Wetland Words

While we isolate in our homes during the COVID-19 pandemic, nature’s cycles continue and so does our shared love of and interest in wetlands—the very characteristics that unite us as a community. We’re all going through this, so let’s help each other get through it together.

To help bring more hope and positivity into the world (and keep talking about wetlands, too!), Wisconsin Wetlands Association is offering special virtual wetland programming to our members, supporters, and the community at large. One of these offerings is inspired by the Mary Linton Wetland Poetry Session that happens every year at our Wetland Science Conference and also celebrates National Poetry Month in April. We’re inviting members of our wetland community to share their favorite wetland writings—poems, essays, and other wetland-related prose. We will post them to WWA’s Facebook and Twitter pages as well as here, and don’t forget to bookmark this page for when you need a mental break!

If you would like to share your favorite wetland words with our (your!) wetland community, read our Wetland Words How-To and contact Katie at Katie.Beilfuss@wisconsinwetlands.org for info on how to participate.

"The Peace of Wild Things" by Wendell Berry

“The Peace of Wild Things” by Wendell Berry

When despair for the world grows in me
and I wake in the night at the least sound
in fear of what my life and my children’s lives may be,
I go and lie down where the wood drake
rests in his beauty on the water, and the great heron feeds.
I come into the peace of wild things
who do not tax their lives with forethought
of grief. I come into the presence of still water.
And I feel above me the day-blind stars
waiting with their light. For a time
I rest in the grace of the world, and am free.

"The Toadpoles" by Mike Mossman

“The Toadpoles” by Mike Mossman

Jet black Sally, Inky Pete
In the puddle ‘round my feet

Swimming eating, growing fast
To metamorphose while it lasts

I hope that you live long enough
To earn your lungs and skin so tough

And dry and cornified and thick
A tongue so patient yet so quick

Then you’ll push up on stubby hands
Advertise distasteful glands

May you find a buggy, fine abode
With neither pesticide nor road

But please avoid the hognose snake
The reckless child, the garden rake

Explore through many a rotten log
Be regurgitated by a dog

In winter may you burrow deep
To dream and have a restful sleep

And when you dig yourself back out
You’ll be happy, hale and stout

Then have warm nights to move around
From all morality unbound

For many Mays may you have sex
Find warty partners to amplex

And thus fulfill your precious dreams
Procreate your lumpy genes

Some day, if we should meet again
I pick you up, and then

Admire your baggy head so wise
Your sublime grin and coppery eyes

I hope that you will then feel free
To have yourself a pee, on me

"April Woods: Morning" by Wendell Berry

from Terrapin and Other Poems

Birth of color
out of night and the ground.

Luminous the gatherings
of bloodroot

newly risen, green leaf
white flower

in the sun, the dark
grown absent.

"April" by Mary Oliver

from Swan: Poems and Prose Poems

I wanted to speak at length about
The happiness of my body and the
Delight of my mind for it was
April, a night, a full moon and-


But something in myself for maybe
From somewhere other said: not too
Many words, please, in the muddy shallows the


Frogs are singing.

Alice Thompson reading from Henry David Thoreau’s "Walden"

From the chapter Spring

Our village life would stagnate if it were not for the unexplored forests and meadows which surround it. We need the tonic of wildness—to wade sometimes in marshes where the bittern and the meadow-hen lurk, and hear the booming of the snipe; to smell the whispering sedge where only some wilder and more solitary fowl builds her nest, and the mink crawls with its belly close to the ground. […] We can never have enough of Nature.

Video footage by Clouds North Films.

Mike Mossman's poem for his son, "Easter, 2010"

From the marshland nest a crane stands up
Looks at her eggs in the wide soft cup
Secure within a watery wreath
She slides her dagger beak beneath
And cradles, turns with head bent low
She rock-a-byes her babies-o
Diligence is dear, steadfast
For what holds the future and the past
All there within that perfect form
We celebrate on Easter morn.

Video shot by Ted Thousand.

Aldo Leopold "The Geese Return in A Sand County Almanac and Sketches Here and There"

“One swallow does not make a summer, but one skein of geese, cleaving the murk of a March thaw, is the spring. A cardinal, whistling spring to a thaw but later finding himself mistaken, can retrieve his error by resuming his winter silence. A chipmunk, emerging for a sunbath but finding a blizzard, has only to go back to bed. But a migrating goose, staking two hundred miles of black night on the chance of finding a hole in the lake, has no easy chance for retreat. His arrival carries the conviction of a prophet who has burned his bridges. A March morning is only as drab as he who walks in it without a glance skyward, ear cocked for geese.”

Video shot at Madison Audubon Society’s Goose Pond Sanctuary.

Other wetland video series: