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Posts Tagged ‘absurd story’

Eric and his contraption, Nov. 2015, Falls of the Ohio

When I received the call from my friend Eric, I was already heading to the Falls of the Ohio.  A simply gorgeous autumn day was upon us and the smell of freshly dropped leaves perfumed the air near the river.  Soon we would experience our first full frost that would truly signal an end to the warm days and the coming cold, grayness ahead of us.  For now, everything seemed perfect and both man and animals reveled in being outside.  Like so many of my friends, Eric is a bit of an eccentric.  He’s highly creative, full of surprises, but has difficulty at times channeling his enthusiasms into something positive and useful.  I can somewhat relate to that and perhaps this forms the basis of our friendship?  The plan was to meet at my outdoor atelier under the willow trees so he could show me his latest invention and sure enough…I found Eric standing next to what looked like some kind of unusual machine.  Eric was fiddling with the various gizmos, dials, and buttons when I greeted him.

Eric preps his machine, Falls of the Ohio, Nov. 2015

My friend was excited to see me and rushed to shake my hand.  He spoke to me in out of breath fashion until I told him to relax and slow down.  Of course, I was curious to learn what he was up to.  Eric told me that he thought he had the answer to all the world’s energy problems and it took the form of this contraption that clearly looked like it was cobbled together from secondhand junk.  Eric called me because he wanted a witness to observe a demonstration of his device’s capabilities.  If all went well, Eric intended to send the plans for his latest invention  to the patent office and from there who knew?  Filled with curiosity, I asked Eric what was the function of his machine and how exactly did it work?

Eric "feeds" the hopper, Nov. 2015, Falls of the Ohio

To back track a bit, here is a fuller description of the look of this device.  The main body of the machine was boxy and covered with a white insulating material.  All sides of the box were embellished with tubes, light bulbs, vials of mysterious fluids, gears, pulleys, dials, levers, and what appeared to be radiator panels for keeping the machine cool while it operated.  A large yellow hose protruded from the back of the machine.  In the front where the operator did his “thing” was a “hopper” where material could be fed into the machine.  A large, clear, horizontally mounted bottle introduced water into the process.  The whole contraption was mounted on four wheels which made it a mobile power plant that could be moved to any location that was required.  Now, I’m not a scientist and so a lot of what Eric told me I frankly did not understand, but in short, here is what the machine did along with its practical applications.  The purpose of the machine as Eric explained it to me was to produce “UBF” or Universal Bio Fuel which my friend believed would not only make us energy self-sufficient, but would also solve the world’s hunger problems as well!  Anything organic could be fed into the “hopper” and as a way of demonstration…Eric picked up a large arm load of dried leaves and stuck them into the cup and fired up his machine.  One of the beautiful things about his invention was that it operated on the fuel that it produced. The next stage occurred within the bowels of this odd mechanism.  I could hear sounds of the leaves being broken down, ground up and masticated into mush.  Water, various enzymes, acids, and yes…bacterial cultures were introduced into this leaf mash.  As this bolus moved through various internal chambers, the mash would ferment and in quick order convert into “UBF”.  The desired product has a waxy consistency when cool.  Eric’s machine not only could produce “UBF” to be utilized for industrial needs, but also had a soft-serve function where it could be doled out like some nutritious, but hardly tasty ice cream.  Flavoring could come later.  According to Eric, apart from a cheese-like odor,  very little waste would result…so complete were the reactions that created the “UBF”.

Eric's machine overflows, Falls of the Ohio, Nov. 2015

"UBF" overflowing the bowl, Falls of the Ohio, Nov. 2015

As I watch, I’m thinking the machine is working as intended, but soon notice that Eric is frantically operating the buttons and dials and a small puff of white smoke emanates from his machine.  He quickly runs to the yellow hose where a small bowl for receiving the “UBF” has turned over on its side.  Too much of the precious bio fuel is being produced and is spilling forth and coagulating on the ground.  I ask is there anything I can do, but Eric doesn’t hear me and for some unknown reason takes the following rash action.

Eric sucks the hose, Falls of the Ohio, Nov. 2015

Eric grabs the end of the hose and sticks it into his mouth!  I hear a guzzling sound as he swallows a massive amount of the surplus “UBF”.  He then runs to the front of the machine and hits the button that stops all the reactions.  Why Eric did not do this first is due to the fact that he panicked.  He told me that in his mind, he heard his inner voice saying that this fuel is precious and should not be wasted.  Eric had a dazed look upon his face and then the oddest thing happened…all the hairs on his head stood straight up and they remained that way!

Eric's hair standing on end, Falls of the Ohio, Nov. 2015

Exhausted and over-wrought, Eric decides to call it a day.  He leaves his bio fuel extracting machine where it stands and with assistance from me…we head for home.  Eric is a persistent fellow and with his mission to solve the planet’s energy needs… I know this latest setback will not keep him down for long.

Eric waste deep in water, Nov. 2015, Falls of the Ohio

Eric in the water by his machine, Falls of the Ohio, Nov. 2015

Sure enough, about a week later, I run into my mad scientist friend back at the Falls of the Ohio on another beautiful day.  As it turned out…this hair-raising experience was permanent.  The “UBF” is such a rich mixture and the full physiological effects of eating such a large dose are unknown.  Certainly, he had eaten more than a minimum, recommended serving which according to plan was to be determined later.  Just a little bio fuel goes a long way.  Luckily for Eric, there were no other scary after effects.  Undaunted, Eric is willing to try his machine again soon, but first he had to clean it out and replenish his water supply.  On this day, I find him waste deep in a stagnant pool of water.  He has adjusted his hose by placing one end into the water and the other end delivers liquid into the hopper.  This is required to flush all the enzymes and other residues out of his bio fuel plant.

Eric by his machine, Falls of the Ohio, Nov. 2015

Eric next to his bio fuel machine, Falls of the Ohio, Nov. 2015

As he tinkers with his contraption we converse.  Eric told me that he has a lot more to learn about which organic materials produce the most energy.  I ask him if by organic, would that also include plastic and a lot of other waste products and detritus that our current technologies produce?  He’s intrigued by the question and thinks plastic by-products could work to create energy although he doesn’t think they would have much food value.  I nod my head in agreement.

