Monday, March 24, 2008

Springtime Haiku

Pine, oak, red maple
Potential life cast adrift
Filtered by the swamp

Poem by Mark Musselman
Image by Don Wuori

Last month's National Geographic Magazine article on Matsuo Basho, Japan's haiku master who set off into Japan's backcountry, got us thinking in 5-7-5 syllables about our own backcountry.

The moving water in Four Holes Swamp often surprises visitors to the Audubon Center at Francis Beidler Forest.  There is an expectation that the water is simply filling a low-lying area like a puddle in the yard.  Even though there is no river flooding Four Holes Swamp, the water draining from the land within its watershed is constantly moving toward the Edisto River and entering just upstream from Givhans State Park.  Four Holes Swamp is like a giant bathtub with the drain always open.  If rain did not add water to the tub, the swamp would eventually dry.

Besides adding clean water (the swamp acts like a water filter) to the Edisto River, the moving water is a deterrent to biting insects like mosquitoes, which do not like to lay their eggs in such conditions.  The moving water also flushes from the swamp most of the organic material that falls from the trees that help make a swamp (a flooded FOREST) a swamp.  This keeps the bottom from becoming feet thick in decaying material and prevents the swamp from smelling foul from stagnant water and decomposition gasses.

The image shows a variety of materials that have fallen from the swamp's trees, including pine pollen, red maple seeds, and leaves.  A log in the water allows water to flow beneath, but it acts as a skimmer preventing any floating material from continuing downstream.  In many places while the floating material is delayed (until the water level rises over the log or the water level drops below the log) it appears as a timeline for springtime's (in order of appearance) cast of characters.  Pine pollen, followed by debris the oaks and oily cypress sap with the bits of green leaves dropped by hungry tent caterpillars waiting in the wings for Act II.

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