Yesterday as our long morning was winding up, Julie said she wanted to take the kids to the Volo Bog. You can tell Nora is sleepy when walks up to Daddy's tummy and pulls the end of his t-shirt over her head. She stands there, humming and swaying, sucking her thumb. She's not going to no bog. It turned out to be a good thing. Daddy gave her a bath and a nap. I don't know how we would have fared with her along on our little adventure. Another happy Thanksgiving kismet, like the gluten-free pie crusts that Randy bought accidentally but it turns out happily since Christina has adjusted her diet this season.
We walked the half mile trail that traverses the marsh, a thick brush layer, the fairyland tamarack forest, the open water center of the bog, then circles back again. At the platform overlooking the center, Julie observed, "No ducks or geese in this water," because the lack of drainage and the sphagnum moss here keep both the water and the surrounding soils acidic. That's why the flora here is unique, the tamarack trees and the carnivorous pitcher plants, but I got the creeps wondering what kind of strange acid-loving amphibians were sleeping below the surface. The floating boardwalks sat still on the frozen marsh; no bouncing or swaying today. Julie had heard the walkways kept sinking so this was the seventh version. We had fun imagining the six sunken decks below our feet.
Bobby wanted to walk some more so the six of us, Bobby, Julie, Julie's sister Amy, little Augie and Mia and I, started down a wide trail that began next to the parking lot. The big wooden sign at the trailhead said 2.75 miles; I pictured we would walk a while, then turn back for lunch.
The sky was bright and clear; the wind cool but gentle. Sometime during the hike Mia decided she didn't want to wear a coat and ran around happily in her sweater. We've been to the bog in four seasons now and I'm continually amazed by it beauty. The colors this day were muted browns but for the brilliant blue of the sky, some red berries on a treeless branch, purple thorny vines I suspected were blackberry, the bright Christmas green of moss on fallen logs.
Mia and Augie chased imaginary "hissy geese" and each other, ran, faltered, skittered, collapsed, begged to be carried, then jumped up and ran off all over again. When Mia asked for a lift, I promised I would give her one once we found a log to use as a step. The next few feet we spied one, cut as short as a stepping stool and just the right height. The world provides, except when it doesn't. She leaped on my back from her launching pad and immediately insisted on being put down because there was another gigantic log to climb on. Julie was a little tense because she was still carrying the little "bog boots" that Claudia had kicked off when Bobby had taken off her up on his shoulders. They had gone up ahead out of sight. "She'll be fine," I said. "When they get to the parking lot she can sit in her carseat." The pipe-dream of a brief stroll had disappeared.
We could see the barn-like visitor's center from our pausing spot on a ridge on the far side of the bog. Below us was the marsh we had walked through earlier. Behind us was a steeply sloping hill of tall golden grass that hit the sky at its bluest. I think we were about half way.
Mia was wearing pink glorified ballet slippers that carried thick soles of mud when she stopped to glop through a thick patch. I was in no mood to contradict any fun she was finding. "Doesn't that feel funny on your feet? When it's springtime we'll come back and you can walk barefoot through the mud and wiggle your toes." She hadn't complained in a long time nor asked to be carried. Augie and Julie were behind us when I spied what looked like piles of fluffy milkweed on the ground. Shed dog hair? Lost fur mittens? No, you know what it was. I did too, and if we had to have a circle of life moment, this looked like just about the cleanest way - dead rabbit reduced to soft little pom-poms with the teeniest bit of bloodless skin. We called out excited to Augie and talked about what might have happened. A few steps up the trail, I spot a rounded packet with a dull coppery sheen on the trail and we had more to talk about regarding bunny. Good thing Mia has been studying the human body at Montessori; we could use the word "intestine" and the kids didn't seem frightened at all.
In the distance I could see a stand of white-barked trees. Birches? Probably big sycamores. We had stopped our talking. I caught up with Mia rather than asking her to wait or slow for me. Way back before the dead rabbit, even before halfway, she had whispered, "This is horrible," but I wasn't sure she was still thinking this. It felt so good to walk next to her, wondering out loud why some trees were wrapped at the bottom in chicken wire, noticing that the swishing of the brown oak leaves under our feet sounded like rushing water and their smooth lobes looked like the fingers of children's gloves.
We were tired. When we passed a lookout platform, Mia didn't even want to climb the five steps for a different view. She waited while I took a pee that steamed on the leaves, then around the next bend we heard Bobby's "yeah! You did it!" "Julie and Augie are right behind us," I told him, said hi to Amy waiting with Claudia on a bench and went to the car for a miniature Crunch bar and a few mouthfuls of pink vitamin water. We scavenged the remains of Mia's school lunch from Tuesday, an apple and some carrots, on the drive home to Thanksgiving leftovers.