Tuesday, August 25, 2009

When the stars are right

Every now and then, things in my everyday life line up in serendipitous ways that make me really pleased that I'm part of this hobby. This weekend held one such event—I visited the Volo Bog, a natural wetlands area about 45 miles north of Chicago.

Bogs and marshes occupy a hallowed—one might say unhallowed—position in fantasy gaming. The haunt of ghouls, specters and wraiths, these watery expanses are created naturally by leftover ice chunks from the last ice age. The ice chunks melt over the course of many years, creating a poorly drained pool of stagnant water that begins to fill slowly with thick vegetation. They're not so creepy in the summer, as evidenced by these non-menacing photos I took, but they're still thoroughly interesting.

I learned from our tour guide that the Volo Bog (is that an RPG name or what?) is the southernmost "quaking bog" in the U.S., so named because of the thick mat of vegetation that grows on the surface of the swamp—thick enough to walk on, in some cases, which causes the whole green landscape to wobble as the waves course through the vegetation. Shrubs, cat-tails and even small trees grow in this organic carpet, which itself floats upon the deeper waters of the bog.

After the tour, my fiance and I were strolling around the visitors center, chatting up some of the friendly naturalists on staff there. They mentioned that each year they host an international bog arts show, featuring an array of artwork inspired by bogs. They also mentioned one standout from last year's show—a painting from a local artist inspired by H.P. Lovecraft's "Moon Bog." That got my attention! I've never read "Moon Bog" before, as it doesn't figure into the Cthulhu mythos collections on my shelf. But get this—the staffers actually had photocopies of "Moon Bog" on hand to give out to visitors, and they produced a stapled-together pamphlet of the story for me to take home.

It was really, really cool to spend an afternoon exploring nature and find out that it figures so prominently into the stuff of my hobbies.


Chgowiz said...

The Volo bog is one of my favorite hiking places, except when the air is hot and the bugs are out in full force!

Very cool about Moon Bog - I'm going to have to see if that's in public domain.

Current Version said...

Both nature and our synthetic surroundings can be a great inspiration for games, which is probably why I've always enjoyed playing games set in modern day with the current city as the locale.

Nice photos! You could always use 'em for an upcoming adventure.