Eric adjusts the settings on his machine, Nov. 15, Falls of the Ohio

Eric's bio diesel machine, Falls of the Ohio, Nov. 2015

I don’t know if Eric was ultimately successful in earning his hoped for patent.  I didn’t hear what happened the other times he tested his machine.  I know he places a lot of faith in technology and believes that it will save us in the long run.  Of course, reality is more complicated than that.  Part of me fears that if he was successful in his quest…some large corporation would just buy him out and warehouse the solution until they could profit from it.  What I appreciate about Eric is that he never talked about money or getting rich.  There simply are great problems out there in the wider world and he finds fulfillment in trying to resolve them.  Working on his machine has given Eric a renewed sense of purpose.  As I contemplate the prismatic colors on the surface of the water…I hope Eric finds an answer.  Until next time from the Falls of the Ohio.

iridescent colors on the water, Falls of the Ohio, Nov. 2015

 

 

 

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Mid April High Water, Falls of the Ohio, April 2015

It’s mid April and the television meteorologists have said it all.  If the Kentuckiana area receives one more drop of rain…we will set an all time local record for precipitation during any April since records have been kept.  With half a month to go and more rain in the forecast for this week…that record is a goner.  As I write this…the river is still rising.  I mentally contrast this to what is happening in California with their severe drought.  I wonder if there are any billionaires out there that would like to invest in a pipeline that would send all this extra water to where it’s needed most?  After all, isn’t water a much more precious commodity than crude oil?  We don’t send exploratory satellites and space craft into the vast distances of the universe looking for petroleum.  It’s water we seek because in a fundamental way we realize that water is the key to life.

The high Ohio River at the Falls of the Ohio, April 2015

The following adventure happened last weekend which was warm and beautiful, but with an ever-rising river.  The large driftwood mound under the railroad bridge I documented in my last post has broken apart and floated away along with my absurd March Madness figure.  Perhaps when the river returns to its usual water levels, I may run into him once again?  For now, I am exploring a section of the Ohio River Greenway which is near the Interpretive Center’s entrance and has a nice view of Louisville’s skyline.  The riverbank does not lack for junk and before long I’ve photographed and collected a full bag of possibilities for future use.  It was while I was absorbed in my own head space that I bumped into a most unusual character that was engaged in what looked to be some type of ritual at the water’s edge.

Shoe Shaman of the Big Blue Nation, Falls of the Ohio, April 2015

What I first thought was singing turned out to be chanting and it was coming from this exotic guy.  I’m sure I must have had the strangest expression on my face!  Despite my presence, this blue-helmeted figure with some kind of mandala on his chest was practically knee-deep in muddy water and lining up found flip-flops on a beached log.  A perfectly normal activity don’t you agree?  I’m assuming he gathered these sandals from all the other flotsam and jetsam that has washed into here?  That part I can understand because I have an ongoing collection of the same footwear that I hope to make into something grand and profound some day.

Detail of the Shoe Shaman, Falls of the Ohio, April 2015

Shoe Shaman of the Big Blue Nation and altar, Falls of the Ohio, April 2015

I remained quiet, stayed observant, and took these photographs.  I saw the blue helmeted man face west and chant.  He later did the same thing looking towards all the cardinal directions.  On occasion, he would carefully pick up a sandal and whisper to it before placing it back upon the water-logged trunk of a limb-less tree.  For emphasis, he would also do this little hop dance step in the muddy water.  I waited for him to finish before interrupting him with a few questions of my own.

Head of the Shoe Shaman, Falls of the Ohio, April 2015

Shoe Shaman with his altar, Falls of the Ohio, April 2015

Finally, I had my chance to speak and the mysterious figure looked my way.  I was surprised that I could understand what he was saying.  First, he thanked me for respecting his custom by not interrupting his ceremony.  He also said that it is very important that the flow of energy continue unabated if the ritual was to take hold.  Filled with questions, I asked his name and what was he doing?  Patiently, he explained that he was the Shoe Shaman of the Big Blue Nation, a holy man and offered as proof the ill-fitting helmet on his head which was the official crest of his high office.  I didn’t say anything, but thought the Shoe Shaman’s head-gear bore an uncanny resemblance to a Smurf’s head.  I wondered if that was in fact the Big Blue Nation he was referring to?  If that indeed was the case…well, it did make some sense in a surreal sort of way.  There are many cultures that have legends about “little people”.  I asked what he was doing with the sandals and he said that working with footwear was his specialty.  Each shoe, in this case, each lost sandal…has a direct connection to the soul of its former owner and is holy to them.  The weight of each person is impressed into the sole’s foam and is as individual as a fingerprint.  In his culture, they have a saying that you can’t fully understand someone until you stand in their shoes.  I said we have a similar saying.  The Shoe Shaman said that his goal is to affect the river’s empathy and not to further enrage it for taking the water and environment for granted. My new friend was attempting to appease the flood waters by asking the river to forgive our carelessness and to accept the sacrifice that had been prepared for it on this altar of wood.  The shaman assured me that only in this way would the river agree to return to its normal banks and not seek out our kind that had been hurtful towards it.

