Ties That Bind
Nature in its full splendor creates a human bond
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.