Florida Keys

Trees In The Florida Keys

We’re All Here Because We’re Not All There.”Anonymous”

The Royal Poinciana, the Flame Tree

I have a friend who is a Native American Indian, Seminole.  He doesn’t like to talk about it and often shuns the topic.  Because of his features and demeanor, his ancestry is obvious.  Sometimes I heard people refer to him as “Hey Chief” – I knew that ticked him off. I called him Captain because he was one – a Fishing Captain.  He was naturally proud of that title.   I knew him for almost 5 years before he started telling me of Indian Culture.  I did not ask questions specifically, but slowly a trust developed, and he revealed them to me.  He told me one day that I had Indian blood in my veins.  I told him that was impossible – my family is all British and French.  He told me it was true because of my spirit and weirdly because of the shape of my nose.

I asked my mother about it and she became visibly agitated forbidding me to speak of it to my grandmother.   Being me, I asked anyway, causing my Grandmother to become visibly irked.  The maternal side of my family are all from Louisiana – all men Southern Gentlemen, all women Southern Belles. My grandmother spent her entire life working her way up the Southern Social Ladder of that small town.  Any admission of Indian blood would have wiped out her life’s work.   So, she wiped out that history.  It was my Grandfather that admitted it, and both admitted that there would be no way to prove it historically. He said all history is what people remember or choose to believe or document.  He also said all history is not documented or even sometimes not documented accurately.

What about my nose then, my sisters nose is exactly the same.  My mother said our noses were so much smaller than our grandfathers that they appeared Grecian in shape.  I have had people, artists mostly, tell me I have a quintennial Grecian shaped nose.  Now I know it’s really Creek Indian.  Just a tiny part of DNA, so tiny that no one thinks it matters or wants to admit it.  Captain thought it mattered, I think it matters.

The Captain would watch signs of nature in the Keys.  He is the one that told me about the Royal Poinciana tree. And to watch them during Hurricane Season.  There are orange/red, yellow and purple ones.  There is folklore about them. One is a tree nearby when Christ died on the Cross and the blood turning the tree blossoms forever to the red/orange in color. Fairchild Gardens has studied their seed pods to determine why they are so difficult to propagate.  Once established though they are there to stay, cut down, beat up by storms and they will come right back.

Captain told me three things to watch for in nature in the Keys for Hurricanes.  One of them is the Royal Poinciana Tree – the Red / Orange ones.   Watch when they start blooming, study the flower, observe the number of blossoms, keep an eye on how prolific they bloom.  If branchs in the trees around you are so massively lacquered in flowers in late August or very early September this is the warning of Mother Earth.  Get out, get away.  Because as the Jamaicans would say “The Big Blow” is coming.

He told me to get out of the Keys a month before anyone else thought of leaving because of IRMA. Everyone else was watching NOAH and the Weather Channel path predictions. Not me, I was watching the trees.   He called me the week before IRMA told me to pack up, gas up, leave at 2:00 A. M., get completely out of the state of Florida.  IRMA chewed through the entire state and even portions of Georgia.

I could not say I am proud to be the little pinch of Creek or that I am proud of being British, French, a Southerner or anything else.  I am proud that my ancestry opened a door for me to connect to the Captain.  In my opinion, the only thing I feel  I have a right to be proud of is to “co-exist” and the progress I see within myself in my own struggle for improving inner beauty.  All this learned from the Captian.

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