Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Volo Bog in Illinois

In March of 2016, we held our first CocoaConf of that year in Chicago, Illinois. We were able to all come out as a family this time, which is always fun. :) During the conference, those not directly involved with the conference duties made a few excursions to explore the area.

On the last day of the conference, some of us went out to see Volo Bog. Our family first heard about Volo Bog from Dr. Kurt Wise, in a lecture some of us heard a few years ago. He showed some video clips from Volo Bog to illustrate what a quaking bog is like. And since we were less than an hour’s drive away at our hotel in Chicago, we didn’t want to pass up the chance to check it out ourselves. :)

Volo Bog is the last quaking bog in Illinois with an open water center, and the furthest south of such bogs in North America. And what, perchance, is a quaking bog?

The dates are a little off, sure, but the basic concept expressed in the pictures is helpful. :)
At the end of the Ice Age, ice left behind from the retreating glaciers melted, and left large lakes in the northern parts of North America. Over time, vegetation begins growing in over the lake, and silt accumulates, and the lake slowly becomes covered over. 

The vegetation mat is floating over the lake, hence the quaking nature of the bog. You can get a group of kids to stand in a circle on the surface, hold hands, and jump up and down in sequence, and you can make concentric waves that travel through the ground and sway the plants and trees. Pretty neat! :)

Sadly, they don’t allow standing on the surface of Volo Bog – you have to stay on the boardwalk. But they did have this little model so you can experience the feeling to some extent.
There’s a short boardwalk that goes right out to the open water center of the bog, so you can see all the different environments of a quaking bog.

A quaking bog has five zones that encircle the open water in the center. Starting out, we walked through the marsh zone.

And we found a critter! A muskrat, we think.
Whilst watching said muskrat, Noah’s glasses lens fell out and joined the bog ecosystem. Oops!
They have a little brochure with numbered descriptions of various parts of the bog, and numbered posts along the boardwalk, so you can give yourself your own tour.
From the marsh zone, we came into the tall shrub zone. As you may infer, a major constituent of this zone is tall shrubs. :)

Next is the tamarack zone. Tamarack pines are here in abundance, and we learned that they are an unusual pine – they’re deciduous!

Abi, our resident biology enthusiast, particularly enjoyed the little things most of us walked right past. Like this sphagnum moss. :)
In the right season, you can also find pitcher plants. But this was early Spring, so they weren’t showing their little faces just yet.

And here, behind Daniel, you can see the last two zones: the low shrub zone, and the herb zone. I suppose the distinction between the two isn’t particularly sharp. And then it’s open water!

Closer to the open water, a few of us had fun grabbing the tamarack pines by the trunk and bouncing them up and down, though it was a bit difficult to get adequate leverage from the boardwalk.

One cool feature of a quaking bog is the false bottom, which you can see here, in the marsh zone. We tried finding something sturdy enough laying around to pierce through the false bottom, but the best we could find was tall grass that wasn’t too cooperative. Nonetheless, were you to stick your foot down there you would just keep going down. :)

After the boardwalk, we went in to see the little nature center they have there, in an old barn and silo.

Daniel got to meet a snake!
This elevator is built in the silo, and it has one glass wall so you can travel up and down a timeline of the Volo Bog area over time.

They had a nice fossil collection.
A little research library.

And then, after some fun perusing in the center, we headed back to help wrap up the conference. :)

The Warrior and the Drop of Blood.

This story is taken from A Narrative of Missionary Enterprises in the South Sea Islands, written by John Williams. John Williams was an English missionary to Polynesia in the 1800s, and, with the help of native Christians who left their own home islands to join his missionary efforts, he spread the Gospel to many island nations where it had never before been heard. This story took place on the island of Raiatea, John Williams’s base in the South Seas.

- - -

    In my own church was an old blind warrior, called Me. He had been the terror of all the inhabitants of Raiatea, and the neighbouring islands; but in the last battle which was fought before Christianity was embraced, he received a blow which destroyed his sight.

