Even driftwood twisted into wooden ghosts, overgrown worms, gnarled and craggy, appeals. The final arbitrator of its form has been friction with the world. It becomes what it is through long travel. ~ Barbara Hurd (Walking the Wrack Line: On Tidal Shifts & What Remains)
The details don’t matter – they belong to all of us – and loss, after all, is mostly a story about what happens next. What’s next for me, it seems, is the story of realizing that if there are answers at all, they might not be found in the broadest expanses. I find myself mostly lowering my habitual gaze-out-to-sea and settling down to rummage in these greenish-brown, often stinking, bug-infested wrack lines, the likes of which I must have skirted or stepped over thousands of times in my younger-me rush to get to the water. Sometimes I notice what lies tangled within them: the moon snail with its grotesque foot, trash turned into sea glass, driftwood, egg cases, jellyfish. And sometimes I notice what’s gone. Not just my grandiose quest, but also the vanished tangible. ~ Barbara Hurd (Walking the Wrack Line: On Tidal Shifts & What Remains)
In a swamp, as in meditation, you begin to glimpse how elusive, how inherently insubstantial, how fleeting our thoughts are, our identities. There is magic in this moist world, in how the mind lets go, slips into sleepy water, circles and nuzzles the banks of palmetto and wild iris, how it seeps across dreams, smears them into the upright world, rots the wood of treasure chests, welcomes the body home. ~ Barbara Hurd (Stirring the Mud: On Swamps, Bogs & Human Imagination)
As darkness fell we headed back through the swamp to the visitor center.
photos by Tim Rodgers
It was too cloudy to see the full moon, but as we learned on this trip, we often didn’t get to see what we expected see, but what we were granted to see was more than enough to fill us with gratitude.
To me, Okefenokee Swamp felt like a sacred place in the twilight, with Spanish moss hanging down like stalactites, and cypress knees rising up like stalagmites, like the ones often found in caves. I grew up playing in Cedar Swamp, another mystical place, in the woods behind our house. But this southern swamp is very different from, and much larger than, the swamps we have here in New England!
The swamp’s water is black, due to vegetation decaying in the water and leaching out tannin which stains the water in much the same way as the tannin in tea color the water in a teacup. After the swamp exploration our skiff turned out into a marsh, where we could view the sun setting and see what wildlife might come near.
To love a swamp, however, is to love what is muted and marginal, what exists in the shadows, what shoulders its way out of mud and scurries along the damp edges of what is most commonly praised. And sometimes its invisibility is a blessing. Swamps and bogs are places of transition and wild growth, breeding grounds, experimental labs where organisms and ideas have the luxury of being out of the spotlight, where the imagination can mutate and mate, send tendrils into and out of the water. ~ Barbara Hurd (Stirring the Mud: On Swamps, Bogs & Human Imagination)
One last batch of pictures from Okefenokee Swamp tomorrow!
Cypress knees (above) are woody projections sent above the normal water level in the root of a cypress tree, usually seen in swamps. They may help to provide oxygen to the trees and may help to support and stabilize the cypress trees in the soft, muddy soil.
Not the best photo of a dragonfly (below), but enough to make out how different it looks from most of the dragonflies I see up here in the north…
Spanish moss (below) is a bromeliad that hangs from oak or cypress trees. The plant has no roots and absorbs nutrients and water from the air and rainfall.
Spanish moss hangs from the cypress like old lace-pewter veils. ~ Barbara Hurd (Stirring the Mud: On Swamps, Bogs & Human Imagination)