Ties That Bind

Na­ture in its full splen­dor cre­ates a hu­man bond

Bonita & Estero Magazine - - CONTENTS - Dr. Ran­dall H. Niehoff has been us­ing the light to see as he moves about the is­land of Sanibel since 1991.

Florida is con­cur­rent sto­ries of racing to­ward un­fet­tered de­vel­op­ment, sav­ing huge tracts of wild­lands, and mend­ing the wounds of our on­go­ing war against swamps, pan­thers or clear wa­ters. We sit in a place where the land seems to have ex­empted it­self from these bat­tles … a place that has con­sis­tently cho­sen to re­buke the pre­vail­ing archetype in Florida: that of re-cre­at­ing new, Ital­ianate land­scapes named for the crit­ters or won­ders they dis­place. —Ryan Org­era, Ph.D. (CEO, Sanibel-Cap­tiva Con­ser­va­tion Foun­da­tion)

What makes a fam­ily? Derived from the an­cient Latin word

fa­milia (house­hold), it refers to those who share not only a dwelling place but also a com­mon story. Here on the is­lands, for res­i­dents and visi­tors alike, the thread of that fam­ily nar­ra­tive is na­ture.

Ad­dress­ing a large group of is­lan­ders re­cently, Sanibel-Cap­tiva Con­ser­va­tion Foun­da­tion (SCCF) CEO Ryan Org­era spoke elo­quently: “We gath­ered … be­cause we are in love, some­how, with some part of our nat­u­ral world—some of us love jagged saw-pal­metto forests, some of us love the mi­cro­scopic clues in a droplet of Tar­pon Bay wa­ter, many of us love ter­rapin or plovers or log­ger­heads or silky sharks, some of us love know­ing that na­ture ex­ists in­tact—while en­joy­ing a cock­tail in an air-con­di­tioned room. Lov­ing na­ture isn’t one-size-fits-all, but it is of­ten the tie that binds.”

Our fam­ily shores sur­round is­lands on which more than two-thirds of the ter­ri­tory is set aside as per­ma­nent, pro­tected con­ser­va­tion lands. Our city coun­cil cham­ber (the fam­ily “home of­fice”) is proudly dec­o­rated with the state­ment: “Sanibel is and shall re­main a bar­rier is­land sanc­tu­ary, one in which a di­verse pop­u­la­tion lives in har­mony with the is­land’s wildlife and nat­u­ral habi­tats.” One of the man­dates of the city plan­ning depart­ment is “pro­tec­tion of eco-sys­tems” (both flora and fauna). I know of no other city that has four full-time bi­ol­o­gists on staff.

The zeit­geist of fam­ily ties is vis­i­ble in many un­of­fi­cial ways as well. On the road folks don’t think twice about traf­fic com­ing to a halt while a cat­tle egret or white ibis takes it sweet time jay­walk­ing, or a thought­ful mo­torist gen­tly moves a go­pher tor­toise to the other side. Is­lan­ders don’t tail­gate and are ready to stop when a walker or biker is wait­ing at a pedes­trian cross­ing. At the beach no one is of­fended when oth­ers stroll with their eyes cast down—or make a sud­den stop to demon­strate the “Sanibel stoop” (af­ter all, our area yields some 400 species of color­ful seashells).

Around our homes more peo­ple are us­ing less fer­til­izer and wa­ter by choos­ing not to grow grass or plant ex­otics; the SCCF Na­tive Land­scapes and Gar­den Cen­ter raises and sells more than 200 na­tive plant species (more than 50 of which are en­dan­gered). Up in the air more than 120 kinds of birds are fly­ing, and our shores pro­vide respite, food and breed­ing grounds for two-winged trav­el­ers from all over the world.

In the en­trance gar­dens of the Sanibel Con­gre­ga­tional United

Church on Peri­win­kle Way stands an “eter­nal light.” Placed there to wel­come the many groups who use the fa­cil­i­ties by the con­gre­ga­tions who “live” there (Chris­tian and Jewish), it was de­signed and built by is­land artist Lu­cas Cen­tury. The exquisitel­y etched sea oats are on a glass cylin­der il­lu­mi­nated by a so­lar bat­tery. I had the priv­i­lege of com­pos­ing the words placed nearby: “Here, on Sanibel and Cap­tiva, pro­tec­tive sea oats bind the beaches of our frag­ile, bar­rier is­land. They grow by the light of the sun and sway by the push of the in­vis­i­ble wind. En­cir­cled, we too are guided by the light of Cre­ation and moved to dance by the Spirit of Love.”

That’s what fam­i­lies are all about— we’ll keep the light on for you.

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