Earlier this summer, I visited the trails at Sapsucker Woods, a place of ponds filled with lilies and singing bull frogs, and boardwalks over fern-filled swamps where the mirror-smooth water resulted in a vision of a sepia-toned underworld just beneath your feet. The watery landscape was entrancing in a way that is very different from walking the hills or the lakeshore, and I found myself thinking about the singular ways that wetlands resonate in human consciousness. There is a special in-between quality to wetlands, a porous boundary with no clear shore that lingers in the imagination. Marshes and swamps and fens, like mountainsides and moors, are wildernesses that belong to monsters and outcasts, or to the dead. In Beowulf, Grendel and his mother haunt the “awful fenpaths, where the upland torrents plunge downward under the dark crags, the flood underground.” From Old English to a modern day example, there’s Tolkien, an eternal Beowulf fanboy, and his Dead Marshes with their drowned warriors.
Often these depictions are meant as a warning – to fear the creature in the black lagoon. Avoid the Great Grimpen Mire, and don’t follow the will-o’-the’whisp, the light that pixies and púcas use to lead travelers off the path to drown. Just from Saturday morning cartoons alone, we probably all thought quicksand was going to be a bigger deal in life than it ended up being. No matter what the setting, human beings tend to create stories about their physical landscapes. The special place of dread and possibility that wetlands hold in the imagination, though, doesn’t disappear with scrutiny. The archaeological stories held within wetlands are as intriguing as any myth. Maybe more so, because they are often sparse on all but the most gruesome of details.
Forgetting you tucked your pants in your socks to avoid ticks and walking into CVS like that.
Visiting Lowes 4 days running, making a total of 5 trips for a week long service run.
Playing a game called “Sunburn, Dirt, or Bruise?” at the end of the day.
Pickup truck rides! My favorite people are the ones with big fields with seismometers at the bottom who give me rides in their trucks/golf carts/Arctic Cats. My least favorite people are the ones with big fields with seismometers at the bottom who don’t give me rides. On the other hand, my step count on my phone is quite high this week.
Stopping on the highway for 10 minutes because a Very Large Farm Vehicle (combine? crop sprayer? It was two stories tall and took up two lanes) had parked in the center of the road and seemed unwilling to move.
A church sign that said “Your name may be on a bottle of Coke, but is it in the Book of Life?”
A laundromat sign that said “Suds Yer Duds”
Too many “Jesus/Christ is Lord/The Answer” signs to count, but in spatial terms probably not as many as the Elmira/Southern Tier area has in terms of religious imagery per mile. If I am ever here in winter, I will have to compare numbers of monumental glowing Christmas emblems blazoned on the countryside. Oklahoma may be at a disadvantage as there are no proper hills for a two-story Christmas wreath to hang on like we have. Maybe they can decorate one of the Very Large Farm Vehicles or a wind turbine.
Sharing the roads and fields with rabbits, deer, pheasants, and hordes of large yellow grasshoppers which leap from the grass ahead of you like a wave before a ship as you walk through a field – A+, would nature-gaze again. Sharing the field with an early morning skunk heading your direction – Do not want.
AN ACTUAL ROADRUNNER JUMPED OUT THE BUSHES AND RAN ALONG IN FRONT OF MY CAR. TURNS OUT THEY RUN ABOUT 15 MPH.