Near the entrance to the Oak Hammock Marsh Interpretive Centre in southern Manitoba there are signs that mention the fragile environment and remind you to stay on the paths.
When you see the abundance of marsh plant-life in the area, it’s hard to believe in its fragility. Somehow you think these grasses, reeds, and flowers must be tough. They’ve survived for so long—persevered through prairie summer heat, gale-force winds, and shocking thunderstorms. Through the sting of winter blizzards and temperatures that forecasters like to say are similar to those on Mars.
Remember the classic school diagram showing a prairie grass root system vs the grass you actually see? The roots have so much more length than the grass waving above the surface. Are marsh plants the same? If so, it makes you wonder how they could ever disappear. But let’s not forget the human interference that changes water levels and adds pollution.
It was late June when some friends and I visited Oak Hammock. We did our best to avoid the groups of students touring the centre. I taught teenagers for years and know there are as many types of teens as there are types of marsh plants. Some of them are loud and unruly, others are not, but all are a mix of things and have a variety of needs.
Over the years, I learned that the teens who seem to be the toughest, those who have survived difficulties, are often the most fragile. They need a lot of care and support to move beyond survival.
Maybe we have to think about marshes in the same way—they too need lots of care and support in order to thrive.