The first place to really capture my imagination I found quite by accident one spring morning in 2007. I was exploring trails in Stokes State Forest, and like the roads in New Jersey, the trails aren’t always well marked. I soon found myself no longer on a trail. I had no idea where the trail was or where I had lost it, but I’m not really fond of going backwards, so I opted to soldier on without it. I came across a small stream and began to follow it, photographing the little froggies as I went.
Eventually, I could see ahead of me that the forest was opening up. At first, I didn’t know what I was seeing, but as I got closer, my eyes got bigger and bigger. Then, there it was–the place where my life began. It was the most magnificent thing I had ever seen; a place I affectionately call “My Swamp”.
You may think me mad, but I’ve always loved swamps. They hold extraordinary beauty, and you will not find a place that is more alive. Everyone is here, the beavers, the otters, the bears, the minks, and so many others. And let’s not forget the frogs. They were the ones that first charmed me, when I got here. Hundreds of them would skip across the water to escape impending doom as I walked along the shore. Little did they know that all I really wanted to do was to take their photograph.
I spent hours, that first day, watching the frogs and birds and the occasional snake and listening to the symphony of critter songs. Because I hadn’t planned on being out all day, I hadn’t brought lunch, so I went home to eat and came back and spent the rest of the day at the swamp.
I didn’t want to leave, because I didn’t want to miss anything, but as the sun began to set, it became clear it was time to go. I came back the next day and spent the entire day. I had a full-time job back then and hated that I couldn’t come back everyday. Perhaps, that is what made me appreciate it even more, because I so looked forward to my days off and coming to “my swamp”.
The swamp has a rhythm. It changes with the seasons, but you can count on it. I never understood all that funny talk about finding yourself or being one with nature, until my swamp. I still don’t understand the whole finding yourself thing, but being one with nature I get.
It’s not something that can be explained. I can’t make you understand what it’s like to be sitting there as one frog starts his song and then another and then another, until the entire swamp is a chorus of frog songs. Soon, all of the birds join in–and the insects, too. To the uninitiated, walking by, it may sound like a cacophony of disjointed sounds. But if you sit there and allow yourself to be part of it, you will feel it.
Would you look at that. Now, I’m talkin’ funny.