Shoe Shaman of the Big Blue Nation with the skyline of Louisville across the river, April 2015

At the water's edge, the Shoe Shaman, Falls of the Ohio, April 2015

I’ll admit that the idea of a revenge seeking river stunned me some, however, history is full of epic floods.  In our arrogance, we forget how at Nature’s mercies we really are.  My curiosity sated…it was time to move on.  I left the shaman at that interstitial zone between water and land.  Slogging through the mud, I paused briefly sitting on a dry log and thought about what I had witnessed as I also picked the mud off the bottom of my shoes.  I am hoping that he was successful in intervening on our behalf and only time will tell.  For my part, I will never forget the scene and will pledge to do my part to be respectful towards creation by celebrating it and in doing so…hope to save myself and those dearest to me.  I don’t ever want one of our soles to go missing and find itself on a log floating somewhere along the Ohio River.  Until the river retreats…

The Sandal, Wood Altar, Falls of the Ohio, April 2015

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The Sand Rover, May 2014, Falls of the Ohio

 

A gorgeous morning at the Falls of the Ohio and the urge to explore is strong.  Our current spring pattern is holding.  We will have a few days of steady rain resulting in localized flooding which is then followed by the river rising as all that water seeks the lowest level and here we are after all at the bottom of the Ohio River Valley!  The latest reports on the potential effects of climate change for our area have been predicting this.  In the years to come, we can expect more fierce storms with heavier than usual rainfall causing periodic flooding.  Actually, that’s just one prediction among many.  There is also the specter of hotter summers and invasive, non-native species among other scenarios.  We will each do what we feel compelled to do to cope with it all.  For now the sky is mostly clear and the river has retreated and it’s time to break out the old sand rover and see what there is to see and find what there is to find on the banks of the Ohio River.

Sand Rover, Falls of the Ohio, May 2014

We don’t need to travel very far to stumble upon unusual objects and startling sights.  The flotsam and jetsam that can’t evade the stronger currents and navigate that hard left turn westward towards the Mississippi River get deposited in the park.  Something flesh-colored has been spotted lying on the surface of the sand and our intrepid driver moves in closer for a better look.

Headless Barbie knock off doll, May 2014

Upon inspection it turns out to be a headless, knock-off copy of a Barbie-style doll.  It’s made from cheap, hollow plastic instead of the more rubberized material that the better Barbies are made from. Thus far, this has been a good year for finding dolls at the Falls of the Ohio.  I seem to find one or two new ones each time I come out here.  Of the common objects that I routinely find…all these dolls still strike me as being especially odd and sad.  Taking a picture, it’s back aboard the sand rover and on to our next stop.

Detail of Sand Rover driver, May 2014

We don’t need to travel very far for our next discovery.  With the sun up, there is a strong glare emanating from something shiny half buried in the sand.  Pulling up to the object, our driver is  startled and bemused to find a glass jar of spaghetti sauce!

Partially buried jar of spaghetti sauce, Falls of the Ohio, May 2014

Would you believe me if I told you this is not the first jar of pasta sauce found out here?  Because it is relatively easy to prepare…I’m assuming that spaghetti is among the more popular dishes among folks who like to recreate around the river?  Over the years, I have also found jars of pickles, condiments, soup, and one very large, memorable jar of bologna.

sand rover, May 2014, Falls of the Ohio

The sand rover crosses over the sand easily, but it’s a different story near the edge of the river where sticky, thick mud cakes the ground.  As the sun dries the water out of the fine silty mud, deep cracks appear and widen with the heat.

Sand Rover and mud, May 2014, Falls of the Ohio

The driver decides that caution is the proper way to navigate around this mud.  This surface can be deceptive and it’s easy to step ankle to shin deep in this sticky quagmire.  You could lose a shoe in this stuff and I’m speaking from experience!  Once your shoes are coated with this mud…it’s hard to get them clean again.  You can tell where I live by my front porch…it’s the house with the muddy shoes lined up in a row.

Sand Rover at the Falls of the Ohio, May 2014

Carefully maneuvering around the pitfalls, the sand rover is once again safely on the shifting, but surprisingly secure sand.  There are other river treasures within view worthy of investigation.

baseball losing its cover, May 2014

A water destroyed baseball lies nearby.  This is more of an old-style ball because its core is still made with string wrapped tightly around a hard rubber core.  The covers, however, are not leather and so this isn’t an official baseball of any sort.  Just a little further down the beach is another toy that was immersed in the former liquid sand and now lies trapped in a fine granular matrix.

toy truck half buried in sand, Falls of the Ohio, May 2014

Once upon a time, this may have been a remotely controlled vehicle?  The style of this truck looks like military vehicles I have seen.  Having explored the sand, it’s time to cruise by the driftwood.

sand rover, Falls of the Ohio, May 2014

Having initially spotted something lying on the driftwood, the driver decided that he would check out the mystery object more thoroughly upon his trip home.  The closer the driver approached the stranger the object became.  In fact, he felt it was looking right back at him.  Parking the sand rover nearby, the driver climbed upon the driftwood to get a better look and this is what he found.

partial, artificial deer head, May 2014

It was heavily weathered, but there was enough present to suggest that this was the hard foam head of a deer.  The driver thought that this was perhaps part of a taxidermy trophy or maybe the head of a figurative archery target?  The object’s single dark eye was piercing and made the driver uncomfortable.  Satisfied for now, the driver climbed back aboard the sand rover and headed towards home.

head of the sand rover driver, May 2014

Well, there you have it, another interesting day at the river.  The driver was glad he came since each excursion promised new sights and mysteries to solve.  Already the next trip was being anticipated and all that was now required was for nature to cooperate.  It’s still spring and we shall see how it goes at the Falls of the Ohio this year.

Arching willow at the Falls of the Ohio, May 2014

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Tussock moth caterpillar, Oct. 2013   Red-faced and bizarrely hairy, the unique caterpillar of the Tussock moth was munching its way through a maple leaf.  Everything about its appearance says I’m not tasty and leave me alone.  It’s now October and it won’t be much longer before the first frost and freezes arrive and with it the colder temperatures which will quiet insect life at the Falls of the Ohio until next year.  The caterpillar inspired me to post a few other entomological images taken in the park.  I confess that I have always liked insects as examples of how diverse life can be.  I’m amazed at the incredible variety and forms that our six-legged friends can assume. Here’s another really weird caterpillar that I found at the Falls that I just haven’t been able to identify through any of my field guides.  Does anybody out there in blog land recognize this?

strange caterpillar from the Falls, late June 2013

This fluorescent green caterpillar has dramatic eye spots on its posterior that would incite a predator to strike there first.  Its anterior is located on the opposite end and I would have fallen for this trick too, but noticed that it was walking backwards.  I wondered once it completed its metamorphosis…would the adult be a moth or butterfly?  Maybe some day I will stumble upon and collect a large cocoon I don’t recognize and I’ll take it home and watch a miracle as it emerges from its silken home.

hornets and flies on willow bark, 9/2010

During this time of year, certain willow trees at the Falls are exuding sap which draws a variety of insect life including various flies, hornets, and butterflies to these sweet “licks”.  Whether the flowing sap is due to disease or injury is unknown to me? The large bullet-like hornets are so preoccupied with sipping the sap that they ignore me.  To test this, I’ve carefully touched them with my finger while they were feeding and they remained docile.  I was walking through the tall grass when I noticed a large flying insect land on the bush next to me.  Despite its wonderful camouflage I was able to locate our next insect after a short search.

