Sunday, October 25, 2009

Exploring--Near Home Again--Salt Marsh Trails

I am fascinated by salt marshes--by the rolling sea of grass, by seasonal variations in the texture and color of the grasses, and by the changing patterns of land and water as the tide rises and falls. Since all the land in a marsh is fairly low, these patterns are not set; the incoming tide flows in some established channels, but also spreads in unique ways that subtly change the scenery from one day to another. These North Florida wetlands are quite different from the Michigan wetlands I grew up with and the wetlands of other places we have lived. I feel enriched to have lived in Western Michigan, the New York City/Long Island area, Southern California, greater Atlanta, Georgia, and now in Jacksonville, Florida. I am thankful for this land and for the rich variety of natural beauty near each place we have lived, as well as in the many other states we have been fortunate to explore.
We have hiked several times in the Theodore Roosevelt area of Jacksonville's vast Timucuan Preserve. A favorite trail leads to an observation platform looking out over the marsh--the views in the above photos. The trail is named after Willie Brown, a man who once lived in a small, isolated, primitive cabin (the cabin footings remain, midway along the trail) in the woodsy region on the way to the marsh. Thus, walking the trail provides two distinct types of terrain and habitat. The view from the observation platform is particularly interesting late in the day, at nesting time for the many water birds who range out from the area.
Next post I will show you two small paintings, studies for possible larger pieces, based on these and other photos from our exploration on the trail a couple of years ago. I took the photos when my sister visited from Maryland, and we explored this area together. Although we have been back since, something about the tidal patterns in photos from our first visit most strongly moved me to paint the scene. For some reason, photos from more recent visits have not struck me with the same power, even though our experience of the natural setting has been amazing every time.
You see the marsh as it looks in early January, warmed by the brown and golden tones of winter grass but yielding fewer bird sightings than in nesting season. I enjoy the lonely expanse and the limited palette of the scene in winter, which focuses my attention on the interesting patterns of the waterways as the tide begins to recede from an earlier high, exposing mud, mussel beds, and tiny scurrying crabs.
Question of the day: What natural beauty has enriched your life recently?


  1. We do not have salt marshes here, but it is about time for me to start visiting the wildlife refuges to view wintering animals and winter birds.

  2. I look forward to seeing the super photos you will be posting on your blog from your winter explorations. You must have some wonderful wildlife refuges to visit out west.

  3. The very thing you write about is something I've always noticed and loved about this great country. It doesn't matter if you live in the mountains, the plains, north or south, ocean to ocean, this country is full of natural beauty. I thrill even when riding in the car through the farm lands and enjoy imagining it 150 years ago when the native Americans roamed the land and the wildlife roamed! I'm guessing salt marshes are created with the ebbing and neap tides of the oceans?

  4. Your thoughts are inspiring, as always, Autumn. Thank you for these uplifting reflections. Yes, the tides create the salt marshes and their very unique ecosystem.

  5. the amazing beauty of autumn in the blogosphere has been enriching my life and love of nature. :)

  6. I'm with you, Cher. Autumn has always been my favorite season with its crisp invigorating air and rich color.