Sunday afternoon I took the Difficult One, the nine year old, on a hike in the Jackson Bog, which I have mentioned before. In truth, we rarely go to the bog itself. The bog – or more accurately, the fen- can only be seen up close by walking a fiberglass boardwalk that snakes along its edge. That may be fine if you are studying the exotic plants growing there, but it is an imposition. Plus the walkway is just across the water from a ridge filled with huge houses, where dwell the bourgeoisie, who sometimes serenade the hiker with loud music or lawnmowers.
But the other trails are among the finest in the area. The trees are mature and one glade of tall elm trees, their small leaves all lacy and high, looks so elven that we call it Lothlorien. This we contrast with some of the other trails in county parks, with woods so rough and overgrown that they look like orc habitats.
So we walked the wooded trail along the hillside, gathering flat stones to skip when we got to the pond. The mosquitoes were the worst they have been all summer; they have gotten worse every time we have come. The mosquitoes of September make one welcome the first frost. Death to the bloodsuckers!
We took our shirts off, swishing them like tails. Michael still got eaten up, me not so much.
We were talking and not paying much attention when I realized with a start that everything looked unfamiliar. I felt strange, like I had wandered into another world. We kept following the path uphill until we were on a higher ridge than I had ever been in that wood, with the bog pond shimmering through the trees in the distance.
We kept on until we came out onto the familiar wider path of the hillside trail. I figured out that somehow we had wandered onto a small trail I had never seen, which circled, like a horseshoe, the ridge I had never known existed.
It was delightful, realizing that this relatively small patch of woodland, tucked into the suburban landscape, still had hidden treasures, after sixteen years of hiking. I thought of our last discovery, a few months ago, of a pond down a trail we had always assumed just ran up to the athletic fields of the high school, which the bog nature preserve borders.
We made it to our favorite spot down that path, the hidden pond, still and lovely, blue sky and white clouds reflected in its waters. (Native Ohioans would call it a lake, but to a Michigan man this is a pond. On the other hand, any little trickle in Michigan is dubbed a river). On the edge of the pond, in the sunlight, with a slight breeze, the mosquitoes did not bite us.
We each had about ten stones and took turns skipping them. All mine skipped. Most of Michael’s did. One of my stones skipped about twenty feet, which was deeply satisfying. We each had stones that skipped seven or eight times. We took our time, digging around for other stones on the picked-over shore.
We began the hike back, maybe a mile and a half. Michael was being devoured. I suggested that he run all the way back to the parking lot, outrunning the boogers, and he thought that was a great idea. He took off and I enjoyed the solitude.
Exiting the forest I picked a bunch of orange jewel weed flowers, which I crushed and rubbed on Michael’s welts. I thought what a gift it is that when the mosquitoes are thickest there is a plant blooming that assuages the effects of their bite.
There were no signs of bites by the time we got home.
Thank you God for jewel weed.
Even though you made the bloodsuckers.
I would say you have a lot to answer for, but I have read the Book of Job.