Chinese Mantid, Falls of the Ohio, late Sept. 2013

This is the Chinese Mantid which I read was introduced into this country in 1896.  It is the largest praying mantis you are likely to come across in the United States and this specimen was about four inches or ten centimeters long.  I’ve seen them grow larger, but not in this park.  In fact, this is only the second mantid I’ve seen out here.  There are several native species, but they are smaller and more obscure.   And now, it’s time to reveal my most spectacular discovery which is a near but harmless relative of the praying mantis.  Here is a picture of its head.

detail, head of the Falls Phasmid Stick Insect, October 2013

And now, for the rest of its body which is about two feet long or roughly sixty centimeters.  I came upon this unique life form casually walking across the driftwood on its way to somewhere else.

full view of Falls Phasmid, Falls of the Ohio, Oct. 2013

Although as insects go this is a giant…it is also an extremely fragile creature.  It is a member of the walking stick family.  It relies on slow movements and its cryptic forms to merge with its surroundings.  The Falls Phasmid is strictly a vegetarian and eats the foliage from a variety of different trees.

aerial view of Falls Phasmid, Oct. 2013

I came across this specimen in broad daylight.  I had always heard that they were nocturnal and chose to restrict their movements during the day to avoid detection.  Walking stick insects are among the largest insects we have.  This species is additionally strange in that its head, thorax, and abdomen are so clearly differentiated.  Some scientists have gone so far as to suggest a bit of mimicry at work here.  On the surface it does seem to possess a superficial resemblance to a giant ant which might be enough to dissuade predators from attacking it.

Falls Phasmid hanging in a tree, Oct. 2013

I did observe this particular Phasmid making return trips to a particular willow tree where it clung to a nest-like structure that was hanging down from a branch.  The meaning of this structure was not immediately apparent.  Perhaps the Falls Phasmid uses this form to help it overwinter?  Keeping a respectful distance away, I did see the stick insect walking slowly over the riverbank, but I couldn’t tell if it was searching for something in particular and I did not witness it feeding.

Falls Phasmid Stick Insect, Oct. 2013, facing left

Falls Phasmid in the wetlands area, Oct. 2013

Originally, the Falls Phasmid may have had the ability to fly.  Other walking stick insects from around the world have vestigial wings that suggest a different past.  Our specimen lacks even the most superficial suggestion of wings which hints at an ancient lineage.  Perhaps all stick insects evolved here first and spread around the world much later?

Falls of the Ohio Phasmid Stick Insect, October 2013

I watched the Falls Phasmid for a while and took a bunch of photographs of it before leaving the park.  I’m curious about that tree that it likes to hang out on and so will check it the next time I’m here.  On my way out of the park, I also came around this wonderful Viceroy butterfly and thought that this would make a fitting image to end this post.  When I think of the butterflies that inhabit the park…this is the species that comes to mind first for me.

Viceroy butterfly, Falls of the Ohio, October 2013

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Wet studio under the willows, Falls of the Ohio, early June 2013

If you are reading this post between June 28 through September 1, 2013 then you are also participating in an art exhibition.  You may ask…how is that possible?  Well, sitting on a white table within a gallery of the Kentucky Museum of Art and Craft in Louisville is a desktop computer.  On that computer, my “Artist at Exit o Riverblog” is on display in a group show entitled “The Seven Borders” which is curated by Joey Yates.  The exhibition features contemporary artists who either live in Kentucky or in the seven contiguous states that border the commonwealth. I will try to post more about this exhibit over the show’s run.  I’m delighted by this invitation because this is the first time my blog has been featured as art in an art context.  I’ve always thought this was a possibility for this blog because my art comes together here in terms of the objects I make, the pictures I take, and the words I string together to tell stories or just describe the beauty of nature.

 Of course, the dialogue created by people’s comments is a part of that too.  With hope, people will additionally feel they can participate by leaving a comment, however, online you will need to be a WordPress member or a blogger with an Open ID credential.  This is easy and free to do.  If, however, you would prefer to write a note on paper while in the museum and give it to the front desk attendant…I would be glad to include those comments in this project as well. 

 It’s been a busy and engaging June with projects at the river, a family trip to Washington D.C. etc… I had planned a different post for today, but after yesterday’s experiences at the river…I thought I would go out of sequence.   Besides, with art, it is quite often the case that progress or forward movement is not linear, but jumps all over the place.  Let’s begin again with the first image of this post…this was my outdoor studio under the willow trees at the Falls of the  Ohio in early June.  

I have used this spot to cache river found materials and to make my sculptures and this has been a handy base of operations for a couple of years now.  This spot has weathered a few near miss floods that could have washed everything away again, but has stayed remarkably intact.  Well…there were a few recent changes which form the true subject of this post and here are the pictures.

