In the Marsh

October in the Marshes, John Frederick Kensett, ca. 1872
October in the Marshes, John Frederick Kensett, ca. 1872

At mid-afternoon my six-year-old comes running up to me with his binoculars and says, “Let’s go to the Horicon Marsh!” His sisters immediately make alternative suggestions (Park! Beach!). I hadn’t planned on going anywhere. After demanding some time to think about it, I decide to grab the water bottles and go to the marsh. The day already had its ups and downs and I don’t think sitting around the house is going to improve anything. When we get there we decide to take the trail backward (woods first, and then floating boardwalk). Halfway through the woods I actually say out loud, “I already wish we hadn’t come.” I don’t know. I was in a bad mood or something. God has a funny, ironic way of showing His grace because when we get to the long floating bridge a man with a gray ponytail and the high cheekbones of a Native American starts showing my kids the sea-snail shells he collected for them (he had seen us on our way there) and then goes on to teach them about sea snails. He has a pleasant, conversational teaching style and genuinely wants the kids to be interested in the marsh wildlife. He goes on to show us two leopard frogs hiding in the reeds, a dragonfly nymph, a turtle sunning itself on a branch, a great blue heron perched on a distant treetop, a lone pelican flying by. He lends us his glossy, full-color marsh wildlife brochure. He focuses the telescopes for us. He warns my son not to fall in when he leans too far over the edge. A free, unexpected nature guide waiting for us only a minute after I wished we hadn’t come! I am humbled. And grateful.

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