I remember the first time I walked the boardwalk at the Museum. It was at my interview for the Education Coordinator position. The warmth of sun filtering through the trees, the feel of the cool wood planks beneath my feet (I had worn heels to my interview and my feet were sore). The needles from the bald cypress trees had begun to fall onto the boardwalk and were getting stuck to my trouser socks. I remember breathing in the clean Big Cypress air feeling the difference in the air quality compared to that of Detroit where I had grown up. Looking at the placards I appreciated the life giving nature of the plants around me. I wondered how many of these plants are weaved into the Seminoles’ culture.
I didn’t make it very far that day without proper footwear, but the memory has lasted and driven the way I work with the Tour Guides to give visitors a memorable experience. I have had many walks on the boardwalk since that time; each experience has given me a deeper appreciation for where I work. However, boardwalk itself isn’t how my understanding and appreciation for Seminole culture has grown; being a part of programming that takes place on it, the exchange thoughts and ideas about life and the world around us. Some days I go out talking with Tribal members, colleagues, and visitors, which left me with a feeling that we had just solved the world’s problems. Other days I walk out there to clear my head or to get in some exercise. Much of the time I’m out there, I’m working to keep the plant information fresh in my mind or am brainstorming ideas for a new program.
My advice for a person planning a trip to our Museum is to make sure you have enough time to walk the boardwalk. It’s just over a mile long so bring some water and good walking shoes. Bug spray is a must especially during the summer time. It’s hot and muggy this time of year with rain. Dry season is nice time to walk the boardwalk the humidity drops and the temperature in mild and cooler (75 to 80 degrees on average). In the wet season, with almost daily afternoon down pores, the rain gives life to the cypress dome plants that are dormant in the dry season come back to life in the wet season.
Need to take a break, about half way through the walk is our village and ceremonial grounds. It is a great place to cool off under a chickee, get a drink of water, and visit with Seminole crafters.
It’s more than just plants that come to life in the summer animals are more active, too. All staff seems to be aware that more animals are around and to keep a distance between us and them. The animals we see on a daily basis are wild and roam freely through our grounds. We see raccoons and turtles, alligators and otters, and on rare occasions a black bear will wander through. At this point many of you are thinking, “Isn’t it scary working in place with so much wild life?” Not at all. I feel safe out here knowing all the staff is trained in first aid and we have numbers on our boardwalk along with call boxes to send help quickly if something were to happen. The best part of all is we’re across the street from the police, fire, and EMT building; average response time in my experience about 5 minutes.
Maybe it’s the heat or any of the other unique experiences I just described, but we don’t get much visitor traffic during the summer time. I say, “Come prepared and you’ll have a great adventure.”
-Diana Stone, Education Coordinator