Improved outdoor studio space, June 2013

Improved outdoor studio space, Falls, June 2013

Improved studio area, Falls, June 2013

It was an already dramatic day in terms of the weather.  Bright sunshine alternated between heavy, dark clouds dumping rain showers along the way.  The clarity of the air and the mosquitoes were noteworthy.  I did get soaked on this adventure, but as long as the camera stays dry…I’m alright with it all.  Imagine my surprise upon arriving at my site to find that someone anonymously had built a structure around it!  I’m used to folks going through the junk I’ve scavenged and taking or destroying whatever creations I may have left behind, but this is a first!  A great deal of care was used in working with the existing site by utilizing the surrounding trees and logs as posts and beams.  I wonder if this is also the work of more than one person?  This is more than a flimsy lean-to where the wood is simply stacked.  Some craftsmanship is evident from the knots used to hold the structure together.  It might take more than one person to steady things as another does the tying?  Again, more pictures to illustrate the story.

knots used to hold structure together, June 2013

knots used on wood structure, June 2013

knots and wood, June 2013

The yellow nylon line is something I had found previously and used to create the giant spider’s web featured in an earlier post.  This structure has a chance to stay up for awhile…at least until someone else messes with it or the river rises again.  I was absorbed with the changes and reflecting on how often I have looked at this site from an archeological perspective.  It might even be fun to draw all this stuff in a scientific sort of way.  Because it had rained while I was looking around, the damp ground muffled the approaching sounds of my second big surprise of the day!

Figure with large head, June 2013

I turned and looked over my shoulder as this large presence stepped over the logs and entered the studio area.  He sat right down and asked, “Are you the guy that makes the Styrofoam sculptures?”

Big Figure with Pencil-thin mustache, Falls, June 2013

Big figure with pencil-thin mustache, June 2013

Whoa!…(I said to myself),…check out this dude with the huge head, miss-matched eyes, and pencil-thin mustache.  No doubt about it…I was a bit taken aback!  Regaining my composure, I replied that indeed I was that person and added that many of those creations were made in this very spot.  Without every telling me his name, he replied “I thought so…I’ve been an admirer of your work for a long time now.”  Knowing he was a fan set me at ease and we had a nice visit together.

Big Figure with pencil thin mustache, Falls, June 2013

Portrait of the Figure with the Big Head and Pencil-thin Mustache, Falls, June 2013

“So, how do you like it?”  Spreading his spindly arms around my studio,  I gathered that he was the architect of these recent improvements.  I told my mustachioed friend that I just love it when people play along and contribute to my Falls of the Ohio project!  I could see this clearly delighted him.  He asked if there were any suggestions for improvements and I replied that I had a few ideas.  To begin with, it is now much more difficult to move within the space.  I whacked my head a few times on wooden supports.  If the structure were higher…that wouldn’t be an issue and I also wouldn’t turn into a hunchback any sooner than I have to.  I also added that I missed having the big log to use as an impromptu work surface.  When I stood, it was just the right height.  Now, it is covered up with stacked wood.  I could see from his expression that this was probably enough in suggestions for this time.  I didn’t tell him that I needed to create new seating because the plank I liked using had been damaged.  That’s no big deal.  With the clouds ahead promising more rain, I gathered my camera, collecting bag, and walking stick and bid my new friend so long…for now.  Perhaps we’ll meet again?  Looking back, I saw the big guy sitting in my customary spot.  As I walked over the driftwood and sand, I wondered if my next visit to this site would harbor any more surprises?

The Big Guy with Pencil-thin Mustache at the studio, Falls of the Ohio, June 2013

 

 

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Falls of the Ohio, late May 2013

Another great day at the Falls of the Ohio.  Although it’s late May, we haven’t immediately jumped from a cool spring into a sweltering summer heat.  We still have time for that.  I’m following the deposited driftwood which forms these nice clearings punctuated here and there by small stands of willow trees.  There’s a method to my walks.  I carefully and as quietly as I can listen and look for any bird life in each new area I move into.  If I don’t find any birds than I move around the driftwood looking for interesting pieces and any other water born junk of note.  If an object captures my eye, I usually take a photograph of it in the context of the environment surrounding it.  If it is something really unusual, portable,  and potentially useful…then I may drop it into my collecting bag.  I also try to pay attention to any new flowers or insects that are out since my last visit. I don’t collect anything living since with the exception of fish…it’s against the park’s rules.

Falls of the Ohio, late May 2013

I will also walk the river bank doing much the same thing before heading back into the trees and my studio under the willows.  It’s here at my outdoor “atelier” that I check out my latest finds and with the materials I’ve previously collected…attempt to make art from them.  I was taking a break sitting on a bench I made and letting my mind “go blank” and just listening.  In the trees I could hear Northern orioles, Blue jays, and Catbirds all making their distinctive sounds.  With birds, you don’t need to see them to know they are present.  Small, noisy flocks of Cedar waxwings were flying from mulberry tree to mulberry tree seeking out ripe fruit.  I also kept hearing a “clicking or clacking”  sound originating behind where I was sitting which I mistakenly took for a squirrel moving among the branches.  I would look over my shoulder every now and then, but I didn’t see anything at first.  I didn’t see anything at all…until it moved!

Giant spider on web, late May 2013

Between its cryptic coloration and the dappled light effects of sunlight filtering through the tree tops…I had completely missed seeing the biggest spider in the world!  I know I had to walk by this marvel, but it didn’t register at all until this moment.  The spider wasn’t making any threatening gestures yet…perhaps it was remaining still “thinking” that I hadn’t located it.  The spider on its web was perhaps a dozen feet away from where I was sitting.  Meanwhile the hairs on the back of my neck were on end and I had an acute case of goosebumps all over my body!  Instinctively, I reached for my camera and started taking pictures.

Giant spider, May 2013

Carefully walking around the spider and its web, I snapped off as many images as my nerves would dare.  I still had no idea what it was capable of doing especially in protection of its nest?  I had my stout walking stick at the ready.  Nestled in a depression in the wood at the web’s base was a silk-lined “pocket” that held three white cocoons.  I wasn’t sure if these were egg cases or the wrapped up remains of former meals?

giant spider egg cases?, Falls of the Ohio, May 2013

In trying to describe this spider to you…I utilized my walking stick not only for protection, but to gauge its size as well.  Later in the comfort of my home, I estimated that the length of its body from the head to the tip of its abdomen to be approximately 30 inches or 76 centimeters long.  It’s moving legs made the spider seem much larger, but they were harder to measure.  The legs were perfectly camouflaged resembling the driftwood all around us.  The spider’s abdomen is covered with coarse hair arranged in bands of orange, white, and a bluish-black colors.  Otherwise, the spider is as white as the large river-polished chunks of Styrofoam that wash up on these fabled shores all the time.

