We live near a small lake in western Michigan about four miles inland from the great Michi gami. The ‘lake’ is actually a flooded celery flat carved out of extensive cattail wetlands by Dutch settlers. What once grew celery for Chicagoans is covered with several feet of water and now grows algae, aquatic weeds, fish, arthropods, and wildlife as nature slowly cycles the land back to maskig aki as the native Anishinaabe called the surrounding marshes.
The lake provides a point of common interest with many people in the community. A road used mostly by locals commuting to and from work runs along one side of the lake, and people in this relatively small community take a special interest in the pair of mute swans that nest on the lake each year. People who know where we live often bring up the swans in conversation. The swans have successfully reared only one offspring the past two years. Large snapping turtles inhabiting the lake apparently prey of the young cygnets.
The lake and it’s surrounding cattail marshes have also been a means of introducing me to a small group of dedicated volunteers who monitor Great Lakes amphibian and marsh bird populations through a program of Bird Studies Canada. The annual ritual of monitoring “who’s calling” from the spring peepers and American toads of chilly early spring evenings to the hrump of green frogs and bullfrogs on sultry midsummer nights keeps me in touch with the cycles of life on the marsh and provides data on the health of the local wetlands.
There’s a certain assurance to the cycle of seasons around the lake whether it’s the coming and going of migratory waterfowl, the parade of wildflowers from spring beauties to goldenrod, or the woodland changes from the pale pastels of spring bud break to the ephemeral color explosion of autumn.
Looking in the mirror, I think of the seasons of my own life and resolve to do what I can with the time I have left to preserve, protect, and enhance our local wetlands.