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The swamp returns

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People love the water!

Why else would they drive miles and pay millions to spend a few weekends per year on the edge of a lake?

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There's something calming about a body of water, and not just a lake. People close to oceans or rivers say the same, at least when the waters aren't stirred by floods and hurricanes.

It seems that looking out at a body of water, churning or still, really mellows a person out.

Thoreau had Walden Pond. I visited the spot last summer and it looks exactly like the average Minnesota pothole. Nothing special.

But that little pond inspired some awfully good philosophizing!

In my little world, the swamp in front of my house emptied two years ago. The beaver dam which held the pond full sprung a leak, and then we had a dry summer.

As the water disappeared, the swans and other waterfowl left mid-summer and the swamp grew up into weeds.

Since I had built where I did so I could overlook the water and its residents, I was chagrined to be stuck with an expensive house mortgaged to the hilt that overlooked nothing more than a patch of weeds.

After spending hours and hours watching the waterfowl on the beautiful swamp during previous summers, I couldn't bear to even look out the window during the drought.

With the lack of wildlife and water, I withdrew into myself and became a cranky wretch.

In hope of returning the swamp to its former glory, I had the beaver dam replaced and waited for a wet winter to fill the pond again.

While everybody else dreaded last winter's snowmelt, I high-fived myself every time we had another blizzard. Let it snow!

Sure enough, when the snow melted and threatened to inundate Fargo and every other town along the Red River, my pond filled back up to the level it was when I built the house.

Mayor Dennis Walaker might not agree, but having my pond full again was worth all the trouble.

Now the results of the winter's moisture are pouring in.

The swans have hatched four cygnets. The wood ducks spawned a batch of a dozen ducklings who skittle around the swamp.

Since the water returned, I have watched the frisky muskrats, a big beaver, basking turtles, noisy geese, breeding swans, elusive rails, wood ducks, mallards, teal, woodcocks and sandpipers.

To feed their babies this cold early summer when the usual vegetation has been slow to appear, the swans burrow deep in the mud with their beaks to dislodge roots and tubers which they bring up and spread on the water's surface for their young.

When they pop up to catch their breath from their snorkeling, the adult swans paddle their feet furiously to drive away the mud from the roots they have loosened with their beaks. Then they dip down to pull up more roots for their babes.

Ingenious birds!

Meanwhile, the wood ducks wait off too the side to feed off the leftovers when the swans move on to greener pastures.

That's my adventure with water. After a stressful day of smiling at humans whose cash I seek, watching the action on the swamp returns me to sanity.

Other humans use the water differently. In fact, most people who live on the water live on the shores of what is called a "recreational lake."

A recreational lake is where humans play with their mechanized water toys. Wildlife generally avoid these jet ski-infested waters if at all possible, although the fish really don't have the option of moving somewhere else.

I have no problem with human beings using lakes to splash around and have fun. Recreating in the water up north alleviates stress accumulated down in the suburbs and probably reduces shootings and domestic abuse.

It just shows that people use the water in different ways. Henry David Thoreau probably thought of a lake a little differently than does fellow philosopher, former governor and jet ski advocate Jesse Ventura.

But however people choose to use them, bodies of water seem to lower the level human misery.

In a time of strife and conflict, perhaps that's one thing we can agree upon -- whether or not we're all on the same pontoon.

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