It seeps and bubbles with oxygen and fermenting life from last season and rot… oh there is definitely rot. Dead leaves, sticks, bugs, old fish. It is a soup of color and life that smells earthy and pungent. I watch a water bug crawl across its surface. I cannot tell if it searches for food or is its food. Mosquitos swarm above me, but I tell them I’m busy. They’ll have to dine elsewhere. Most listen, anyway. I love ponds, streams and strange pools of water that life springs out of; moist, hot and teaming with all manner of crawling and swimming things. Sometimes they’re creepy and beautiful, other times decayed and rich.
I grew up on a lake in a neighborhood of mostly boys. I had five brothers. I caught toads and snatched up frogs with a stealth a stork would envy. Salamanders and crawfish were my favorite, but they’re tricky. Not easy to find in fresh water streams and under rocks. I never killed anything. I just liked to catch them and look at their beauty. Flying crickets, Daddy Long Legs, praying mantises, rolly pollies and aphids. Furry night moths, lightning bugs, and long earth worms. Tadpoles, sunnies and catfish. Pike, sometimes, snappers often and boxed turtles on occasion. Once a copperhead snake swam alongside me on the lake and scared me half to death. Their bite is most unpleasant. Smores by the campfire invited a troupe of ants to visit my sleeping bag one night. I have never screamed so loud in all my life.
I spent a lot of time alone as a child. I was often lonely, but never bored. My capacity for make-believe had me in trouble for daydreaming, over the course of my school years, more often than I can count. I enticed a chipmunk into my lap with nothing but my hands, once, and then spun a story of a monk village guarded by dragon and damselflies. I regaled my furry friend with my story, but it only slept. Little heartbeat beating like wild horses in its breast. I couldn’t understand why I never quite fit in anywhere and in my early years thought of my younger self always the odd man out. Or, in this case, odd girl out.
I stare into the percolating algae that festers with life and imagine the gnats and mosquitos are angels that follow me everywhere I go. I am the princess of a swamp and they are my guardians. What is there to do? Bugs and birds may swarm, but never princesses. They always seem to travel alone.