Can its GREATNESS be graphically conveyed?

On May 20th Mariano Alemany joined Matthew Jensen on the walk he led along with 19 other people. 

--Can the aura of the Great Swamp be captured on film or preserved as a digital image? 

--Can its GREATNESS be graphically conveyed?

5.20.17:  On a Saturday afternoon my wife and I arrived at a parking lot at the end of White Bridge Road where we convened with close to twenty people to meet artist Matthew Jensen who led us on a trail hike while sharing with us his quest for the seen and the hidden in the Great Swamp. 

Uncommon sights beckoned us to stop at certain spots along the way, such as when we came across a colony of conopholis americana, commonly known as squawroot, a plant that I had never seen.  Sometimes I photograph things whose names I do not know and at times I assign poetic names to them.  And there are always more things (and more photographs).

 “Men can see nothing around them that is not their own image; everything speaks to them of themselves. Their very landscape is alive.”  Thus commented Karl Marx.

As is the case with the Rorschach test, so likewise we project our thoughts and feelings on grasses and twigs, clouds, vines, puddles, the spaces between leaves, the patterns on the bark of trees and the ubiquitous mud.  And so it happened that I sought mandalas in the lichens. 

We did not see any animals but we did hear the insistent call of a bird at the onset of our journey.  I did not get to see the bird that emitted the unfamiliar song.  I never learned its name.  Being in the wilderness makes me recognize my ignorance of the natural world while invigorating my desire to learn more about it

I must return again someday to the Great Swamp to take a closer look.  (Thus we say about so many places, as also about books, music, artworks, even with regards to people….)

One thing I can affirm (and I believe that all who were there that afternoon will wholeheartedly agree):  It was extremely muddy! This is not surprising since mud is indeed a fundamental element of a swamp and may even be said to form part of its unique beauty.  That mud together with the high humidity served as constant reminders that we were trekking in the basin of what was once Lake Passaic, an extinct glacial lake supposed to have existed during the last glacial epoch which is not that long ago in terms of geologic time.

When we got home we prepared the oyster mushrooms that we received from a fellow hiker who harvested them from a fallen log.  Fresh, delicious and, of course, wild!  Conceivably they incarnate the very essence of the swamp.  Thank you for teaching us about it and for sharing. 

Wondering about in that sector of the Great Swamp and the memories of that event evoke a sense of connection and gratitude.  There are always more trails to explore.  Maps of the imagination are boundless.

Bon voyage Matthew Jensen!  And a happy journey to all!

Mariano Alemany 5.20.17

Sarah Walko