“And so with the sunshine and the great bursts of leaves growing on trees, I had that familiar conviction that life was beginning over again with the summer.”
― F. Scott Fitzgerald
What began as an impulse last fall to go into the marsh to photograph the graceful movement of the withering cattails turned into an eight month project that now spans four seasons. I have appreciated the beauty of this marsh for years, but until I started to pay closer attention, I didn’t realize how many of its nuances and changes through the seasons that I had been missing. And I am sure there are countless more I have yet to catch, even now. (more…)
‘Tis a month before the month of May, and the Spring comes slowly up this way. — Samuel Taylor Coleridge
Spring in the marsh is about patience and attention to details. While elsewhere, the crocus, daffodils, tulips, and crabapples are in colorful profusion, spring has a much more austere arrival in the marsh.
Over the last month, I made four treks into the same wetlands I filmed this past fall and winter. I’ve always appreciated the beauty of the marsh, but have never paid as close attention to its chronology of changing seasons until I began this project. Looking for signs of new growth in early April felt like a needle-in-a-haystack search. I was sure that spring would mean the cattails would be bursting forth in green, or at least showing some bare signs of emerging from the ground anew. Silly me. Ironically, I found that this time of year, when everything is blooming outside the wetlands, the marsh cattails and grasses are actually more brittle and decayed than any other season I’ve witnessed yet.
I don’t know why I expected spring to burst forth from the center outwards, but I did. What I saw instead was that new growth seemed to be working its way in to the marsh from the fringes, from the treetops down and from the edges inward. Once again, Mother Nature showed me that what she can conjure up is far better than what I can imagine.
Veil after veil of thin dusky gauze is lifted, and by degrees the forms and colours of things are restored. ― Oscar Wilde
Filmed between April 12th and May 9th of this year in the marsh behind The Marsh health and wellness center in Minnetonka, Minnesota. Musical track, Hire Purchase [CC BY-NC-ND 3.0], written and performed by Irish guitarist, Cian Nugent, was made available through freemusicarchives.com. Sounds of marsh birds recorded by dobroide and nicStage and shared at freesound.org.
When my mind is in tangles, I walk. Sometimes it seems that there can’t possibly be enough miles in front of me to sort through the cobwebs, the demons of doubt, the frustrations or sadness or fear that sent me to the trail in the first place. Pounding the earth with my feet, I envision myself physically hammering out the swirls and tangles and figuring out the feelings that won’t easily give themselves up for understanding.
Don’t get me wrong. I’m not always a grumpy walker. Many days when I hit the trail, my feet feel like they are floating above the earth, like I am gliding effortlessly across the landscape. On these days, my heart does a happy dance with every step. Akin to a “runner’s high,” I would have never thought this state was achievable through walking. But here I am, a former runner, and an now an avowed walking addict.
I’d have to check my baby book to find out exactly when I literally started walking, but I feel like I only started truly walking in earnest– as a practice of meditation and awareness, as much as an exercise– back in 2007 when I was training for the Susan G. Komen 3-Day Walk for the Cure for the first time. I didn’t want to be under-prepared for the 20 miles a day of walking, so I over-prepared instead. If you follow the suggested 24 week training plan, you walk 585 miles to prepare yourself. I added at least a few extra for good measure. If you then count the 60 miles you log at the actual event, you have put in 645 miles of trail time in a 6-month period.
Walking is kinder and gentler on my joints than running, but obviously, the downside is that it takes much longer to walk ten miles than to run them. Yet, as I have gotten deeper and deeper into the practice, the time seems to work in my favor, forcing me to settle and calm into a steady, intentional rhythm. I know I’ve found it when my gait begins to have the same easy feeling of comfort that I have when I’m rocking on a porch swing, as if I could go forever. And in losing myself to this rhythm, I find myself more aware of everything around me, which in turn seems to magically loosen the knots in my mind, at least to some degree.
Once I start noticing things, I can’t stop. I never know what first will catch my attention and take me away from myself. Sometimes it’s a long wait. But eventually, it happens. Sunlight, shadow, dragonflies, chirping birds, irises in bloom that remind me of my grandmother, lilypads on water, geese with their goslings, the smell of lilacs. I know I’ve achieved walking nirvana when even ordinary weeds seem to leap out at me as if an emblem of ultimate beauty.
Forgive me for possibly seeming to portray walking as a panacea for all ills. No, it can’t fix everything. And while it happens to be my passion, it may not be for the next person. But my theory is that we all have something that will have this effect on us, if we let it find us.
Sometimes it seems like there aren’t enough miles in front of me to sort out my tangles. But almost always, by the time I finish, it seems like there were just enough.
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Huge thanks to Steve Kaul & The Brass Kings, for permission to use “Big Jim’s Blues” from their new CD “Machine” as the soundtrack to this story.