneath the water, always coming-up with smiles on their faces. Grandparents sit in folding chairs beneath the shade of trees, watching over it all.
The shallow River flows clean, tinted brown by the natural tannins that seep from vegetation as rain drains through hundreds of square miles of mostly forested land upstream. While I doubt that anyone enjoying the cool water is thinking about it at this moment, there’s a beautiful relationship between the River and the surrounding forests that makes this entire scene possible.
The warm moist air rising from the Gulf of Mexico helps to fuel over 60” of rainfall per year along our coast, making it one of the wettest areas of the country. When storm clouds drop their load over a native forest, so begins a series of amazing interactions between rain, forest, land, and river.
The falling rain first strikes the leaves and branches in the tree canopy, which can be 100’ in the air among the oldest of the longleaf pine trees that once dominated the coastal plain. Depending on the intensity of the storm and density of the canopy, around one-quarter of the rain can be absorbed by the forest canopy where it then evaporates back into the sky.
What does move through the canopy has been softened, falling more gently toward the ground. On its way to the forest floor the rain reaches an understory of small trees, shrubs, and grasses that further absorb the flow.
The remaining rain finally reaches the forest floor, where a dense carpet of leaves, pine needles, plants, and decaying organic matter soak-up the water and hold it like a sponge. The upper layers of soil and leaf litter teem with a rich diversity of microbes, fungi, and other life that cleanse the water of pollutants like sediment and nutrients, before it filters slowly into the ground where it flows underground into nearby rivers and streams.
Looking out on the river that day, I watched people frolic in water that had fallen as rain weeks and even months ago, slowly delivered to the River clear and clean by the undeveloped forest upstream. In using the river they were most certainly embracing the wonderful natural system that ensures that waters run pure.
Wherever we live, the waters we love to paddle depend on what’s upstream. Healthy waterways can only stay healthy by keeping most of their watershed intact, in its natural state of forest or grassland. The more we understand and embrace this, the more we can work toward preserving the large areas of land that must stay undeveloped to protect these waters.
As paddlers that means looking many miles upstream and advocating to preserve lands in parks, private preserves, and well-managed timber and grazing lands. And to steer new housing and development into already developed areas and more compact patterns that use less land—urban areas where we can leave the car behind and do a lot more daily travel by bike, on foot, and with transit. It’s the big-picture approach we have to follow in order to save every favorite little swimming hole and stretch of waterway all across the land.
Soulful Uplifting People with Leslie Kolovich
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Many of you that follow my radio show and blogs understand the joy, and passion I get from being outdoors on the water paddling. I believe that adventures especially those that connect us to our natural world can make us happier people.
Getting back to simple~
For me a paddleboard adventure is the perfect happiness activity. Paddling is simple. No need for motors, noise, breakdowns, smell of gasoline, or puffy black smoke, just simple. A board, paddle, PFP, a dry bag and a water bottle is all that is needed. When I don’t have to worry about a whole lot of preparation for an adventure the stress is cut down immensely! Keeping adventure simple, I believe offers a better experience and this makes me happier. This actually is a true statement for all aspects of our lives. Keep it simple.
Less talking more listening~
My group of regular paddle friends and I have unknowingly allowed the first 15 minutes or so of our paddling to be the time we talk all of our issues out we often call this “board therapy”. I think Mother Nature is listening to our concerns and she asks the water and the breezes to whoosh away our stresses. It’s quite a remarkable happening. It’s as if you can see this calm wave wash over us all bringing us no need to talk about our discomforts anymore. We then get quiet and turn to the voices of nature it’s our turn to listen. We hear the water splashing up against the boards, we hear the screech of osprey and eagles as they fly over head, we hear the sounds of water meeting the shores of forests that have stood since ancient times. I now recognize these sounds as Mother Nature’s symphony. With this recognition I reconnect with the natural rhythm of the planet, which also brings a deeper feeling of contentment and peace.
A promise to respect and protect~
With each paddle adventure I become so connected to nature with such gratitude for all that she gives to sustain life including peace and happiness that it is my promise to respect and protect, and really look at how my daily actions on this planet affect the overall health and well being of it. One person does make a difference. July 25th is World Paddle for the Planet Day. Founder Bob Purdy will lead people all across the globe at noon in every time zone with the mantra, be the change you want to see. Together we will send a wave of positive change with hopes of turning the bus around for future generations!
One of the most important things a human being can do~
Getting outdoors on the water in a non motorized craft, keeping it simple, talking less, listening more, connecting to the rhythm of Natures symphony feeling the gratitude for the life sustaining beauty of the planet that makes us stand up and protect it at all costs is quite possibly the most important thing a human can do. That’s a pretty big statement, but I really believe if we could get those policy makers, and people in suits out on the water in this manner, the natural world would become something other than words written on paper on their desks.
