Archive for March, 2012

On a variable day where the sun played hide and seek among the clouds,  I visited the Falls of the Ohio to see what there was to see and experience.  Thus far, Spring is shaping up to be much warmer than normal and many different  plants in the city where I live have flowered early.  I was curious to see if this pattern was holding true with the trees out by the river? Upon arrival, I could see that the trees hadn’t “leafed-out” and so I directed my attentions to a slightly high and wild river.  I began looking for river treasures when I met this strange fellow.

He called himself the “Guardian” and he was doing the same thing as me.  Namely walking along the edge of the river and picking up objects that were washing ashore.  The water level has been high and many of the youngest willow trees were poking out of the sand like large hairs on the back of some big animal you can’t totally see because it’s that huge.  I tagged along with the Guardian and we conversed freely.  It’s funny how no two beings react in the same way to the “treasures” the river offers up.  For example, people are always trying to give me driftwood that they think I will like.  Rarely, am I attracted to their finds.  Driftwood aesthetics is a matter of personal taste as is the attraction for all the other stuff that washes up here.  I didn’t think anything at all as the Guardian started collecting plastic bottles.  While those bottles held little interest for me…the polystyrene chunks I was stuffing into my collecting bag held no interest to the Guardian whatsoever.

The Guardian was keying on green plastic bottles in particular.  I had to know why these bottles and what was he going to do with them?  And then there was the added mystery of his name.  If he’s the Guardian…what is he guarding?  My new friend said he would be glad to tell me, but it would in fact, be easier to show me.  Together we walked up the shore to the tree line where my new friend had a project he was working on.

I was amazed to see that he had planted a river-polished cedar trunk into the sand and had attached his green plastic bottles to the nubs that were once branches of this tree.  Judging by his project’s progress…he had been hard at work before I ran into him.  Here’s another view that shows where he positioned his bottle tree.

He told me he had been doing this activity once a year for many years and that he is called the Guardian because he is the protector of this particular ritual.  It’s purpose is to awaken the coming of Spring after a period of dormancy.  There are other beings like himself that are scattered across the planet and serve the same or similar functions through their various rituals.  As he added new bottles to his tree, the Guardian chided me in a friendly way saying did I think the seasons just transitioned on their own? The Earth in fact needs the help of all who love her to keep her from falling into neglect.  The Earth needs to know that folks do care because that extra bit of genuine concern is important and provides the extra energy needed to sustain everything that lives.  Otherwise, this huge task is simply not worth it and the world slips into apathy and falls back asleep.

As the Guardian spoke to me, large dark clouds started gathering overhead.  The first large drops of rain began falling in the sand around us.  It was time to go and I parted company with my new friend.  I thought about what he told me.  I guess I hadn’t considered that the very planet might also be alive and would respond positively knowing that others simply cared.  As I walked home I said a little prayer of my own inside my head and awaited the further greening of the world.

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Welcome to another adventure set in the western section of the Falls of the Ohio State Park.  As promised, here is what amounts to part two of my last entry.  On this particular day I was involved with two sculptures made using found materials. The first was the Banana Palm Mockingbird that I was photographing when I was taken by surprise by this odd character that I call the “Goofy Guy”.  He walked out of no where (scared the bird away) and announced himself to me.  I was working intently with my camera and not paying much attention to what else was around me.  Let that be a lesson to me in letting my guard down.  Anyway, here is a picture of him.  Luckily, my absurd visitor was a very friendly chap!

You can see why he’s the Goofy Guy with his asymmetrical face and huge smile.  He seemed really curious about what I was doing and so he tagged along with me for an hour or so.  One of the first things he did was show me this tree that a beaver or beavers had gnawed.  It never occurred to me that beavers might be capable of climbing trees?  I could have this all wrong, but I’m not certain what else is around here that could do this type of damage? Might be some other mysterious critter that I have yet to come across.

I was working my way down the river bank and snapped this image of my new friend standing on a set of concrete steps.  Hmm…another mystery presented itself.  Although I have always acknowledged in my brain that these steps are out here…I have not considered for very long why they are here to begin with?  Obviously, this thing did not just float in with the high water!  In different areas out here, you do come across building foundations that preceded the formation of the state park.  Is this evidence of that or did someone go to great trouble to dump this here like so much back fill?  It certainly would take some energy to do this.  On the other hand, if these steps actually were attached to a building…who would build a structure this close to the Ohio River and for what purpose?  Is this the remains of a boat house?   Where is the rest of the house?  The mystery just deepens!

