Recently my blogging friend Linda, over at Walkin’, Writin’, Wit & Whimsy, has been posting about her visit to the Detroit River International Wildlife Refuge, and this inspired me to finally visit Connecticut’s own national wildlife refuge. I’ve lived in Connecticut most of my life and had never been! We decided to start with the Salt Meadow Unit in Westbrook, closest to home.
Stewart B. McKinney National Wildlife Refuge is comprised of 10 units stretched across 70 miles of Connecticut’s coastline. It was established in 1972 and was originally called Salt Meadow National Wildlife Refuge. The refuge was renamed in 1987 to honor the late U.S. Congressman Stewart B. McKinney, who was instrumental in expanding it. ~ Stewart B. McKinney National Wildlife Refuge website
We were very excited to reach the wildlife viewing platform overlooking the salt marsh. Unfortunately, though, we did not see a single waterbird, even though we waited patiently for a while. Wrong time of year or maybe wrong time of day…
I was surprised to find an andromeda bush (on the right) in the woods. Perhaps it originated in the garden of Esther Lape & Elizabeth Read, who owned the property and donated it to U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service in 1972.
Looking forward to returning some day to take the Marsh (Blue) and Woodcock (Orange) Trails. And maybe to see some birds!
Nature isn’t dualistic. It isn’t merely a collection of separate parts. It doesn’t throw anything away. It recycles everything. And it doesn’t operate out of a desire to improve things. While we fixate on the parts, nature acts out of the Whole. ~ Steve Hagen (Buddhism Is Not What You Think: Finding Freedom Beyond Beliefs)
And it’s a disquieting thought that not even the past is done with, even that continues to change, as if in reality there is only one time, for everything, one time for every purpose under heaven. One single second, one single landscape, in which what happens activates and deactivates what has already happened in endless chain reactions, like the processes that take place in the brain, perhaps, where cells suddenly bloom and die away, all according to the way the winds of consciousness are blowing. ~ Karl Ove Knausgård (A Time for Everything)
Not a day goes by that I don’t take a walk on the beach. The beach is truly home, its broad expanse of sand as welcoming as a mother’s open arms. What’s more, this landscape which extends as far as the eye can see, always reminds me of possibility. It is here I can listen to my inner voice, shed inhibitions, move to the rhythm of the waves, and ask the universe unanswerable questions. That is why when I found myself at a crossroads in my marriage and my life, I ran away to Cape Cod and spent a year by the sea, I was sure this place, so full of my personal history, would offer clarity. … The beach to me is a sacred zone between the earth and the sea, one of those in-between places where transitions can be experienced – where endings can be mourned and beginnings birthed. A walk along the beach offers the gift of the unexpected. Scan the horizon and glimpse the endless possibilities. Stroll head down and encounter one natural treasure after another. Tease the tides and feel a sense of adventure. Dive into the surf and experience the rush of risk. ~ Joan Anderson (A Walk on the Beach)
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)
If there were Druids whose temples were the oak groves, my temple is the swamp. ~ Henry David Thoreau (Journal)
On the night of a full moon, April 6, we took an enchanting sunset cruise on a small skiff into the Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge. There had been a natural fire, started by lightning, about a year ago.
In southern Georgia and northern Florida there is a very special place, one of the oldest and best preserved freshwater systems in America. Native Americans called it Okefenoka, meaning “Land of the Trembling Earth.” Now this place, where earth, air, fire and water continuously reform the landscape, is preserved within the Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge, created in 1937 to protect wildlife and for you to explore. ~ Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge
Can you spot the alligator eyeing us in the next picture?