“We’ve been taught in our culture to avoid marshes and swamps…People distrust places where the footing is not always solid and reliable. We like dependability and certainty; we like knowing what to expect when we put our feet down…. Such attitudes, still widely held and perpetuated in our culture, helped to bring about the destruction of hundreds of thousands of acres of marshlands in America in the last century.”
Curtis Badger, Salt Tide (1993)
For sure, swamps are stereotypically viewed as dangerous and evil…sinking sand, as they say. “Drain the swamp,” a familiar phrase these days, carries the same negative connotation. That said, marshes, in fact, are the spaces where life begins and is sustained for many creatures. They are buffers that protect where the collision of the energy of the sea and inertia of the land negotiate and balance themselves. Pools and shallows are hiding places being just chaotic and unpredictable enough to level the playing field for prey and predator alike.
A marsh, in its essence, is a complex transition space, a liminal paradox—both opportunity and destruction nest there in the dynamic edge of things. There is a spirituality to it. Leonardo da Vinci made ingenious use of analogy to help him learn and express his vision of the spiritual and physical world. In our days, I think we can do the same if we look closely at the messiness of old fishing shacks and duck blinds and bulkheads as they, over time, collapse back into irresistible high water. I love the changeable water’s edge woven tight with cordgrass and cattails. It seems to vibrate as the roots of an old cypress lose their grip, the branches toppling over into the flooding creek only to create a new space welcoming new seeds, new grasses, a new edge. To me, that looks like a place for hope and a future, even when I feel overwhelmed by the tide.