Why Bogs?

I am intrigued by both the immensity and minutia of bogs. Bogs are in a sense unfathomable. Like a photograph, they mess with our sense of scale. The dense minute textures of mosses and lichens on the hummocks and in the hollows make a square foot of bog look like a whole world in miniature. Those miniature worlds cover thousands of acres of northern Minnesota.

A bog is a particular kind of wetland that often develops in a depression like a glacial lakebed. It doesn’t have nutrient rich water flowing through it or access to ground water with nutrients to nourish it. A bog is wet only because of precipitation. A depression of this kind is a perfect environment for the development of sphagnum moss which can absorb more than 20 times its dry weight in water. As sphagnum grows it gradually limits the oxygen supply beneath it, lowers the temperature, and slows the decomposition of organic matter by limiting the number of organisms the bog will support as the water becomes more acidic. The slowly decomposing sphagnum gradually builds up as peat. Big Bog in northern Minnesota has peat in some places up to 4 meters deep which took 5,000 years to accumulate.

Why bogs? They are rich with poetic, psychological, and cultural associations. They are also crucial for a healthy planet. I want to convey the poetry, the instability, the density and inaccessibility of bogs, but most importantly I want to convey that bogs are alive. Bogs are non-human, but they are living entities with agency. Whether we are aware of them or not, the bog remains wholly what it is, beyond whatever meaning we may attribute to it. Bogs deserve our awe and wonder and our protection.