Monday, October 9, 2017

Our Endless and Proper Work

Posted by Kim

There is a deep grey to the gloam this morning and it is likely to rain today here for a bit.  Snow for tomorrow.  Snow yesterday. Snow likely today somewhere.  It has been cold.  But today is Thanksgiving, and we will celebrate it warmly even if first we venture out with toe-warmers at the ready.  Crow Lake is on the docket for today and it is full of treachery. 

We polled last night and it has won the Site-Least-Liked award.  Crow Lake burned around 2000 and so the trees that died then are akimbo, losing their vertical.  The peat has lost integrity producing pools in which many boots are lost: soakers, we call them and sometimes they come in quick succession pulling both boots off unsuspecting undergraduates.  You stop.  You pull your boot(s) out of the dark sodden hole.  You pour the water out, hope for the best, and move on.  The walk into the site from the road is also quite terrible and we’ve lost two folks up to their armpits.   We now are very aware of where that hole lives. 

In contrast, we have two beautifully green and vibrant sites near Wabasca, Alberta – a short drive from Athabasca where our base of operations remains for now.  I have grown to love them both.  The oldest of our sites, Wabasca old, is full of surprises and, as far as bogs go, is pretty diverse.  The trees are dense, which made plot layout a challenge, and this trickles down to me wandering around almost every time I’m there to make sure I’m at the right spot.  Mosses run roughshod over fallen trees and climb up living trees making the spruce throw out new roots in order to survive.  It is a silent battle out there that hardly anyone sees or understands, but we speak some of the language and we try to listen and learn. 

Field work is a comfort to me (even though I may grumble about the cold or the bugs or the snow or the rain) and I have missed it this summer.  It is good to be back in the field and among the mosses so plenty. I’m reminded of a ditty written by Mary Oliver.  This is but a bit of it:

The green mosses, being so many, are as good as brawny.

How important it is to walk along, not in haste but slowly,
looking at everything and calling out

Yes! No! The

swan, for all his pomp, his robes of grass and petals, wants
only to be allowed to live on the nameless pond. The catbrier
is without fault. The water thrushes, down among the sloppy
rocks, are going crazy with happiness. Imagination is better
than a sharp instrument. To pay attention, this is our endless
and proper work.

Happy Thanksgiving to especially our Canadian friends.

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