Prairie Meditations at Saul Lake Bog
A winter visit to Saul Lake Bog Nature Preserve
There aren’t many bogs near Grand Rapids and Saul Lake Bog has everything a good bog needs. It has insectivorous plants, those fantastical species that lure insects with their sweetness and devour them for their nutrients. It has spruce islands and open water and, of course, sphagnum. A day into the new year, the winter bog is white and brown and the open water has ice creeping in from the edges. The wind off the bog is biting and my flannel sleeves do little to block the cold from my skin.
Up the hill from the bog is the prairie. Today, it is the prairie that steals my attention.
The winter grasses are shoulder high and golden in the first sun of the new year. All the color from summer and fall is faded into only golden yellow. The wildflowers have all lost leaves and petals leaving only skeleton stalks sticking out from the grass. The showy goldenrod, not as showy now, still catches my attention with its spidery bristles. The milkweed pods hang cracked and mangled from the stems.
Like bogs, prairies are not as common in West Michigan as they once were. Due to our loss of large grazing animals and our modern fire suppression many of our prairies have converted into forests or farmland.
The snow covering the ground has frozen solid and each footstep makes a cracking sound as if, with my next step, I am going to fall through into icy water, though I am on the high ground with only solid earth beneath me.
Animal tracks are frozen into the snow all around. Huge turkey footprints follow meandering trails. Smaller raccoon prints twist and turn and go off into the woods. The turkeys and raccoon are clearly unconcerned with any sort of direction or route. This kind of meandering is something I can learn from.
And so, taking the lead of the these winter creatures, I walk with no particular route in mind. A good way to start a new year.