I sauntered with a friend out onto the boardwalk into the wetlands behind Allegany College.

It’s a cooperative project between the school and several agencies who believe that wetlands like this are worth saving and creating as a harbor for unique species of plants, animals, and birds that inhabit such places as well as a source of clean filtered water. If sewage is pumped into swampy lands, the microbes there decompose it and the now purified water enters the waterways that flow from it.

Millions and millions of wetlands have been destroyed in our country and replaced by farmlands, parking lots, buildings, and other “civilized” luggage. In fact, somewhere near 90% of the original array of bogs in Garrett County are now gone.

One such abomination was the large chunk of acreage of Florida everglades that were drained to build Disney World.

And so it goes.

However, there is another compelling reason why such swampy places are valuable: they are a source of endless wonder for the human spirit and imagination.

On that day, the whole world was alive in early spring shining — all suspended on muck. And I had a kid notion to just climb off the walkway and squish my bare feet and toes around in it for a while. I’m sure Disney never suspected that might be more thrilling for children than cavorting in his fabricated attractions. God forbid.

The spring peepers, oh the spring peepers, were trilling their little hearts out that day, almost deafening at times.

When we were about halfway along the boardwalk, they abruptly subdued. It was only after we stopped walking for a while and ceased our conversation, that they started in again, perhaps now not feeling threatened by our moving presence, talking presence. Who knows?

And then there were the occasional quacking clucking voices of male wood frogs punctuating the air. Like the peepers, in ritual calling — calling to females to come their way, mate, and bring forth a new seasonal brood.

There were the cattails spiking up all over, with cottony gossamer seeds attached to their rusty brown heads, ready to waft gently into the slightest draft and drift to other pieces of earth and settle down and germinate. I just marvel sometimes at the gentleness in the wild world.

A peace in which new generations come into being. Such a pleasing gift to my all too loud life. A continuing hushed resurrection.

Cattails and other vegetation were matted flat in in one large area. Probably a deer lay, nicely hidden from predators.

And the growth was pushed aside in a couple areas, making a trail probably used by deer in their travels. We spotted a few much smaller passages of this kind, too, likely runs for raccoons, foxes, rabbits and maybe even a coyote of or two.

Most intriguing though, was a sinuous little furrow in the mud beneath where we were standing. Salamander, crayfish? Chalk it up as one of the mysteries in these environs.

I believe these soggy lands, above all, are especially pleasing for children to explore. Freely, fully, physically, and soulfully. Done enough times, these can become dear and remembered worlds that will incline them as they grow into adults to want to protect what is left of wild creation. This is the enduring hope that I cherish in my aging heart.

With all this in mind, finally, I can say boldly that for me, I’ll take the gooey miry muck of wetlands and its profligate issue over Disney. Yes, yes.

Every time. Hands down.

Jack Slocomb

Cumberland 

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