Several of us old guys meet for breakfast one morning each week. The past year, of course, we have been doing it by computer, but still meeting. Then one week I announced I would miss breakfast for a meeting of the Watershed Alliance of Adams County.
One of the guys declared I was going to “hug water,” the way other people hug trees. (Hugging trees also is a great idea, but some trees aren’t really into it. One wants to be careful administering unsolicited hugs, especially to girl trees, and since girl trees are not easily discernible from boy trees …)
Like most of us, I spent nine months becoming a functioning being while submerged in water. There was some other stuff in the pool, but mostly it was water. (They don’t say, “My other stuff broke.” They say, “My water broke.”)
In the ensuing years, I wandered thousands of acres of forest – without really knowing the significance. For instance, I knew a few trees by name, and I knew where to catch Chain Pickerel in the lake in front of our house. Of course, that was back in the days when a person was not required to have a truckload of money to buy a piece of mostly wetland in the wilds of Maine.
Jack-in-Pulpit grew in the woods near the cottage which housed our family of five. What I did not know was they would be extinct in that part of the woods after we built the big house out on the point –a finger of land jutting out from a lake’s shore.
Behind our house, a loon built its nest on a beaver hut, close enough to push up from the water.
Trivia about the Common Loon: their legs are so far back on their body they cannot stand and walk like, say, a Canada Goose. On the other hand, they are f-a-s-t when they submerge. The only thing cooler than watching a loon putter around on the water with her kids on her back is being under the surface and watching her zoom around after a Yellow Perch for dinner.
I saw a lot of nature while I grew up in those woods: A family of raccoons denned under a huge dead log. Imagine walking around a bend in the driveway and facing a moose and her calves browsing on brush.
There was much I did not actually see in those days. My experiences were just part of Normal. Swimming in a 500-acre lake at midnight, staring at the stars and listening to three pair of loons, behind our Mom’s house, about halfway down the lake, and more than a mile away behind an island.
A few days ago, I went out to Swamp Creek with a group of volunteers from the Watershed Alliance of Adams County. We collected bugs – “macroinvertebrates” is the official word. When I was a kid, I thought bugs were pests. Turns out, mayflies and stone flies and hellgrammites do not live in bad water, and we found lots of them in Swamp Creek.
About two years ago, Swamp and Middle creeks were declared “Exceptional Value.” Pennsylvania designates streams with excellent water as High Quality or Exceptional Value. According to the Department of Environmental Protection website, regulations allow High Quality water to be degraded for “necessary social or economic development.”
“EV … water quality shall not be lowered,” the website declares.
It’s great to be out with people who know the value, and are eager to protect, the water most of us just take as Normal – great to be in the company of water huggers.