Since it was an unseasonably warm day…the Goofy Guy decided to cool his feet off.  Waves from the river were lapping the shore line.  If my friend isn’t careful he could easily fall into the river.  Then again in his case, he would just float off to some other distant place.  I believe the flower-like object on his head may be part of some large bubble wand…I just thought of that.  Over the years, I have collected many smaller wands and I should show you that collection at some point in this riverblog.  Always good to have something saved for a rainy day.  I’ll add that to my other esoteric river collections.  If you notice, Goofy Guy is missing the talisman he had on his chest.  It must have fallen off while we were having fun.  I think it was a plastic cookie cutter perhaps to make gingerbread men?  The day was wearing on and so I was working my way back to the Interpretive Center.  I was soon to say good-by to my new acquaintance, but before that happened I created a last series of images of him.

We stopped by a large tree that fell over a year or so a go and Goofy Guy climbed up on the tree’s root mass.  To me, he looked like a preacher on his pulpit.  I wondered later what topic he would elaborate upon and hoped it would have something to do with respecting nature and environmental responsibility.  This image shows the tree better.

Tired, thirsty, and hungry I bid my friend farewell.  I wonder if he is still hanging out or did he attach himself to some other people?  The next time I’m in this section of the park…I’ll make a point of looking him up.  Thanks for hanging out with me and engaging the many mysteries surrounding this special place in the world.

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Dear readers…I have so much to post and have fallen a couple of weeks behind.  The work a day world has been extra busy (and rewarding) of late.  Still, I have made time to go to the river and “do my thing” to maintain my peace of mind.  It’s time now to post my images and tell a story.  The following post occurred two weeks a go when the river was high and I decided to spend the day in the western section of the Falls of the Ohio State Park.  At this point, I was fairly certain that the materials I found and cached at my outdoor studio in the eastern section were either gone or the river was about to take them.  I ventured forward-looking for “fresh” materials and opportunities.

My walk took me past the marvelous tree that the local kids (among others) like to use as a hang out.  I can imagine many potential childhood memories centered around this tree for the folks who grew up with it.  On this day everything was quiet and in fact I didn’t see anybody out here at all.  That bodes really well if you want to see wildlife.  It has been so unseasonably warm…that I wonder how that will affect how spring unfolds this year?  Later we would set several records for high temps in the lower 80’s for early March!!! Technically, it’s still winter here…very odd indeed.  I had heard that a pair of bald eagles were attempting to set up a nest in the far western section of the park and I was hoping to see at least signs of the birds.  I wasn’t lucky on this day with the eagles, but I did come across a few other interesting wildlife objects courtesy of the Ohio River.  For example, here’s the first goldfish I’ve found out here.

This fish stood out against the river pebbles like a red beacon.  I could have found it with one eye closed! We have other invasive carp species out in the river now, but this was a new one.  An actual goldfish probably wouldn’t stand much of a chance against the river’s natural predators.  The non-native carp that have entered the river system eat constantly and grow really fast and large.  It will be a great challenge to rid the river of them. I picked up the neon goldfish and dropped it into my collecting bag.  Here’s what I came across next in the way of wildlife.

Swimming at the river’s edge I stumbled upon this golden sea turtle.  It was playing among the bubbles and rootlets.  Again, here was an image that was unnaturally beautiful…like the current weather.  The pattern we have been experiencing is that the river will rise and then fall in quick succession as the Army Corps of Engineers regulates the water level for commerce and flood control.  Walking even further west I came across this “elephant’s graveyard” of plastic and my heart sank.  You can pick this stuff up all day long and it seems the next day gives you a fresh supply. Sometimes it feels like you are rolling that proverbial rock uphill only to have it roll back down.  What’s happening up river from us?

As you can see…it’s not a pretty picture.  Mostly plastic containers like old milk jugs and laundry detergent packaging.  As this plastic weathers and breaks down from UV light, the pieces keep getting smaller and smaller without ever completely disappearing.  The next stop could be the Gulf of Mexico. I found one other notable object and set it up among the still bare branches awaiting the new leaves of the year.  This is also the first time I have come across one of these things.

It’s either an artificial palm or banana tree?  As the day continued to warm I wondered to myself about how plants might be reacting to climate change?  Are the warmer weather plants moving northwards and what else will this change? While I was musing on this I received an answer in a most unlikely form.  My “banana palm” was visited by an unusual bird.

Here’s another first! Leave it to the only Banana Palm Mockingbird to find the only banana tree around here.  I watched transfixed as the bird explored the tree and the surrounding area.  A bird of this species is more likely to be seen in Central America than mid America.  I don’t know much more about it.  I saw it investigate the river’s edge for food and here are a couple more images to prove it was here.

Here’s the mockingbird with Louisville’s skyline visible on the opposite shore.

