The Succession


It’s been less than a week since I left Dismal, but there are a few things that I miss, and a few things that have helped me settle into the abroad program I’m participating in this semester. I’m in Woods Hole and the first thing I noticed was that I didn’t recognize too many of the trees here.

Though, I’ve lived most of my life not knowing much about trees, I had really gotten used to mentally running through my list of Southeastern Swamp trees as I rolled down the unforgiving gravel roads of the refuge.

There are a few things I recognize here: Queen Anne’s Lace, which grows in great abundance in the swamp, speckles the landscape here with its white flowers and umbel shape. Poisonous to humans, there’s a small cluster of chokeberry growing near the steps to the main building of my new school. Outside of our classroom, there’s a tree I strongly suspect of being a tulip poplar that consistently distracts me from my lecture.

After working with the SCA and the Fish and Wildlife service, I’ve become so used to the outdoor classroom. The past three months, every time I’ve learned something new I’ve been standing waist deep in water, reaching shoulder-deep into mud, or in the middle of a forest. Sitting in a classroom all day that first day was difficult to adjust to – I was ansty, impatient, and I wanted nothing more than to be in the open air instead of locked in a frigid classroom.

We went out to do a weather reading, and it was raining. While I’m sure others were uncomfortable with the potential soaking, I may have been overeager. The cool rain on my arms was refreshing, I was content to be breathing the late-summer air and turning my body to face the wind. I would have honestly rather have had class out in the drizzle than in the uncomfortable, squeaking chairs of the lecture hall. Which is so funny, because I remember the first day I worked in the rain – I was miserable, wishing for a blanket and a warm cup of tea and a good book.

The things I learned in the Swamp are relevant to me now – the weather observations I made for surveys and flow measurements are the basis for the log I’m keeping throughout the days now. There’s a potential project topic that uses the same acoustic technology that I made ditch measurements with. Even though I’m far from every home I’ve ever made for myself, I know that when I go to sea, I’ll be soaking wet and perfectly content.