Swamps, a Morning Ride, and the Addams FamilyMar 31, 2020 10:33AM ● By Gayle Morrow
How do you feel about swamps? I like them, and I think I know one reason why. It’s The Addams Family. I’ve adored the show my whole life (what little girl of a certain age did not want to be Morticia Addams?), and the, uh, unique members of that clan were swamp fans, too. It rubbed off. While swamps, like families, can be creepy and kooky, mysterious and spooky, even altogether ooky, they’re also brimming with an enchanting assortment of living things. For those reasons I feel quite fortunate to live near a few lovely swamps (can’t you just hear Morticia saying that?), but there is also this: They are (not to brag or anything, because it’s really nothing I did) the humble, almost secretive beginnings of several little streams, which are in turn feeder streams for bigger waterways, which are in turn…
You get the picture, right? They are headwaters.
One warm morning—one of a series of warm mornings during a long dry spell—my horse and I were taking a quick cruise around our dusty dirt road neighborhood when I had this bright idea: Let’s take a different way, this shortcut through the swamp and up the hill. I’d been meaning to explore this part—I wanted to know how deep and wet it was and whether it was rideable. It’s been sooo dry, so I’m sure it’ll be fine, I told my horse. It was not. We got a ways off the road, no problems, and were skirting what looked to be the wettest section, when suddenly my horse was up to his belly in extremely thick ooze. And every direction we turned, he was still up to his belly. I flung myself off his back, and then I was thigh deep in the stuff. I admit to a moment of panic—I was unable to channel my inner Morticia—but my horse, bless his heart, kept his head. He lurched (Lurch—get it?), and lurched again a few more times, found a bit of purchase, then a bit more. I floundered after him. When we were both on solid ground again, breathing hard, he shook himself and looked at me, like, “Well, what were you thinking? Geeze.”
The most insightful takeaway from that little adventure (aside from the pleasant surprise that my horse, who sometimes believes that a boulder he’s walked by dozens of times is unexpectedly and most assuredly going to eat him, is relatively calm in an actual crisis) was the awareness of how much water there must be in that particular section of that particular swamp, even in really dry times, and how valuable that water must be to all kinds of life, especially during dry times.
You’ve probably heard the truism that we all live downstream. Well, we all live upstream, too. It may be stating the obvious, but all the water everywhere starts somewhere else. Your favorite trout stream might begin in my neighborhood swamp. The water flowing in each little roadside ditch, along with all the silt and garbage typically flowing along with it, could end up in your favorite trout stream, too, or maybe in your drinking water.
Take yourself on a fun little expedition and follow a stream to its source. You may find it to be quite unassuming—maybe only a miniscule trickle from one of those lovely swamps—but that’s the miracle of headwaters.