Posts Tagged ‘flooding’

pollinating tree, April 2013

It’s Thunder Over Louisville weekend which means the largest fireworks extravaganza in North America will happen tonight.  This is the kickoff event for the Kentucky Derby Festival which culminates in the horse race itself on the first Saturday in May.  The festival is a two-week event and while fun for residents and visitors…can also be an obstacle course if you are trying to get around town.  I like using the bridge on 2nd Street to get to the Falls of the Ohio State Park, but it is shut down and being used for the fireworks display.  At its height, Thunder Over Louisville (which also includes an air show) has drawn 800,000 people to the banks of the Ohio River on a single day.  I’m hoping to access the river and the park tomorrow.  For the moment, I have images to post from my last visit.  Looking through the pictures, it occurred to me that I had captured moments in the lives of individual trees that I would like to share.  The area continues to green up and many trees are producing their pollen.  For allergy sufferers, this is an especially difficult time.  If I was affected by seasonal allergies…I doubt I could do this project.  There is something about being in the bottom of the Ohio Valley that seems to bring out the worst for those allergic to various molds and pollen.

driftwood at the creek, April 2013

driftwood at the creek, April 2013

driftwood lining the banks of the creek, April 2013

I started this adventure on the Woodland Loop Trial near the Interpretive Center.  The path eventually leads to a small creek that at the moment has a tremendous amount of driftwood lining the contours of its banks.  All this wood was deposited here by the Ohio River swollen from winter rain and snow melt all along the length and breath of the river valley.  More high water could eventually carry all this wood back out into the river for parts unknown.  Still, this represents a lot of trees.  I have this idea in my head that as a result of climate change, we have all this extra water and energy in our weather systems?  Where does the water from retreating glaciers and Arctic melting go?  I’m guessing that some of it is evaporated out of the oceans and into a warming atmosphere where it influences the global weather patterns?  This excess water eventually precipitates out causing more severe weather events including flooding.  This increases riverbank erosion and tree loss.  Is there a limit on how much water the atmosphere can absorb?    Of course development along the rivers takes its share of trees too.  The cumulative effect of many actions continues to shape the environment.

tree too close to the river, April 2013

tree roots and river mud, April 2013

These exposed tree roots are something that I’m noticing more of at the Falls of the Ohio.  I’m assuming that frequent high water causes this?  This isn’t necessarily fatal and these trees can survive as long as the riverbank stays in place.  In addition to more water…an increase in storm related wind velocity has also been noticeable over the years.  We have had a lot of trees simply blow over and be lost in this manner.  Continuing to walk westward in the park, I can see that my favorite cottonwood tree continues to be developed as a party hang-out.

cottonwood tree party hangout, Falls of the Ohio, April 2013

fire pit outside the tree fort, April 2013

distant view of downtown Louisville from inside tree fort, April 2013

I posted on this wonderful cottonwood tree not too long a go and remarked on how it was once again becoming a focal point for parties.  The fire pits are larger and there are more beer bottles and cans around this tree than before.  I’ll bet this place is especially magical illuminated by camp fires.  Plus, more found wood has been used to hide a large silvery sheet of corrugated plastic to impart a more naturalistic appearance.  From inside and under the tree, you can see in the distance part of the downtown skyline of Louisville which will be filled with fireworks tonight.  Over the years, this tree has been discovered by different generations of folks and continues to hang in there.  I hope this will always be the case.  The next big flood will eventually wash all the additions away as it has done before.

tree with snagged wooden pallet, April 2013

Here’s an image that demonstrates how high the river can rise.  This snagged pallet has been hanging out on this tree branch for a couple of years now.  Trees can demonstrate some resilience in the face of adversity.  I know of a couple of trees at the Falls that have made use of improvised “planters”.

Willow growing within a tire, April 2013

Cast off tires are a ubiquitous element of river-born trash.  Somehow this willow tree has found a sheltering toehold in this wheel.  I’m curious to learn whether this tree can continue to grow and survive in what is ultimately a restrictive space?  On this walk, I also came across this unusual juxtaposition and thought it might fit in this post too.

willow roots, plastic laundry basket, and clothing item, April 2013

This may be as near as I come to having a tree suggest that it could do laundry too!  The surface root of an old willow tree has caught this old jacket.  The last high water floated this plastic laundry basket into this area and it settled next to the root.  This is not your average still life.  The gravel in the photo was deposited here by the last of the retreating ice age glaciers.

Sauger Man, April 2013


To conclude this post…as I was walking along the loop side of the trail, I spotted  a piece of Styrofoam in a ditch.  Retrieving it I discovered one of my previous sculptures from several months a go.  I originally included him in a story that featured sauger fishermen.  Except for a missing nose, the sculpture was complete.  I was surprised that it survived intact going on several months now.  Looking through my collecting bag…I replaced the lost nose with another piece of found plastic and set him up to greet visitors along the trail.  Here’s a final picture showing him next to a tree that the wind blew down last year.  Thanks for hanging out with me for the past thousand words.  Have a great weekend!

