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Letter of the week:

"The girls took turns photographing each other, playing in the water, and posing on the cypress roots and knees."


I taught biology, particularly plant physiology, in South Florida for a number of years before I retired. One of the projects we would do is survey areas of the Everglades, and students, as well as faculty assistants did most of the field work. Depending on the time of the year, you can walk a great distance in the glades, as the water level drops to a complex network of clear water pools and channels. Many of the pools are created by alligators, and they provide a place for the fish to survive until the rains.

On many occasions, some of the female students would bring light clothing for the areas of the work where we were not hiking through heavy grasses, or brush. And as this is a sub tropical area, the clothing was indeed very light. One young lady, as I recall, 18 or 19, this being her freshman year at the college, was on her first foray into the glade. She had come with one of my assistants, a young woman of 23 that was working in the biology department on her doctorate. She was an excellent assistant, and to be honest, very easy to work with, and to look at. She was quite careful at the college to keep a professional attitude, but in the field she would often wear tie her thin cotton blouse tied up under her breasts, and she never wore a bra on the hikes.

The freshman and she were bunking together in the same tent, and it was not unusual for them to go down to the water at the edge of the hammock (a rise, or hillock in the glade) with just a blouse and panties on to fill a bucket or to rinse off. One evening, we were packing specimens, getting ready for tomorrow when a boat would come in and take the collected plants back to the college. The freshman seemed a little nervous, and when she went to the other side of the glade, I asked my assistant if she was alright. Carole told me that the young lady was taking a photography class at the college and that she had talked with her about doing a series of nudes while they were out in the glade. But in order for them to do the pictures she wanted, they would have to do them today, as after tomorrow, there would be several other students that were coming with the boat and would be staying for the rest of the expedition. And as I was one of her instructors, she did not know how to even consider approaching me.

When she returned, I told her how I had done, and still did quite a lot of photography, especially macro images of the structures of flowers, a series of tree frogs during my sabbatical in Belize, and that I was interested in her own talents. I told her that I thought she was very beautiful young lady, and that she should be proud of her gifts. I told Carole that she could help her and work with her, just to try and get what they wanted done and still get everything packed.

I have rarely seen a light dawn as it did on that young lady's face. Her smile was so big, it almost hid the rest of her. Carole and she scampered off to their tent, I supposed to get her camera and gear, but in a few moments, I heard them walking back and I looked up from my packing to see if there was a problem. Both of them were completely nude, and they came back to help get the packing done. They told me that they were so happy with my understanding, that they wanted me to help them with the shooting, and that perhaps my experience would be valuable in getting the images for her class that she wanted. She could see them in her mind, but did not know how to accomplish them on film.

I believe, I packed faster, and more efficiently that day, than I had ever done before, or since for that matter. And for the rest of that afternoon, I experienced an old man's dream. Two young, beautiful ladies, completely at ease with their bodies and their spirits, inviting me to watch and participate my fill. It is a time that I remember with great clarity, even as the mists tend to cover where I placed my glasses, or set my cup of coffee these days.

There was an area at the edge of the hammock where the saw grass opened out around a spring, one of the many that bubble up in the glades. The girls took turns photographing each other, playing in the water, and posing on the cypress roots and knees. When they got to their last roll of film I was asked to photograph them together. A more lovely pair of flowers I had never had in my viewfinder. As the light faded, their skin took the color of the flame in the clouds, and it surely seemed that the spirits of the swamp had taken human form, and exquisit forms at that. We talked, or rather they talked and chatted, while I listened for quite a while around the fire, before they finally decided it was time to sleep and at last got dressed.

Several weeks after we returned to the college a package appeared on my desk. Carefully wrapped inside was a small album of photos from that assignment. To this day, I have that token, to always remind me of the innocence and delights of youth, and that with understanding, age is not a factor.


Thanks Wallace, this was nice. May we all have such a time once in a while.

See you next week. :)


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