Thursday, April 26, 2012

Cedarburg Bog

Sunday afternoon when we arrived home from Philly, we noticed Taran's nose was dripping....and dripping....and dripping. By Tuesdy afternoon he had a fever of 102° , on Wednesday he was diagnosed with an ear infection and on Thursday, his total body was covered in hives. I think in the 9 days that he was acutely sick, he cried more than he had in the whole year prior. He spent hours a day crying while I or Joe held him - usually me, because Joe got extremely sick himself a week after Taran started feeling ill.

On one of the warmer days, I got him outside to soak up a little warmth. No matter how yuck he's feeling, being in fresh air always cheers him up, even if just temporarily.

We explored some bugs,

rolled in the grass

and snuggled in the sunshine

Last Tuesday, on the 9th day after he first got sick, he woke up chortling to himself in his crib - Happy Man was back! And just in time too, because I was booked on a flight to Milwaukee, WI leaving Thursday night and I hated to leave a sick Little.

Why Milwaukee you ask? Well technically, I was heading to the Cedarburg Bog in Saukville, WI for a two day workshop at the University of Milwaukee Field Station titled "Writing on the Natural World". It was strange to be away from home, but the workshop was amazing and I'm so glad I went. It was a combination of walks through the bog and surrounding woods, lessons on the local ecology, and writing/lecture time. The first day we covered poetry and the second day, essays. I have to say, I was much more comfortable with the poetry (must be the lack of organization). I don't spend that much time in my daily life sitting around composing poetry, but given the time, it's something I really enjoy. Here is one of the on-the-fly poems that I wrote - I'm not claiming to be William Carlos Williams or anything, but I was mildly pleased nontheless:

So tired of the tepid, limp, insipid store veggies
Shipped from Who Knows Where
Terra firma a distant memory

Impatiently, I await the thawing of my backyard dirt
Rashly planting at the first hint of a warm day
Then watching my rapini seedlings brown and curl with rime

Trying to cheat germination
I blow back the soil from the narrow crack where I've sown the seeds
Hoping that will alone can call forth the first furled shoot

As I stare into the shriveled wasteland of my crisper
At the same cellophane wrapped mushrooms and standard variety zucchini 
That I ate last week and last week and last week....

I get a sharp pang for the sweet pea pop
The oozy warm tang of heirloom tomatoes, seeds and juice pooling in the webs of my fingers
The astringent smack of bitter greens, slick with grassy olive oil

The age range of the participants was between 20 and 85 and although people's life experiences were vastly different (a former Chicago Tribune journalist, a soon-to-be vet student), I enjoyed hearing EVERYONE's snippets of writing so much. Things I had only half-noticed  become vivid through other's descriptions. On several occasions, I found myself letting out with an exhalation of disappointment when a particularly fine reading came to a close.

The younger crowd were students and after the first day, they went back to Milwaukee for the evening but the rest of us stayed out in a farm house at the field station in bunk beds. At almost 40, I was decidedly the youngest of those that stayed behind.. With the sick family the week before, the travel, and the time shift,  I was running on empty and planning to be in bed early, but  I couldn't resist staying up late to talk to two of the women, Helen and Julie. Julie was a bit of an enigma to me, not shy, but hovering on the edge of engagement. Most of us shared our writing but Julie never did and I was sad to never hear her voice, she intrigued me and I wanted to know what she had to say. Helen, was the 85 year old participant. She was sharp and charismatic, an accomplished actress and published writer with 5 kids and 14 grandkids and boy could she tell a good story. I could have just stayed up all night soaking her in. Both of them really. All of them really

Here are a couple photos of Helen holding a blue-spotted salamander on one of our walks

And one of Julie walking alone on the path, the colors of her clothes blending into the surroundings.

It was hard to say goodbye to the Bog too - it was eerie and beautiful and I took about a million photos (ok, 200, but you know what I mean). I had to laugh, because the thing I ended up photographing most was tree bark. I'll spare you all every bark picture, but here are a couple worth sharing.

Ok, one more. I can't resist.

I liked this one because it reminded me of ancient Anasazi caves in the desert.

I did take one or two other pictures that weren't of bark

I loved these memorial planks on the boardwalk across the bog. I wouldn't mind that. Just a simple etched piece of wood with my name on it. 

Leaving Taran was not easy for me. I agonized about it for 3 months ahead of time, worried that he'd be traumatized or angry at me for leaving like he got the one other time that I was away from him for my cousin's wedding. But Joe's parents, who Taran is absolutely nuts about came to stay to help ease the time and he was so happy to be with them. And it was fine. And I was deeply grateful for a little time to be myself - not a Wife, a Mom, a Researcher. Just me, in the woods, writing a few lines of bad poetry. 

On that note, we were asked at the end of the first day to write a hymn of praise, so here is mine:

Iron Filings to a magnet
I praise the warmth of home - the easy smiles, the soft kisses, the shining eyes. I praise the spills, and the falls, and the learning. I praise my partner in crime, the father of my child, the man I admire.
I praise the love


I praise the courage to leave, the step forward, the branching out. I praise the time to explore, to see new things, to think new thoughts. I praise the reflection inward, the jolt out of the ordinary, the spring cleaning of my mind. 
I praise myself


  1. Thanks for sharing so much of your joy in these posts. I love reading them and hope you continue on this new path of Rebecca as writer. I love the photographs, as well.

    You'll be jealous to hear that our Athens (Georgia) farm market is up and running. Last week we got lettuce, sugar snap peas, carrots, raddishes, and fresh bread. We really missed seeing you guys there, but you'd have loved it. Fresh milk and eggs, as well.

    Loved the poetry!

  2. Love the poetry. You in the woods writing GOOD poetry as far as I'm concerned. And those photos! I love the ones of the bark with what looks like etchings on it. That seed pod against the blue sky. And YES the first thing I thought of seeing -whatever it was- was Anasazi caves too. How cool! Hope Taran is feeling well and that you all are enjoying some springtime thaw... :)

    1. Awww. Thanks Sarah. Although I've never known you to say an unkind word, I thought my poetry might inspire the first one. Ha! I LOVED the seed pod picture too. It's nice when you have a vision for a picture and it actually comes out. Helen found the dried out pod on a walk and brought it back to me to photograph. I made a hole in the ground and stuck it back in because I really wanted to get the silvery-grey of it against the cloud-dotted sky. And awesome that you thought Anasazi caves too. Glad to know it's not just me.