The Great Dismal Swamp Fire of 2011

The area in which I live was once the Great Dismal Swamp.  Like most historic swamps, part of it has been reclaimed while some remains swampland.  Some people vehemently oppose reclaiming swampland while others are just as firm in their belief that this is land that can and should be used.  Among those opposed to draining swamps include the Addams Family, while George Washington owned thousands of acres of the Great Dismal Swamp with the intent to drain and utilize the land.  I like wetlands, and the area immediately behind my back yard is allegedly protected wetland; it makes the yard soggy after a heavy rain, but it provides us with privacy and interesting four legged neighbors.  Nature and I share the back half of the yard depending upon which of us has the more pressing need.  I find that when there’s standing water, my needs usually can wait.

There’s a natural cycle to land, and although Nature may progress slowly, land changes nevertheless.  Ponds build up plant mass and runoff from the surrounding areas, eventually becoming swamps.  Swamps continue the process ultimately becoming meadows.  Meadows are often very fertile due to all the decayed and decaying plant matter that gave it solidity.  While grasses grow in the meadows, eventually trees begin to take root and convert the meadow into a forest.  As forests die out they can become deserts and if the desert is lower than the surrounding terrain it becomes a pond and the cycle begins again.

Fires are also part of the natural cycle.  It has been hot and dry, interrupted by periodic thunderstorms.  The wildfires in the Great Dismal Swamp were caused by lightning – the usual cause. 

Fires clear out the dead materials and undergrowth and in doing so tend to spawn new life.  Once the undergrowth has been burnt away, the exposed soil is attractive for other types of flora.  Certain trees have seed pods that burst in high heat; the trees have evolved to take advantage of the clearing of the forest floor to spread its descendants, thereby giving them a better chance of survival.

The smoke from the swamp fire smells like burning garbage, because, well, the swamp’s “garbage” is what is burning – dead plants and dry undergrowth.  However, it does not always hug the earth; the large clouds of smoke rise and both smoky cloud and smoky haze block a certain amount of the sun’s rays.  Since wildfires often occur during heat spells it almost seems as though this were an intended rather than coincidental outcome.

Man has had various attitudes toward nature.  Some want to conquer it.  Some believe that humans are virtually a disease infecting nature and nature would be better off without mankind.  American Indians had something akin to a partnership with nature.  I guess I see nature as the ultimate classroom and look to it to give me things to observe, think about, research and reflect.

Like, why do we have wildfires in the Great Dismal Swamp?


One response to “The Great Dismal Swamp Fire of 2011

  1. Pingback: Swamp… not so frightful one « amatulhafeez's blog

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