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Lions Roar : September 2005
2 0 SHAMBHALA SUN SEPTEMBER 2005 ration, and of seething humanity—are the easy things to love, the things that clamor for our attentions. I suspect that one of our more unobserved challenges as humans, as a species, lies not so much in the noisy explorations of those occa- sional and highly visible dramas, but in how well we pass through the middle ground, the quiet days: the drift- between-the-rapids, and the immense and lovely distances between flood and forest fire and blizzard. THIS IS THE LAST PLACE there willbe water. Even when the creeks and rivers themselves are but dry racks of bones, shin- ing cobbly-white beneath the eye of the drought, and beneath the prolonged accu- mulating weight of climatic change, the peaty depths of the marsh, the fen, the bog, will almost always retain some moisture, deep in its earthen breast of the centuries. Yet even the marsh will not be here forever. As it slowly dries, the trees stand- ing at its edges, nurtured by its moderate center, will fall into the center; rotting at first, sinking and rotting, and feeding the marsh grasses; feeding, in their decom- position, the sun-struck waterlogged soup that helps support all those beauti- ful clattering dragonflies, and so much more—geese and moose and wolves and deer, warblers and vireos. Eventually, if the drying spell continues for a long enough time, the rate of rot will slow, and the tree carcasses will begin forming soil. Seedlings will take root in the nurse-log carcasses of the fallen, and will rise, living long enough to provide some shade, which will be the beginning of the end for the marsh. The process is called eutrophication, and is one of the slowest nongeologic organic processes I can think of—it might take thousands of years— until one day (was it really only the blink of an eye?) the marsh will be a buried lens of coal, a lake of brittle carbon, buried beneath ten thousand feet of time. © RICK BASS is the author of nineteen books; his latest is The Diezmo: A Novel (Houghton Mifflin). He lives in northwest Montana’s Yaak Valley, where there is still not a single acre of designated wilderness.