Head of Giant Driftwood Spider, May 2013

lower jaws of Giant Driftwood Spider, May 2013

The head of what I’m now going to call the “Giant Driftwood Spider” is very unusual for a spider.  The fact it is nearly distinct (as in insects) and not simply continuous with the thorax makes it different.  The head was not, however, capable of movement.  This spider features four eyes.  It has two, larger dominant eyes and a vestigial pair located between them.  The fangs were purple in color and supported by black jaws used for gripping prey.  The clicking sound I had heard earlier were its fangs rubbing together.  Like all spiders…I assumed that this species is carnivorous as well.? Consistent with true spiders, this giant species also has eight legs, although the Giant Driftwood Spider’s are not uniform.  After watching this great arachnid for several minutes, it surprised me by leaving its web and walking towards the river.  I naturally, followed behind it at a discreet distance.

Giant Driftwood Spider, May 2013

Giant Driftwood Spider on a stump. May 2013

Giant Driftwood Spider on tree roots, May 2013

The giant spider moved deliberately through the driftwood field pausing once in a while for whatever reason.  Thoughts about what this spider did for food crossed my mind.  Was it an ambush predator secretly lying next to a log waiting for a meal to walk by?  Did it rush and overwhelm its prey with a lethal bite to the body?  I thought this likely since its web by my outdoor studio didn’t seem big enough to capture anything larger than birds or rodents.  I got the sense that this spider was able to go a long time between feedings.  I continued to follow the spider when it stopped at another silk construction it had previously created.

Great Driftwood Spider in yellow silk lair, May 2013

The spider stopped by what I’m guessing to be another silk trap?  The spider may have been trying to hide its form with the silk?  Perhaps it uses a method similar to trapdoor spiders in catching its food?  I will confess that I do get “creeped out” by having spider webs go across my face.  I have always had an aversion to this feeling, although generally speaking…I’m okay with the spiders themselves.  In this particular area, it felt like I was constantly wiping my face which made me very ill at ease.

Giant Driftwood Spider in its lair, May 2013

Giant Driftwood Spider attack!, May 2013

I circled back around to get a better look and when I did the spider lunged for me! With fangs clacking together and its legs gesturing wildly, the spider held its ground, but did not advance towards me.  With stick at the ready and in deep fear, I was prepared to swing down as hard as I could on the spider if I had to.  That’s when it occurred to me how wrong that would be?  Who was doing most of the provoking anyway?  Perhaps the spider was reacting in self-defense?  As with most living things, this spider had as much if not more reason to fear humans.  Even though this was the biggest spider I had ever seen…I was still bigger than it.  With that realization I backed off and took my leave of the Giant Driftwood Spider.  Reaching my home, I couldn’t wait to see the pictures and to tell the story of this remarkable animal encounter.  The world is full of natural marvels and the Falls of the Ohio…has many of them.

willow tree and roots at the Falls of the Ohio, May 2013

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Into the light, May 2013

Styrofigure in early May, 2013

Stepping away from the place where it was constructed revealed a whole new world for the Polystyrene Person to explore.  The sun was shining and birds were singing and the Falls of the Ohio were once again turning green with emerging tree leaves.  Driftwood was everywhere along the river and there were plenty of micro-environments to experience.

Polystyrene Person dancing in inner tube, May 2013

Being made of trash caused the Polystyrene Person to be less judgmental of the discarded man-made items it came across.  An old inner tube became a tiny arena perfect for dancing.

figure with plastic cable in the trees, May 2013

alternate view of figure with plastic cable in the trees, May 2013

A tough plastic cable captured by the willow branches during the last bit of flooding became another object of interest.  The Polystyrene Person admired the graceful  arcs and how the cable defined this bit of space.  The white figure played with the cable by walking around and stepping through the loops.  There was still more stuff snagged in other trees.

barge cable and figure, May 2013

Discovering a fraying barge cable tangled in the willow branches and dragging on the ground gave the new figure an odd mental image.  What if this was how the sky was tethered to the earth?  What would happen if this cable broke?  Would the blue sky with its flimsy clouds just drift off into space?  Remembering that this was simply a rope caught in a tree brought the smile back to the figure’s face.

Polystyrene Person among willow roots, May 2013

Standing among the roots of a fantastic willow tree, the Polystyrene Person marveled at how the tree maintained its grip on the earth.  Beneath the larger roots was a dense mat of very fine rootlets that held the soil together.

Polystyrene figure standing in water, May 2013

figure among water and willow roots, May 2013

The figure moved to the river’s edge and couldn’t wait to experience water.  It was such an entirely different sensation than standing on solid ground.  Cold water splashed up onto the Polystyrene Person’s face and being wet wasn’t the most pleasant feeling.  The literal tug of the river caused the figure to scramble up on the roots of a nearby willow to keep from being drawn further into the liquid.  Instinctively, the figure realized that it would be lost if the river was allowed to have too tight a grip.  Pulling the Polystyrene Person  back upon the shore, I explained it was time for me to go home.  I offered two choices to my creation.  It could stay at the river and face an uncertain but potentially exciting future where it more than likely would be destroyed by either nature or the hand of man.  Or, it could go home with me and see a different part of the world.  Perhaps because the river was a little scary, the Polystyrene Person opted to go home with me.

The Polystyrene Person opening my car door, May 2013

Because my hands were full…the figure opened my car door for me.  It’s really a very polite and innocent being.  During the short ride from the river to my house…I asked the Polystyrene Person what it would like to do?  The figure replied that it would like to continue to be out in nature and so I found the perfect place in my yard for it.  Happily, my latest creation takes pride in watching over my spring plants as they reveal themselves during the new season.

