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Sitting in the Wetlands

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The wetlands are a space on Base Camp that is new to me.

They frame the western corner of the swimming lake, creating a small pool of encircled water. A bulky, abstract mosaic of stone slabs and grass form an alcove along the bank. Across the wetlands a low dock winds from one makeshift gate of repurposed branch wood to another. At either end of the dock a cairn sits, its base at the height of the grass bank. The crest of the front field’s ridge cuts through the landscape like a cliff’s edge, behind it rises the darker green of the shady tree line. When you sit on the slabs, with your feet in the water, the southern cairn sits atop the line, memorializing the view that can only be found sitting here.

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Often, a cairn is used to remind a hiker to pause and take in the scenery, maybe a landscape or a summit. Friends will stack them to pass time on a hike, leave a temporary mark of their achievement, or simply to practice the ever present art of balance. Cairns can also serve as a trailhead or, as these do, signify a place of gathering.

Beneath the dock runs a loosely woven net, allowing smaller fish to pass through and gather, safely shielded from the snooty gaze of patrolling trout. At free time campers gather with a few tired staff around the wetlands and between the cairns to talk idly, enjoying the cool water and the sun warmed stones.

As campers and fish converge, the wetlands provide a place for an intimate interaction with an often distant natural relative. The fish circle around the novelty of campers’ still toes and legs, nibbling at scraps of dirt or bugs that float off into the water. As the first nibbles occur, anxious campers (and counselors) yawp and kick out their legs and the fish do the same, darting away into the water. After a few breaths, both fish and people regain some courage and reach toward each other once again. The next bites are calmer. More fish gather, and trust is built and a friendship is made. We share freely under a polite mutualism; our interests, our successes, our struggles, and our rambling thoughts. All made possible in the wetlands, itself imbued with the comfort of a friend.

Story by Ben Goldman with photos by Brandon S. Marshall

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