    A few years after my settlement at Raiatea, Me was brought under the influence of the Gospel, and when our church was formed, he was among the first members admitted. His diligence in attending the house of God was remarkable, whither he was guided by some kind friend, who would take one end of his stick, while he held the other. The most respectable females in the settlement thought this no disgrace, and I have frequently seen principal chiefs, and the king himself, leading him in this way to chapel. Although blind, he attended our adult schools at six o’clock in the morning, and by repeating and carefully treasuring up what kind friends read to him, he obtained a great familiarity with the truths of the New Testament.

    On the first Sabbath after my return I missed old Me; and not receiving the hearty grasp of congratulation from him to which I was accustomed, I inquired of the deacons where he was, when they informed me that he was exceedingly ill, and not expected to survive. I determined, therefore, to visit him immediately. On reaching the place of his residence, I found him lying in a little hut, detached from the dwelling-house, and on entering it, I addressed him by saying, “Me, I am sorry to find you so ill.” Recognising my voice, he exclaimed, “Is it you? Do I really hear your voice again before I die? I shall die happy now. I was afraid I should have died before your return.”

    My first inquiry related to the manner in which he was supplied with food; for, in their heathen state, as soon as old or infirm persons become a burden to their friends, they were put to death in a most barbarous manner. Even for a considerable time after Christianity was embraced, we found it necessary, when visiting the sick and afflicted, to make strict inquiry as to the attention they received. In reply to my question, Me stated that at times he suffered much from hunger. I said, “How so? You have your own plantations;” for, although blind, he was diligent in the cultivation of sweet potatoes and bananas. “Yes,” he said, “but as soon as I was taken ill, the people with whom I lived seized my ground, and I am at times exceedingly in want.” I asked him why he had not complained to the chief, or to some of the Christian brethren who visited him, and his affecting reply was, “I feared lest the people should call me a talebearer, and speak evil of my religion; and I thought I would rather suffer hunger or death than give them occasion to do so.”

    I then inquired what brethren visited him in his affliction to read and pray with him. Naming several, he added, “they do not come so often as I could wish; yet I am not lonely, for I have frequent visits from God – God and I were talking together when you came in.” “Well,” I said, “and what were you talking about?” “I was praying to depart and to be with Christ, which is far better,” was his reply. Having intimated that I thought his sickness would terminate in death, I wished him to tell me what he thought of himself in the sight of God, and what was the foundation of his hope. “Oh,” he replied, “I have been in great trouble this morning, but I am happy now. I saw an immense mountain with precipitous sides, up which I endeavoured to climb, but when I had attained a considerable height, I lost my hold, and fell to the bottom. Exhausted with perplexity and fatigue, I went to a distance and sat down to weep, and while weeping, I saw a drop of blood fall upon that mountain, and in a moment it was dissolved.” Wishing to obtain his own ideas of what had been presented to his imagination, I said, “This was certainly a strange sight; what construction do you put upon it?” After expressing his surprise that I should be at a loss for the interpretation, he exclaimed, “That mountain was my sins, and the drop which fell upon it was one drop of the precious blood of Jesus, by which the mountain of my guilt must be melted away.” I expressed my satisfaction at finding he had such an idea of the magnitude of his guilt, and such exalted views of the efficacy of the Saviour’s blood, and that although the eyes of his body were blind, he could with the “eye of his heart” see such a glorious sight. He then went on to state, that the various sermons he had heard were now his companions in solitude, and the source of his comfort in affliction.

    On saying, at the close of the interview, that I would go home and prepare some medicine for him, which might afford him ease, he replied, “I will drink it, because you say I must, but I shall not pray to be restored to health again, for my desire is to depart and be with Christ, which is far better than to remain longer in this sinful world.” In my subsequent visits, I always found him happy and cheerful, longing to depart and be with Christ. This was constantly the burden of his prayer. I was with him when he breathed his last. During this interview, he quoted many precious passages of Scripture; and having exclaimed with energy, “Oh death, where is thy sting?” his voice faltered, his eyes became fixed, his hands dropped, and his spirit departed to be with that Savior, one drop of whose blood had melted away the mountain of his guilt. Thus died poor old Me, the blind warrior of Raiatea.

Messenger of Peace, the ship built by John Williams
and used in many of his missionary travels