Polystyrene Person among the Hostas, May 2013

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image of Earth from space, 2013

Unknown hackers have recently posted images on the worldwide web reputedly obtained from government sources that state extraterrestrial aliens are among us.  The pictures go a long way in answering the question: “Are we truly alone in the universe?”.  The answer would be a resounding “no”! The information was lifted from top-secret computers from around the world, but seem to be centered on information purloined in the United States and New Zealand.  The group responsible for this posting call themselves members of “In Vino Veritas” and state their purpose is to let the truth be known.  In their communique “In Vino Veritas”  believes we are now  “evolved enough to handle the truth”.  Regardless, the cat is out of the bag…whatever that means?  Following are excerpts from their sensational posting which has gone bacterial on the internet.

Styrosian and crayfish, March 2013

Much of this stolen information centers around a lone alien that is believed to have crashed landed at the Falls of the Ohio State Park in southern Indiana.  After several years of trying, U.S. government scientists were able to break the transmission code used to transmit images off world and were then traced to their source in this small park.  The images show a “classical” looking humanoid-alien with large dark eyes and no nose exploring the environs of the park.  The image above shows the alien contemplating a dead crayfish, but it is unknown at this time whether “it” is responsible for the death of this crustacean.

Styrosian on tree stump, March 2013

Many of the “Falls of the Ohio Alien” show this visitor exploring nature.  There are many more images that seem to suggest that the extraterrestrial is engaged by this context in an almost reverential way.  Intentions, however, are difficult to gauge and there are some at the highest level who believe this is a scout for an impending invasion. Thus far, scientists have not been able to physically locate said alien.  Another image is believed to be of the wrecked space ship.

upturned hot tub, March 2013

This picture which cleverly resembles an upturned hot tub, could be either a space craft or some sort of time machine?  Remarkably, the New Zealand alien is also believed to have come to Earth in a bath-tub like ship.  These images from the Falls Alien are thought to have been taken with a “camera” mounted on a small drone based on their bird’s-eye point of view.  Thus far, this actual “hot tub” craft has eluded detection.  There is, however, other enigmatic circumstantial evidence that has been gathered that seems to imply an alien(s) “hand” at work.  Consider these strange formations found in the park.

map of the solar system, March 2013

This is a remarkable find and is obviously a map of our solar system.  The center golf ball is the sun surrounded by corresponding blackened buck-eye planets.

rope formation, March 2013

Could this found rope be a landing or navigational marker for a space craft or a piece of art?  The idea that aliens have an appreciation for art is further evidence of their more evolved status.

coal symbol, March 2013

Here is one of many “Star Symbols” made from locally procured coal.  Their exact function is also unknown but recent speculation also suggests a fusion of art and science at work here.  Notice the energy field radiating away from the star.

alien effigy artifact, March, 2013

This is one of the most impressive artifacts of all and recently excavated at a site near the Falls of the Ohio.  It is an alien effigy made from a composite materials including rubber and plastic.  The fact this alien has a nose also suggests the potential for much variation among different races or species of aliens to have secretly visited our planet.  Here are a few more images of aliens that were part of the recently posted hacker trove.  Let’s start with the image obtained from New Zealand which is identified as being ” a Dede”.

alien-competition, Dede alien, March 2013

This “Dede” alien is unusual in sporting antennae.  Notice how the pose seems to suggest appreciation for light and life.  Very little is known of alien activities around the world and this image is of extreme importance for this reason.  It is believed that a similar form of transmission was used by the “Dede” alien to “beam” this image back to the visitor’s home world or waiting space craft.  Scientists speculate the dark spectacles are needed because the “Dede” alien comes from a world whose sun isn’t as intense as our own.

Alien Ballet, 10/09

This image described as being an “alien ballet” also comes from the Falls of the Ohio.  Government sources date this image to 2009 which predates the current Falls alien.  The exuberant dance also suggest a love of fun and art.  After what must have been a long journey through dangerous outer space…it must have felt great to be safe and in a new environment.  The elaborate head-gear may suggest sexual dimorphism in this particular species of alien?  Can we safely assume that the male is on the right and female on the left…or does this picture represent two different aliens who are comfortable with one another?

Styrosian with purple flowers, March 2013

So ends a quick overview of the “leaked” evidence of alien visitors to our planet.  It will be fascinating to see if this information will be taken to heart or denied outright in typical governmental fashion?  Are we indeed grown-up enough to handle the idea that we are no longer alone in a wide open universe?  Thus far, the evidence suggests that our visitors from other worlds have had nothing but peaceful intentions and actually have been caught in acts that suggest they appreciate the variety of life around them.  If we could only learn from them…again, time will tell.

Hello from the Falls of the Ohio, March 2013

This post (which was fun to do) is in honor of Dede Puppets one year anniversary.  Congratulations from the Falls of the Ohio!  The Dede Puppets link can be found on my blogroll in the right hand column.

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Under the Big Tree, Nov. 2012

I have heard stories about this land and river that are supposed to be very old and have been handed down for generations.  Folks back then told each other stories and that’s how things became remembered.  Back then, it also wasn’t unusual to find a young one that knew their family’s history by heart and able to recite the names of all the known ancestors going back as far as people could  remember.  People in the old days must have been very smart and had better senses of memory than we do today.  Before writing and such, I wonder if people back in the old days held jobs as living books and sources of information? But I digress… which brings me to yesterday when I encountered the most unexpected sight at the Falls of the Ohio!  I first learned about this mystery as a little guy while listening to stories over a camp fire with my recent ancestors.  It’s about these special trees that are rumored to live around here that have the ability to uproot themselves and move around.  I didn’t believe it either and chalked it up as being another fun story like the Prince Madoc legend, but then I saw these rare trees with my own eyes!  And, because these days we have cameras…I took a few snapshots of them so that you can see them too.  Check this out.

