This past Monday we went on a field trip to Brown’s Lake Bog Preserve. It is known to have a rare plant community due to the naturally occurring acidic properties of sphagnum moss, while simultaneously being able to insulate the water below from the rapid air temperature changes. Brown’s Lake Bog is also “one of the few remaining peatland sites in Ohio that contains an open kettle lake surrounded by a floating sphagnum moss mat” (The College of Wooster Tree Ring Lab). What caught my attention, while walking along the Boardwalk was the large presence of sphagnum moss I saw. While Professor Bourne was talking about different elements of the bog, what was amazing to learn from him was sphagnum moss’s ability to retain a lot of water. In that being said, I thought that must have been the reason there was a huge presence of it here; it was because there was a pool of water that it could live and thrive in. But to my discovery, in doing this assignment, I learned that it was the other way around, that sphagnum moss was the primary component of any bog and that it is the large reason that bogs exist in the first place. While I was looking at the sphagnum moss up close, what was really fascinating about it was seeing the individual “leaves” and how they were short and were slightly toothed. It was also interesting to see how they did not seem to grow higher than 4 inches from the ground, but I guess that is expected with moss. The last feature of the sphagnum moss that stood out to me was the vibrant green color it had, especially the moss that was under the water as it was the most visible thing you could see.
Wiles, Greg. “AMRE at Brown’s Lake Bog.” The College of Wooster Tree Ring Lab, 19 June 2018, treering.voices.wooster.edu/2018/06/19/amre-at-browns-lake-bog/.
“I have thus a tight shingled and plastered house, ten feet wide by fifteen long, and eight-feet posts, with a garret and a closet, a large window on each side, two trap doors, one door at the end, and a brick fireplace opposite. The exact cost of my house, paying the usual price for such materials as I used, but not counting the work, all of which was done by myself, was as follows; and I give the details because very few are able to tell exactly what their houses cost, and fewer still, if any, the separate cost of the various materials which compose them:”
Throughout Thoreau’s book he incorporates bookkeeping tables that represents the expenses that he pays while in the woods, but also the profit he gets from doing various tasks (ex. working on the bean fields). One particular passage and bookkeeping table that stood out to me was in the chapter called “Economy” where Thoreau outlines his expenses for the cabin he builds himself. I think Thoreau’s use of the table highlights not only does he want to live a lifestyle where he does not incur a lot of debt, but also, the fact that he does not need to buy new material to feel content with his house. In general, Thoreau’s inclusion of tables throughout the book sheds light on his desire to avoid and essentially restrain himself from giving into the consumer society that his fellow peers and community members are so actively engaged in.
Through Henry David Thoreau’s description and personal narrative of his experience with, and in nature, he strongly believed that all living things have rights that humans should recognize. He had a view that we all have a responsibility to respect and care for nature, rather than (unconsciously or consciously) destroy it. Not only did Thoreau believe we should respect nature, but he also viewed humans and living things as not being separate, but equal to each other. Humans do not hold superiority over other living things but coexist equally on the Earth. In mentioning Thoreau’s perspective on nature, it is evident that his attitude towards nature was it should be respected and recognized more. He sees that humans have fallen into this trap of consumerism in that people are never content with what they have and are constantly seeking for what the latest trend or fashion is. In Thoreau’s “The Bean Field” chapter, we see that he tries to debunk this idea of consumer society by showing his interaction with working in a bean field and how one can find content in even the simplest things.
A quote from “The Bean Field” chapter that exemplifies Thoreau’s contentment with the simple things around him is “I came to love my rows, my beans, though so many more than I wanted. They attached me to the earth, and so I got strength like Antaeus” (Thoreau, 219). Through Thoreau’s time working on the bean field, he gains an appreciation for his time spent working. He depicts this through his thoroughly descriptive writing about the steps he took, the emotions he felt, and what he observed around him in the field. In the chapter, Thoreau goes to mention “…I worked barefooted, dabbling like a plastic artist in the dewy and crumbling sand, but later in the day the sun blistered my feet” (Thoreau, 220). I think Thoreau’s choice to not wear shoes not only shows his desire to find a connection with nature but also to show he wanted to distance himself from being a part of the consumer society that he saw scattered across the United States. I think through Thoreau’s choice to be barefoot, he wants the reader to understand that if we took time to be outside and fully immerse ourselves in nature-whether that be working on a field barefoot or some other way-we would see that this need for more is more psychological than what we need in reality. The last quote that alludes to Thoreau finding contentment in purely plowing bean fields is “…and sometimes the man in the field hear more travellers’ gossip and comment than was meant for his ears: ‘Beans so late! Peas so late!” -for I continued to plant when others had began to hoe,-the ministerial husbandman had not suspect it” (Thoreau, 221). Here, we see that while Thoreau takes his leisurely time planting his beans (showing an appreciation for each step), the farmer next to him has this pressure to have a quick turn over from planting to harvesting his beans. This goes back to Thoreau’s idea of people needing to respect and recognize the nature that is around them. Rather than the farmer taking a similar approach to Thoreau in planting, he has made it almost a mechanized process where the thought and appreciation for the crops are lost.
When approaching Johnson Woods on the bus, one quote that stuck out to me was one that Professor Bourne mentioned which was on the lines of “straight ahead you will see a forest on the left and on the other side of the road another forest: that is Johnson Woods.” This immediately made me think about the question we discussed earlier this semester about what is considered natural versus artificial in nature. As we drove closer to the forest, I instantly saw the forest in comparison to its surrounding area as natural and unharmed. The grandness of the red and white oaks, and hickories in a cluster with its tall trunks and its bare branches stuck out to me. It was as if it was the one unaltered thing that was present in this particular area. Just about everything else around the forest I saw as being artificial as it had been manipulated/altered in some way by humans for human benefits. An example of this can be seen with the road that cuts right through the forest. The installation of the asphalt road (Fox Lake Road) was placed between the forest to help connect Wadsworth Road (OH 57) and Mount Eaton Road North (OH 94) rather than having to find an alternative route to get to the two popular state routes. Another example is the surrounding area. It is primarily composed of open pastures and/or farmland, which is used for holding livestock and agricultural production for benefit. With my observation of the façade of the forest as seeming natural and untouched, I was shockingly surprised to be wrong by my notion.
What I thought had been a natural area now changed as I began to see the human disturbances that had been placed within the forest. The first artificial addition to the forest was the installation of the boardwalk, as I was immediately shocked to see a boardwalk lying on the ground in the entrance and then throughout the walk. I saw the boardwalk as a disturbance as it was disconnecting the hiker from making a physical connection with nature. Also, the path essentially posed a set narrative to what to look at rather than letting the hiker explore on their own. Another artificial addition was the installation of sugar maple and American beech trees in place of the larger oaks and hickories that are dying. Though it is good these trees are being replaced, the addition of the maples and beeches are consequently “becoming more prominent members of the forest community at Johnson Woods” (Preserving 206 acres in Wayne County). One word that stands out is “in place” as it implies the action of making an alteration to something that was original or natural. Initially the idea of adding maples and beeches to the forest sounded good, but I have come to think differently as it is ultimately changing the original biodiversity that Johnson Woods initially had. It makes me question: why don’t the people who help preserve the forest plant new oaks and hickories instead of bringing in a completely new tree species in? The last artificial addition I saw was the graffiti that was scratched into the beech trees. I have seen people scratch their initials into trees, especially beech trees, in the past in more public areas, but I was shocked to see many of the beech trees, in an OLD GROWTH FOREST, were vandalized. It goes to show the negative human impact that has become to be more present in this once natural forest.