The mockingbird didn’t hang out for very long and soon it was time for me to head back.  I’m going to be off for the next couple of days and will attempt to post more of my adventures…if the call of the river doesn’t get me first!  Have a great weekend everybody!




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Okay so I’m bowing to a little peer pressure and presenting additional images from a project I did the last month.  The day I made my Styrofoam ant project I also kept crossing areas on the riverbank where iridescent flows from something oily was percolating up through the sand and mixing with slow flowing water.  In my original story…imbibing this stuff is what mutates the ant into a giant!

I still don’t know what this prismatic film is that is seeping to the surface?  It could be old long-buried petroleum or some oily residue from decaying vegetation?

These rainbow flows are a fact of life at the Falls and gives me another setting my sculptures can help interpret.  The colors and patterns on the water and sand can be very striking.  Here in quick succession are several more abstract images created the same day as the ant project, but minus the Styro-insect.

In the above image, you can see a few recognizable objects including nuts, sand, and coal.  I’ll close with a final image of why the ants are so large here…they are drinking the sheen and it’s the Godzilla effect all over again!

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Twenty four hours later, people in the Kentuckiana area are still trying to absorb what happened yesterday.  A monstrous tornado completely wiped out several small communities including the town of Henryville which is about twenty miles from my home in Louisville.  It’s a scene of complete destruction and there was loss of life all along the course of this twister.  Believe it or not, we were anticipating that this could happen.  Meteorologists were telling us that the conditions were right for violent storms. I was sent home hours early from work as were many other people in town to take shelter in our basements and safe places.  I wonder how much worse it would have been without the advance warning?  Thus far, we are more than double the usual tornadoes normally seen in the early spring.  Throw away your Farmer’s Almanac…I’m not sure it describes the physical environment we now live in.  It seems we are living in extreme and unstable times.  Pick your poison, too hot, too dry, too wet, too many powerful storms, too many natural disasters.  I hope this won’t be a dangerous spring…but it is already off to a bad start.  My heart goes out to all the people affected by this tragedy.

I’ve watched the local news on television and read the morning newspaper.  I feel like escaping and so I go to the Falls of the Ohio.  I see just one other person all day, otherwise, it’s sunny, windy, and the river is rising.  The tall figure I made last weekend is gone!  Not a trace…nothing.  I guess it got up and walked away.  To haul something that big out of here takes some effort and commitment.  I head down to the water’s edge which is creeping up the bank.  As the waves crash against the shoreline, I’m scouting for the flotsam and jetsam the river gives me as gifts.  Here are a few of today’s finds.

I believe this might be a teething ring for a doll?  It’s tiny and the black object next to it is an ordinary plastic bottle cap which is a good gauge of scale.

And now for another object whose identity I’m not sure of!  My guess is this is some plastic toy vegetable?  Anyway, I dropped it into my B. Deemer Gallery collecting bag and moved on.  My fake produce collection keeps getting bigger!

In my hand, I’m holding a plastic smiley fish!  Probably a child’s bath tub toy. And now, for my favorite find of the day!

When I find something like this I wonder how long it’s been in the river?  It could be years based on the patina it has acquired.  I was admiring the frogman when I saw something else moving along the driftwood.  I froze so I would not scare it away.  From memory I quickly recognized it as a Water Weasel which is a seldom seen animal in these parts.  Carefully, I eased my camera up to my eye and recorded these images in quick succession.

The Water Weasel is an unusual mammal.  It’s always on the move and it’s always hungry.  Rarely do you see more than one of these critters at a time.  It can probably only stand its own specie’s company during the mating season. The Water Weasel is also extremely secretive and so it’s exceptional to spot this guy.  As it comes closer to my position…I realize why it hasn’t seen me.  The weasel is chasing something and is focused on its quarry.

The Water Weasel has relentlessly pursued its prey across wood and sand and made its kill.  This time the victim is a small White-footed Mouse that had the misfortune of crossing paths with this predator.

The mouse disappears with a few bites and with a quick lick of the lips the weasel vanishes into the nearby driftwood mound.  The whole predator/prey relationship crosses my mind.  It’s not about picking winners and losers…nature is indifferent and has no stake in the outcome.  I notice it is getting colder and the wind has picked up again.  I can hear the logs crashing into one another in the river and making that sound which I associate with the grinding of teeth.  A drop of water falls from my runny nose.  It’s time to go home and cross the bridge back into Louisville.  I wonder how high the river will rise?

Postscript:  The Water Weasel is similar to another small mammalian predator known in folklore as the River Ghost.  Here is a preserved specimen from the collections of the Museum of Unnatural History.

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