The Mill Brook and its valleys and swamps are full of water, full of plants and animals, full of fish, full of life, full of decay, and full of color.
As I’ve walked through these swamps lately, even in winter there is wonderful, evocative color.
There are blacks and browns and tans and grays and silvers and greens and on water, reflections. Reflections of sky, of tree, and of cloud.
There are reds here and there…wintergreen shows its berries among the brown oak leaves. Here and there you can find a rose hip or alder berry. Or you might see a hawthorn fruit against the sky. Soon waxwings and robin will find these remnants and the twigs and branches will be bare.
There is another kind of red. It’s in the reds of of certain slates, of barns, and of bricks.
It’s the reds of rust.
Rusts color pottery glazes.
In the sodden ground under swamps, anaerobic iron-loving bacteria thrive.
They produce rust.
Which seeps with water to the surface.
Here and there the orange-red deposits collect and flow into the brook.
There’s a drainage ditch that comes out from under the Old Mill.
When we were kids, that rusty water was one of the wonders of West Tisbury.
Where does that red come from?
Rust is made from iron.
The source of that iron is the Universe beyond, where aeons of atomic furnaces have created all the elements that make our earth. In the core of stars, nucleosynthesis transmutes helium and hydrogen into heavier elements — into carbon, into oxygen, and eventually into iron. Novae burst, iron is flung, molten blobs cling and clump and spread throughout space. Such a blob of iron is our earth.
The heart of our very planet is still molten iron.
So remember what the color of the swamp says.
“We are stardust”.