Get Outside: An anniversary celebration in the swamp

Here we go. This is the anniversary article I've been waiting for.

Some anniversary celebrations are dragged out mercilessly on unsuspecting associates: "Today marks a full year since Fluffy began receiving the Teddy Bear cut at the doggy salon and he has never looked better!" Or, "Roommate, on this date last year we bought our first sofa together!" But there are those dates of agreed importance. A 50th wedding anniversary, for example.

The anniversary I speak of here is with affections to the day I first began submitting articles to the Journal's "Get Outside" column. To me it is important to note; to you, it probably is as stimulating as the car lot which seems to peculiarly host an anniversary blow-out sale every single year ... let's see if I can keep this more interesting than that.

Last January I took a walk in the frozen swamp that abuts my property, and had such a grand time that I decided to write about it. Thus, began my relationship with this newspaper. I've been back many, many times since then; and it felt fitting to visit the swamp again this week. Nature is oh so good at offering viewpoint "A" one day, then conjuring up viewpoint "B" on another. Like art, a study of nature is ever changing in its interpretation. That right there is writer security for me.

The sun was shining on the day I took my afternoon walk. It didn't make for much warmth, but it bathed the swamp, and the forest that surrounds it, in warm, golden tones. My boys were with me and when a sweep of sunlight highlighted them, their shadows stretched as if they were 30 years old, not 9 and 6.

I looked for something to distract me and saw frozen raindrops glossing a pine branch. Our weather has been snowy, then icy and cold, then warm and wet. Today is neutral, but the evidence of melted precipitation on the trees sparkle with a striking gleam. The area of the swamp where the beaver dam blew out, leaving everything flat and stunted, is coated in a blinding white snow. On sunny days such as these, it is near impossible to see what is across the perimeter of the swamp. That ever lesson of having hope, but knowing that none of us can fully see into the future. Insulating us in a way so that we do not become insane with anticipated joy, or expected grief.

I was in this swamp last year, where were you? If you had known all the moments these past 365 days would contain, would you have still carried on? If I had known ahead of time, there is a strong possibility that I would have sat on the frozen ground and waited it out — the knowledge of a new writing gig on the horizon not enough to balance it all.

Last year I noticed the echoing sounds in the swamp. I paused to pick dried rushes and cattails. I delighted in it all. Nature was coddling and sweet. This year the light is beautiful, but harsh. This year I am still upbeat, but mellowed. The sounds of my boys laughing off in the distance cancel out any blackbird I might have heard, but the birds aren't here today anyway. How strange the difference a year can make as everything renews, changes in on itself.

The determined tracks of the coyote and the spirited tracks of the squirrels I see today still hold my fascination in the same way the fox tracks discovered on last year's walk did. I am curious if any of these tracks I am seeing were laid by animals who were here last year. It seems likely. It also seems likely that if my wonderings are true, these animals don't contemplate how they will get more water now that the beaver dam has blown out. They do not wonder where to live now that the old, gnarled pine has finally crumbled to the ground. They do not lament the loss of their elder, or their kin, or even their young in such a way that their keening distracts them from surviving, living. I am really such a tiny, simple being out here in the frozen swamp, and that thought makes me feel wonderful.

January is the month wherein winter hits its stride. We are skiing, boarding, snowshoeing, riding snow mobiles, checking the ice, relishing the snowy days. January is the month of resolutions, and we have our opinions on those, don't we? Resolutions are personal decisions, and in a way, anniversaries are, too — the dates important only to those involved.

My 2017 resolutions were to write more and to wander more. Soon after, I merged the two. Readers, I thank you for following along to this, my first anniversary. My thank you gift to all of you is the promise to keep my two year anniversary celebration to myself, even though it will be as meaningful to me as a 50th wedding anniversary.

Tina Weikert lives in Bondville.


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