Wild Sponge!

A tale of personal discovery involving the relative “squishiness” of the ground, and an unexpectedly heartbreaking betrayal

By Laura Logozzo

As a New Yorker I’ve gotten used to the feel of concrete beneath my feet (there’s really not much else, unless you go out of your way, honestly). And so, when I imagined the mire, I imagined the feeling of walking through a mixture of mud, water, and, as is common in New York, unidentifiable floating objects, on the sidewalk after a summer thunderstorm. But nothing I have stepped foot on could have prepared me for the feeling of walking on Sphagnum (which from now on I will be referring to as “wild sponge”).

Wild Sponge

First sighting of the wild sponge

Since the first set of lakes we sampled was in a relatively dry part of the mire, for the beginning of the day, the walk was fairly typical in terms of ground-squishiness. However, by the last lake, a thaw pond dubbed “Lake 29”, I was able to witness the wild sponge in its natural habitat. While heaving all 2,520 ml of water samples to the last of our lakes, out of the corner of my eye I spotted something orange. After going to investigate, I discovered what could only be described as a large golden-orange sponge. I spent the next minute or so slowly stepping on it, and then lifting up my foot to watch the resilient creature creep back to its natural, un-stepped on state. This is how my love for the wild sponge began – and it continued until day two of fieldwork.

Day two of fieldwork involved a lot of boulder field climbing, spider and spider web avoiding, and the occasional pulling up of mud-covered boots from the sticky sludge base of the Carex fields in the wetter areas of the mire. So as before, in the beginning of the day, I saw little of the majestic wild sponge, despite hopefully glancing for it in all directions. By the last lake we sampled, deemed “Lake 1,” I saw the wild sponge – but now, it covered a much larger area. In excitement, I bounded ahead and took a running leap onto it. Yet, as my feet landed on the sponge, I felt myself begin to sink at an alarming speed, as the sponge tried to suck me, and all I carried, into the mire. After the sponge was up to my knees and I foresaw the gasping of air to come as I pictured my entire body becoming engulfed, I managed (with more than a little difficulty) to pull one leg out, and then the other, after which I bolted back towards the safety of a nearby boulder. In defeat and disappointment, I sampled Lake 1, and hiked back to the road, all the while feeling as if a bond of trust had been broken. And so, in a shocking turn of fate, I was betrayed by the wild sponge, two days after I had found an unequivocal appreciation and awe for it. Thus ends the tale of the discovery of the wild sponge, and the heartbreaking demise of the friendship that could have been.

Wild Sponge Betrayal

Lake 1, where the betrayal took place (see the struggle?)

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