New Life in Dismal Places

July 12, 2018
Hilary Leighton
Hall of Mosses, Washington

Despite its proclivity toward darkness, in the bog, everything to me seems more animate and alive. In the muck of unsettledness, I find a marriage of opportunity and awe. Lady slippers in their velvety elegance await the tiny feet of faeries. Insects constellate like little stars around invisible planets. They swarm and buzz me but don’t land. A lapis-back dragonfly with his enormous iridescent green eyes hovers nearby. A strange ethereal call from the woods behind me hangs like mist in the air, and big thick earthy silence with its long echo resounds in my heart. It appears there has been a quick fire here as the woods seem charred. But I think not. It is probably just the blackening of rot and the sully of patient ruin. 

While this can seem like a stagnant place, everything here is wildly interacting, pulsating, humming and singing its own summer bog-song. Respectfully, I slow down to listen and let myself fall down onto mats of sedge and soft sphagnum up to my elbows…I am literally grounded, totally bogged-down! As I lie here hoping some of the crassness of these busy days will slough off and remain as compost for the new, I sense I am a mere apprentice to a mystery too great to be solved but rather meant to be lived through…maybe meant to be devoured by.

Thoreau called the bog the sanctorum sanctum.  Teeming with fecundity, a dazzling jewel of a place, I have found that the unfathomable quaking swamp is a transformational sanctuary for many of us. With all of its comings and goings, this liminal space of neither here nor there, contains some of the highest levels of biodiversity. You can see for yourself that in-between -- at the edges -- is where things really happen, where habitats blend, where life and death meet regularly, where tensions hold and change each other, where unexpected growth is possible and new life flourishes. A perfectly entangled place for an edge/ucator to let go of being wise and right, and let what wants to happen, happen…for a change.

"At the edge of consciousness, for example, the mind teases us, suggesting that the other side is endless, fathomless. The edge between land and sea, like other ecological edge effects is teeming with life, with abundance, as species stretch between ecological zones, as if the world is more, always more!" (Sewall, 1999, p. 135-136)

Sewall, L. (1999). Sight and sensibility. The ecopsychology of perception. NY: Jeremy  P. Tarcher/Putnam.