The Big Swamp

Spring is definitely here. Life is thawing out.   Today I saw my first red-wing black bird.  He sat high and alert, up upon a bulrush.  He was on guard; a sentry of the marsh with his red insignia sewn on his sleeve. Welcome back.   I love these birds.   I also love marshes.  We live on the edge of a large marsh.  I love the uniform horizontal bands of grasses and their expansive vistas.

Today the temperature is well above freezing and everything is running, dripping and splashing.  The creeks and ditches are near over flowing.  This is my first big spring thaw since moving to the country.  Last spring we had no snow and everything was already hot and dry.

Remember that I was raised a city girl.  I’m new to the landscape of marshes and swamps.  In one year I have learned a lot about the wildlife that relies on this wet habitat.  I know now that marshes are low wet lands with grasses,  while swamps are water courses that support live trees and shrubs.     Prince Edward County has both.   There is  a large swamp  which flows westward, almost cutting in half the upper part of the island.  It is officially shown on maps as “Big Swamp”.  For more the 30 kilometres it makes its way west, accepting water from lots of smaller tributaries.  It is a healthy swamp, very wet and home to thousands of mature silver maples.

In celebration of spring and all of this new icy water, I decide to take a drive out to the Big Swamp.  I am rewarded.  The snow has melted here too  and the trees are left standing in deep still water.  All lines are vertical and mirrored in the silvery light.  It is difficult to tell what is real and what is a reflection.  I am drawn to this landscape.  It is a living, breathing home for all forms of life.  It invites me to stop the car and get out to  smell the air and feel its presence.  It is magnificent.


Standing on the side of the road, surrounded this mysterious dark wonder,  I’m reminded of my favourite movie: “Down By Law”.    This movie takes place in Louisiana and follows the action of three men as they escape from jail through the bayous at night. I picture them waist deep, in muck and swamp water and clinging from tree to tree, feeling their way along in the dark.  This 1986 independent film was made in black and white.  The colours today in Big Swamp are similar.  Everything is  silver  gray and black with touches of white snow.    I try to imagine escaping for my life through those cold dark trees.  How deep is that water?  If my life depended on it could I escape and survive?

I get back in my car and promise myself to watch that movie again.


“Down by Law”  directed by Jim Jarmusch.  Starring Tom Waits, John Lurie and Roberto Benigni.  This movie is the definition of coolness.  Sound track sung by Tom Waits is pretty sexy too.

down by law

About westlakemusings

In 2013 my husband and I retired. We bought an old pre-confederation house out in the country. This blog is about our new world in the country as we explore all of life's possibilities.
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4 Responses to The Big Swamp

  1. love the trees standing in water

  2. I haven’t seen any red wing blackbirds yet this year, but I passed 7 swans in a field as I came home from work tonight and my husbands uncle said he saw some robins in our backyard this afternoon when he was here using the wood shop. Spring must be coming. Though I hear its supposed to feel like -18C tomorrow. Sigh.

    Love the photos.

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