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Road Trip Episode 1: Getting mired
A journey through MId-America and the southern Canadian prairies.
Last week, I headed out for a three-week, 3,500 mile road trip from my home in Richmond, Virginia to Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada, and back again.
After a summer at home focused on toxifying and then detoxifying my body from chemotherapy, this adventure is a gift to myself (and from my wife). I’m traveling to explore, think, write, remember, and witness life as it bubbles in the lakes, rivers, streams I pass along the way. I intend to visit a half-dozen friends, and in between, spend time alone—time I’m already relishing.
I’m traveling to explore, think, write, remember, and witness life as it bubbles in the lakes, rivers, streams I pass along the way.
I’ve structured my trip so that, with one or two exceptions, I never have to drive more than five hours in a day. On most driving days (14 of the 22 total days), I’m traveling four hours or less. Because I work part-time and have the luxury to work from anywhere, I’m working in the mornings, driving in the afternoons, and visiting or writing in the evenings. So far, that schedule has worked well (despite the fact that I have already missed my self-imposed Thursday deadline for this newsletter!).
I look forward to the drives because I know they won’t be too long, and I get to see new things (or old things I haven’t seen in quite a while). I don’t feel pressured to keep driving when I would like to stop to enjoy a scenic vista, an apple orchard, or an old country store. And, when I reach my destination, I’m not too tired to take a walk or explore the area. In my opinion, it’s the ideal way to travel.
Over the next couple of weeks, I’ll be sharing reflections from the road with you.
Today: a reflection on fens
Except when I lived in Boston and regularly escaped to Fenway Park to catch a Red Sox game, I don’t think I’ve ever used the word “fen” in a sentence. When my friends Mary and Margie moved from Richmond to Lake in the Hills, Illinois, they began posting pictures of the 400-plus acre fen that is essentially their front yard. I saw their beautiful photos of wildflowers and other flora, but I hate to admit, I still had no concept of what a fen really was. So, when I made arrangements to visit them, I looked it up.
a fen is a type of peat-accumulating wetland fed by mineral-rich ground or surface water. It is one of the main types of wetlands along with marshes, swamps, and bogs. Bogs and fens, both peat-forming ecosystems, are also known as mires.
The article goes on to say,
Fens can be found around the world, but the vast majority are located at the mid to high latitudes of the Northern Hemisphere. In the United States, fens are most common in the Midwest and Northeast, but can be found across the country.
Although I live in the mid-Atlantic now, I’ve lived in the Midwest and Northeast the majority of my life. Why have a never encountered references to fens before now? People have talked with me in everyday conservation about marshes, swamps, even bogs, but never fens, and especially not mires.
I love it when a word, especially one derived from nature, takes on deeper meaning or when I come to understand a word more fully. Maybe it’s just me and you’re saying, “what is she talking about?” I talk about fens and mires all the time.” If that’s the case, thanks for indulging me.
Isn’t mire a great word? If I lived on a fen like Mary and Margie, I’d be calling it “the mire.” Of course, I’m familiar with and have used the word mire, especially, as a verb: “The country is mired in conspiracy theories.” I might have even used it as a noun referring to “the muck and the mire,” or “getting stuck in the mire.”
The Oxford Dictionary defines mire as:
a situation or state of difficulty, distress, or embarrassment from which it is hard to extricate oneself.
That’s a definition I am familiar with, and one I’ve found myself in, but I never thought of it as a place where I could or would want to talk a walk.
In its article about peatland, Wikipedia defines a fen as being:
…located on a slope, flat, or in a depression and gets most of its water from the surrounding mineral soil or from groundwater (minerotrophic). Thus, while a bog is always acidic and nutrient-poor, a fen may be slightly acidic, neutral, or alkaline, and either nutrient-poor or nutrient-rich. All mires are initially fens when the peat starts to form and may turn into bogs once the height of the peat layer reaches above the surrounding land.
So, according to this explanation, mires are liminal states between fens and bogs. Maybe Mary and Margie’s fen is not yet a mire, but it appears aspirational for a fen to become one. I like that the next time I’m mired in some situation, I can think of it as only transitionary, or even aspirational. Of course, I’ll have to be careful to not get bogged down after I extricate myself from being mired.
Of course, I’ll have to be careful to not get bogged down after I extricate myself from being mired.
I hope you enjoy these photos from an Illinois mire, I mean fen.
What’s next in my travels?
In upcoming posts, I’ll share, not necessarily in this order, my almost-didn’t-make-it-across Canadian border crossing story, a reflection on fall colors, and in time for Hallow’s Eve, a contemplation on ghosts. Thanks for journeying with me.
Accidental Mentors and newsletter updates
Now that I’ve finished publishing the Accidental Mentors series, you can visit any of the posts you missed or revisit any of the posts you want to reread here:
And although I finished writing about my Accidental Mentors, I’m looking forward to your submissions about the women who shaped your life. Here are the submission guidelines. Please submit soon, but no later than December 15, 2023. Thanks!
I’m looking forward to your submissions about the women who shaped your life.
One clarification. For security reasons, I’m requiring you to be a paid member in order to submit. However, if you want, you can subscribe for just a month ($5) and then cancel your paid subscription. And if the fee is preventing you from submitting, email me at firstname.lastname@example.org and I’m happy to waive the subscription fee.
I’m transitioning my newsletters to a focus on my wanderings (“Annette’s Wanderings”), whether they be physical travel, such as in today’s post, or wanderings of a spiritual or metaphysical nature. I hope you’ll stick with me as I make this transition. In the meantime, my website and communications are going to be a little funky.
Please bear with me while I’m stuck in the mire of redesign!
Thanks so much!
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