Tuesday, July 26, 2011
My Summer in a Bog
I took Ecology when I was in college. It was my lab science course. I took it as a requirement, but I came to love it as a science. One of the often cited studies of ecological importance was the work by Katherine Dooris Sharp entitled Summer in a Bog. In the class I learned the tremendous power the ugly, foreboding bog can hold for development in the ecosystem. The bog in temperate zones is like the jungle in tropical zones: Its diverse creatures populate the rest of the landscape with new individuals and new species. It provides food, water, and protection
A bog does not offer the beautiful grace of a meadow or the serenity of a clean, white beach. A bog is muddy and the water is thick and smelly. The tiny creatures that leave delicate trails in the mud may bite or sting, and the ones that buzz and whir around you nose and ears do too. Vines and bushes make walking treacherous for your shins and face. You may see tadpoles and frogs, but rarely fish. Birds move in the trees or above them.
Even when the heat of summer is intense and drought is abroad, the bog is still the last resource for the water-starved deer and wild pig. The bog is humid and the stench of stale water irritates your nose. The trees here will still be green when those on the hill are suffering heat stress. The bog becomes a refuge for all the wildlife.
Eventually rain blesses the earth and the bog comes alive with new sounds of insects and the rustling of coons and squirrels and birds in the branches. Grasses come up green from the crusted soil, and even in late summer the bog is fresh and new. In a few days the murky water and summer heat return, and the bog, renewed, continues its job.
I like the bog. Even though it is not always beautiful, I have learned to see the beauty in it. There are boggy times in my life, too. They are messy with pain and anger, and I am weighed down with heat and my shoes are muddy. The new life that is born in the bog flourishes in the sunlight. Like all birth, it is painful and tedious, but it has potential. We will have to see its maturity to know what that is.