The First Drum Circle (Thursday, May 7th)
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Last month, Leslie Kolovich invited me to a drum circle at her house. I was both equal parts excited and apprehensive—what would it be like? What could I expect?
I arrived about 20 minutes before we were supposed to begin. I greeted everyone and Leslie asked that I write down some names of people that I would like to lift up for this evening’s drum circle. I wrote down a few names and at the end included the people in Nepal who had recently been affected by the earthquake.
Leslie asked that we bring our own drums, so I brought my sister’s djembe that she bought when she was in Cameroon, and a stumpfiddle that I made. I set the instruments down in the middle of the circle where everyone else had placed their rhythm instruments; there was a whole assortment of drums—large, small, tall, squatty. Other rhythm instruments included bells, hand cymbals, frogs, rhythm sticks, egg shakers, Tibetan singing bowls, and maracas.
As the clock approached six, we formed a circle in the family room downstairs. Leslie greeted everyone and then Jaime, a local musician and probably the most experienced drummer in the room, explained that we would be drumming for 108 minutes straight, and that it was going to be a freestyle drum circle with no central leader, but one where the group would ebb and flow on its own whim.
He then asked us a question. “How many of you are drummers?” A few hands went up. “How many of you are think you’re not drummers?” Most of the hands in the room shot up—for many of us, this was our first time at a drum circle. With a smile on his face and a twinkle in his eyes, he said, “Well, I think you’re going to prove me differently by the end of the evening.”
We then went around the room and shared our names, and why we were here this evening. I told everyone that I was there to listen with an unclouded heart. Among the other 21 drummers, many mentioned being there to find harmony or love. One lady said she was there to heal a broken heart. Another person said that there was a lot of hurt going on, and she wanted to lift up peace to the world.
After going around the room Shantaya, a local yoga instructor, began playing on her box accordion and lead the group in a mantra. After a few minutes, Jaime began playing his drum; with a deep bass thump and steady rhythm that resonated throughout the room, most of us began nodding to the beat. After another minute or so, a lady from across the room joined in on her drum, somewhat unsteady and unsure at first, but soon slipped into a rhythm paralleling Jaime’s drumming. One by one, everyone else in the circle joined in. Shantaya stopped playing the box accordion and the percussive beat of drums filled the room. Ba-boomp, ba-da-boomp, ba-da-boomp, ba-da-boomp. Ba-boomp.
The group began with this really heavy throbbing drumbeat, and then the beat changed. Three beat time switched to four beat time and cycled back again. Each person was a thread, a thread of frayed and loose sound that rapidly intertwined with others, spun wildly with others; came together freely, completely designless and free. Rhythms wove throughout the room, the warp and the woof formed a fabric of sound, enveloped us in a warm and palpable blanket of rhythm.
Towards the end, I wanted to take a break, so I left the circle. I grabbed a cup of water and a slice of watermelon and went outside to the porch. The last hours of sunlight hung in the sky and reflected off the nearby dune lake. I listened: Crick, crick, chirpity-crick, chirp, chirp. Nature has its own rhythm, and I could hear the beating of the drums mixing with the night sounds. I thought to myself: crickets and frogs sing their song every day, and if only we could do the same thing and not be held back by society and cultural inhibitions and just live our lives and create music!
I came back in the room and looked at the drums spread out all higglety-pigglety on the floor like toys in a child’s room. Playing drums, playing music.
I looked around the room—every one person had their own instrument that they were playing and yet, collectively, we were creating music together. Each cricket rubbing its individual legs yet together forming a chorus, each ant grasping its own leaf yet together feeding the whole colony, each butterfly flapping its own wings yet together migrating southward…Interdependence. To create your own rhythm and sync it with others—it’s not just humanity, it’s life!
Not long after I sat down, Shantaya began to squeeze the bellows on her box accordion and the drummers began to slow down and fade out, recognizing that we had been playing for almost two hours straight.
Shantaya soon stopped playing and the room sat in silence. After listening to almost two hours of loud, rhythmic, pulsing, pulsating, beating drums and then to have a moment of silence? It really was deafening, audible—I heard the sound of silence. It spoke to me as much as the drumbeats. Sometimes the absence of something is just as important as the presence of something. When you have a cup, that which is not is what forms the usefulness of a cup. We drink from the hollow section and the cup is just a container. Even drums need a shell or a resonance chamber to allow the vibrations to spread through the air. Eardrum, sound, house, cup. That which is useful is not.
Five or ten minutes passed with us sitting in silence and breathing in each other’s presence. Leslie concluded the evening and the group was in agreeance that this was truly a special evening and that the drum circle should continue.
The next drum circle is Thursday, July 9th, from 6-8 pm Central Time and will meet every 2nd Thursday of the month at that time. You can watch the drumming sessions on YouTube. Hope to see you there!