Sycamore tree, roots and rocks, Nov. 2012

The old stories mention that the boundary between the earth and the water has always been a difficult place to live.  It’s an extreme back and forth existence living at the margins of too much or too little.  There’s not much nutrition coming out of these fabled rocks, but then again the limestone at least gives you something to hold on to.  Water has a way of insinuating itself around every nook and cranny and is always testing allegiances.  Around here, some of the trees have learned that they can improve their lot in life by pulling up roots and going elsewhere.  You see, some trees have long memories and they know when it’s time for that great once in a thousand years flood or some other cyclical disaster to come back around.  Or epic memories are shocked and encoded into the rock and soil and trees are just better at reading and interpreting what it could mean?I’m guessing that some of the trees around the Falls of the Ohio like to be prepared or are skittish or both and have begun the very gradual process of being somewhere else.

uprooting trees at the Falls of the Ohio, Nov. 2012

I came across this small mobile grove not far away from the first tree I showed you.  This is an incredible response by these trees to the rise and fall of the river.    The river dissolves  the silt, sand, and mud away from the riverbank and exposes the tree’s rootlet toes which are always growing. Water currents and the rocking back and forth of the wind further helps loosen roots from soil.  These trees are vibrating and creeping along with most of their roots on the surface with just enough tendrils into the earth to hold on to dear life.  Good thing too or else one day you could find yourself swept away.  I have seen it happen before as in this recent example by the creek.  This tree fell into the water and will never right itself or hold the riverbank up as it formerly did and one day it will be swept away by the river to somewhere unintended.

Tree that recently fell off of the riverbank, Falls of the Ohio, Nov. 2012

So much water is a mixed blessing.  Just enough and the trees can move a little more than usual.  Too much water and they run the risk of losing control. This mixed lot of trees seems to be moving westward.  Park officials have reported that there seems to be more of a sense of urgency on the trees’ part and they have picked up the pace over the last few years.  I wonder how they know when and where to stop and should I be worried?  Do the walking trees signify a bad omen for the future and is some environmental disaster looming ahead of us?

uprooted tree trio at the Falls of the Ohio, Nov. 2012

Of course life travels at its own speed.  Our tree friends here cannot out run this year’s spent leaves gathering around their feet, but they have patience.  They don’t have the same concept of time as we do. An inch or centimeter or two here and there and progress will be made even if it takes many seasons.  Moving in ultra slow motion, they will either get to their intended destinations or not.  Come to think about it…trees don’t have the same concept of speed either!

Tall figure under the Great Tree, Nov. 2012

Trees have their own internal logic and physics that they respond to.  My tall friend here is a case in point.  He’s an old cottonwood tree and long a go he too was a walking tree.  You can tell from looking at these fantastic roots that buttress the tree from the river and elements.  For some reason known only to the tree…he decided to stay here and put down his roots.

Figure with big sheet of plastic, Nov. 2012

Over time the cottonwood thrived.  Its roots held the riverbank in place and kept it from sliding into the river.  With this particular tree, a small, sheltering space grew directly under the tree’s tall trunk.  Visitors would bring discarded boards and other river finds ( like this large sheet of corrugated and molded plastic) to make forts and tree houses.  This one site has seen plenty of play and fantasy over the many years and has always been recognized as a special tree.

Figure by large cottonwood tree, Nov. 2012

This just occurred to me.  What if the moving trees are just a matter of perception and they really are trying to stay in one place?  What if it’s the rest of the world that is moving so quickly and constantly like one big blur and the trees are holding life in place?  The walking trees have remained where they have germinated and everything else around them has quickly shifted. Because we are so near to it we don’t recognize the movement.  Could time also be as fluid as water seeking out the nooks and crannies and testing allegiances too?  All this head-scratching stuff is making me dizzy on such a fine day by the river.

Great Cottonwood tree at the Falls of the Ohio, Nov. 2012

Unbeknownst to the brown-headed philosopher under the cottonwood, but changes to our area are forthcoming.  This year was the warmest year ever recorded.  The environmental chess board has been set and the game is on.  Pieces are moving and strategies are evolving and somewhere on the Ohio River another pawn is moving into place a little nearer to the cottonwood tree.

Tree with exposed roots, Falls of the Ohio, Nov. 2012

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BLAHHHHH!!!!…did I scare you?  Welcome to another Halloween adventure from the Falls of the Ohio.  Today, I have a special treat in mind for you.  My name is Jack Blue and I will be your guide for the next five minutes.

If I didn’t scare you perhaps I fooled you?  No need to be alarmed, my Belly Face has eaten recently.  You should be safe while I show you around the local Halloween sights.  Foremost in mind is the special Shrouded Forest that magically appears at exactly this time every year.  It is weirdly beautiful especially if there is a slight breeze present to animate the spirits that occupy the branches.  Most of them are plastic ghosts that have either floated here via a swollen Ohio River or drifted in with the wind.  Here’s what I mean.

The degrading plastic lends such a festive touch to this area.  As the polymer bonds separate and the plastic starts to disintegrate it hangs in decorative shrouds from the willow branches it graces.  You can walk from tree to tree and admire these spectral creations of man and nature.

All this “magic” is the result of benign neglect.  Whoever discarded this waste plastic sheeting probably wasn’t thinking it would wind up here draped in the trees like artificial Spanish moss.  In case you were wondering…it also comes in different colors.  Here are two other popular hues for your viewing pleasure and a special “snaky” surprise that might have you needing a doctor!

Okay, maybe this isn’t much of a snake, but if you were walking among the trees and looked up at some point…you probably wouldn’t anticipate seeing this?  And now for the “Doctor”…hmm, I don’t think he will be doing anyone any good any time soon!  Kind of looks like he could use a doctor himself.

Somehow I missed this bear when I did my earlier post on plush toys.  He’s been laying under this willow tree for months now and I just happened upon him! Just in time for Halloween!

The truth is one doesn’t need to travel far these days to find a patch of ground not “haunted” by something that doesn’t belong in the environment.  I hope all of you out there have a fun and safe Halloween and please discard all your trash in a responsible way.  Otherwise, my Face Belly may develop an appetite for you…trick or treat?

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