Archive for January 23rd, 2007

I spent yesterday searching through my box of archival photographs.  In the course of my searches I got obsessive compusive about trying to label each and every one of the myriad rolls of film with at least  a year.

Over and over again I kept asking myself “WHY?” didn’t I label those things when I took them?  Additionally, I began to bless my anal retentive digital camera which gets huffy if I try to take a picture without a date and time label on it.  Thank heavens for small favors

The exercise reminded me once again of the twisted path my life has followed, and it made me think about walking in muskeg.

Muskeg is a very interesting phenomenon.   The article I have linked to doesn’t really give you a very good idea of what muskeg is really like to walk through.  The thing called muskeg presents itself in many ways. 

It can be a sort of flat, dampish area with a few hummocks in it and lots of blueberries growing there.  You can be enticed out into the seemingly innocuous swamp and suddenly find that the moss you are walking on has a thin place and your foot goes through.  Suddenly you are wet to the knee with brown mucky water.  If you are fortunate, you are not up to your waist and stuck trying to “swim” back to a place where the sphagnum moss will support you. 

There is muskeg that has formed over permafrost.  Quite often the footing underneath will be quite solid, but all the water is very cold.  This sort of muskeg tends to have places where the decaying detritus has built up to make islands of solid footing that are separated from each other by narrow twisting channels that hold water.   This kind of muskeg is not that bad to walk on, you walk on an island and step across the channels to the next island.  As long as you are sufficiently vigilant and do not accidentally step into a channel that is hidden by overhanging grasses or other vegetation, you are pretty much all right.

The second type of muskeg comes in varying sorts.  There are sectors where the islands are as big as your dining room table or living room, with channels that are only 6-8 inches wide dividing the islands.   Frequently in this sort of division,  the channels are not that deep, maybe only a foot or so with a couple of inches of water in the bottom.  Accidentally stepping into one of these is not that bad, really, since you already have good hiking boots on.  You do have good hiking boots on, don’t you?

However, this variety of muskeg forms with all sorts of sizes of “island” and “channel”.   It ranges from the table sized islands with narrow channels all the way to single tufts of grass emerging from a shallow pond. 

As far as I am concerned, the worst walking I have ever had to do was across a muskeg swamp where the tussocks of grass were about the size of beach balls and soccer balls.  The “solid” peat under them was about knee high, with a frosting of slippery grass.  In between these tussocks, were channels about a foot to 18 inches wide.  The water in the channels was anywhere from 2 to 10 inches deep, depending on how deep the channel was. 

If you were lucky, you could step from tussock to tussock without getting thrown into the channels between.  But the tussocks were tall and narrow, and tended to bend from side to side as you put your weight on them, plus the grass was not good footing.   And some of the tussocks were long, narrow and twisted.  There was no good way to walk around, they were too tall to step over easily.  It was  a long slog through cold muddy water, stepping up and over tussocks in your way.  Every once in a while you’d come to a section where you could walk up out of the water for a while, but inevitably you would end up thrown down into the watery channels after a few steps.  It was frustrating, unpredictable, and exhausting.

I met this section of muskeg when I was accompanying my husband at the time on a surveying expedition out in the bush north of Fairbanks.   His company had been hired by the State of Alaska to survey an area they were going to open up to homesteaders.  What we were doing was establishing section corners, which form a grid of points one mile apart.   There were four of them on our agenda that day. 

We were a party of three: my husband, his co-worker, and myself.   We had radios, lunch, water, long metal posts for the section markers, sundry small items, a theodolite, two tripods, a small chain saw, machetes, and a piece of equipment that was optimistically described as a portable gas powered jack hammer.  Portable is a word applied to this thing very loosely.  It was heavy and unwieldy, but we needed it in order to dig a hole deep enough in the permafrost to permanently seat the section markers that we were establishing. 

We had finished our work for the day and were headed to the place where the helicopter was going to pick us up.  There was no option for us, we had to cross the muskeg swamp to get from where we were to where we needed to be.  We had attempted to try to find a way around, but there were miles and miles of muskeg, so we just gutted up and slogged through.  Even though the guys finally took pity on me and the only thing I had to carry was the chain saw, my knees have never really been the same since that day. 

But still, getting through life has so many of the aspects of walking through muskeg.  Sometimes it is a piece of cake, smooth sailing if a little wet.  Sometimes it is nothing but obstacles, with low obstacles in between the high obstacles.   Sometimes the problem seems endless, but eventually you will come to the solid ground again.  You just have to keep putting one foot in front of the other.  Crying is just a waste of precious energy that you need to keep on going.

Right now the muskeg of my life seems to be the kind that appears smooth and tricks you with a big pitfall into cold muck, followed by a lot of thrashing around.   I’m looking for the solid ground to show up just any time. 

Read Full Post »

Syncopated Eyeball

Creepy Spooky Lovely Nice

Trailer Park Refugee

just three shots of tequila away from a bar fight....

Ærchies Archive - Digital Detritus

The Curmudgeon's Magazine


WordPress.com is the best place for your personal blog or business site.