|Waters of Rosemary's Spring on the Choptank|
Nick would be quick to note that one's notion of a river's waters needs to be expansive. The very land on which the couple lives, for example, is underlain by an aquifer, the Columbia, whose slow-moving lateral drift, inching along underneath one's feet, is as much a part of the Choptank's flow as the waters explicitly meandering between its banks. The rain then that falls on the Carters' land, percolating in the soil and infiltrating into that aquifer is also part of the river's flow, indeed so are the weather fronts that have brought precipitation here in the first place. To make things particularly complicated in this version of the hydrological cycle, if one dawdles a few hours along the edge of the river, one discovers that it has the disconcerting habit of flowing both down and upstream, as it interacts with the incoming and outgoing tides of the Chesapeake Bay, of which it is a tributary. The river's source then is at times downstream as much as upstream, briny as much as fresh, the fate of all estuaries.
|Nut Sedge found in a Swale|
|Ground Cedar (Lycopodium complantum) showing up in a former Cornfield|
|Fern along a Brook flowing into|
As Nick guides me down a path running along the edge of the property, he points out the remains of a ditch, in shambles but still waterlogged, that was dug early on in the history of European settlement. In those times, he notes, ditches were often excavated after a winter thaw. Farmers would determine where the snowmelt was flowing, charting out the lowest contours on the land, in order to place the ditch's course along these. Ditches constructed in this manner, at least on the Eastern Shore, have a laudable tendency to tap into the aquifer, which often is only a few feet below the surface of even the more elevated areas. Not unsurprisingly ponds and seeps abound on this particular ditch as it caves in and dissipates from Nick's studied inattention and particularly so after he dammed up a few decades ago one section of it. As the land in that area reverted to a bog, interesting things began to grow there of their own accord, including ground cedar, really a clubmoss, sphagnum moss, and even the occasional stand of orchids. When all these appeared, Nick and Margaret knew their project was working as they had hoped it might.
|Sphagnum Moss reappearing on the Land|
|Beech Trees in the|
along the Chop-tank
|Lady Slipper under a Loblolly Pine|
|Jack in the Pulpit: A Green Bloom|
in A Green Shade
Nick takes me to the final berm near the Choptank and asks me to consider how its sands engage in ionic capture of nutrients and pollutants, leaving the waters of the river to pass downstream cleansed of excess phosphorous, as well as a host of unseemly chemicals. Listening to him, I finally begin to get a hint of the complexity and breadth of his vision. He is asking that those who visit here join him in the contemplation of the journey and fate of each and every drop of the waters finding themselves, however temporarily, at home here. When Tom Horton wrote that the unexamined place is not worth living in, he surely had Nick and Margaret in mind. There is no walking this landscape in their company without every step becoming an interrogation in how the waters are making their way through it.
|Crane Fly on a Sedge Leaf|
At least for the time being, Nick and Margaret's land is indeed doing exactly what it ought to do.
|Nick and Margaret Carter|