Sauger Man, under a tree trunk, Falls of the Ohio, April 2013

Read Full Post »

Welcome to my second look at wood as expressed at the Falls of the Ohio.  The first post concentrated more on the river and water as an agent of change moving material through the landscape.  This post looks more closely at the driftwood that gets stranded in this southern Indiana park.  I once curated an exhibition at the Louisville Visual Art Association entitled “River Sticks” where all the artworks were made from locally procured driftwood.  The majority of these works of art utilized raw, natural sources, but there is also wood in the mix of a slightly different character.

There is a wooden staircase placed here by the Department of Natural Resources (which maintains this state park) that is a popular access way onto the riverbank and fossil rocks.  It is not unusual during bouts of flooding to see part of this staircase submerged by the Ohio River.  During those moments, all you can do is look from a distance or visit the Interpretive Center.

Over time this staircase has needed frequent repairs as it gets battered by floating logs and tree trunks.  Only after the water has drained away can you walk among the driftwood and see what else made from wood has been left high and dry.

Here’s a dramatic shot of a different staircase that has floated down the river and has been snagged by a willow tree.  Objects stranded in trees bear witness to how high the river rose.

I frequently find wooden pallets and they get snagged in the trees too.  This one is a little different in that it appears the tree is growing through and around this artificial form. Over time, the pallet will fall apart. Perhaps wood is wood, but one can’t help noticing how much milled and processed wood is a part of the mix.  Here are a few other images showing this contrast between natural and man-shaped wood.

Sometimes it seems like there are enough planed boards at the Falls to build a small house. Fishermen and visitors use these planks to span muddy areas and puddles to keep their shoes clean and dry.  All this wood is a disposable resource?  I’ve seen visitors taking lumber out and I’ve done the same.  I like using river-worn cut boards as bases for the Styrofoam sculptures I choose to keep.  To me, even the smallest board tells a story of our relationship to trees and nature.  I tell myself that someday I’ll make some rustic piece of furniture from this wood.  The same processes that break a tree down in the river…do a similar “service” to disposed of wooden furniture.

Here’s a piece of a child’s crib or bed that I found at the river’s edge.

This is one of many table legs and turned pieces I’ve come across.  Sometimes I pick them up and take them home.  I’ve used them on rare occasions in my art, but I have also given many pieces to artist friends to see what they could make of them.  I suppose I could make an homage to  Louise Nevelson’s sculptures, but would prefer to create something more personal.  Nevertheless, I have picked up a few wooden artifacts from the river and here’s how they look collectively.

I left the toes of my shoes sneaking a peak for scale!  Here’s some of the hand-turned and machine-made table legs, chair staves, and spindles I’ve saved.  These artifacts do break down over time and eventually revert back to nature.  Now for a detail.

Here’s a slightly different collection of wooden artifacts I’ve saved over the years.  Some things I recognize and others require pondering to figure them out.

The objects on the right are mostly finials from fence posts.  The circular objects with the holes in them…I’m not sure how those were originally used?  Could they be part of a float system for barge ropes or are they wooden wheels for toys…could they be lids for some kinds of containers?  In this grouping I have also included a small rustic picture frame I found as well as a whittled stick I could tell someone cut and scored and is perhaps the most minimal artifact in my altered wood collection.  I find many board fragments, but I kept one small piece because someone named “Bill” tried routing his name in the wood and drilled a few holes that became bigger as the wood softened and aged from exposure to water.  This piece of wood exhibits several ways we leave our mark on nature.

I also have a sign collection that can be seen in my Pages section.  Most all of them are also made from wood and were once part of this unusual driftwood mix that came from the Ohio River.  I’m thinking of putting my found “Bill” board in that collection because it too is a sign of the times as we lose our ability and desire to write in cursive.  Very few schools in my area even bother to teach this skill anymore.

Not all the driftwood in the river consists of logs, branches, and roots.  Much of my riverblog bears witness to the extent our handiwork pervades the larger environment.  What I see happening in my part of the world I assume is transitioning  simultaneously across the surface of the planet.  We have added our own distinctiveness to the overall material aggregate which challenges our now quaint notions of what is “purely natural”.  I was right when I mentioned in an earlier post that the month of July would find a way to be memorable.  It’s official now, July was our hottest month ever in what is shaping up to be our hottest year ever.  Much of our country is experiencing an intense drought and so I end with a picture of what it looks like when there is too much water.

Read Full Post »

I came across a partial quote from Black Elk recently that served as a jumping off point for this post.  He said:  “Everything the Power of the World does is done in a circle.”  From the rising of the sun to the changing of the seasons it doesn’t take one long to find examples in our lives that illustrates this.  The Ohio River has been at its highest for the greatest length of time since I began this Falls of the Ohio project in 2003.  We have had a lot of rain. In fact April was Kentucky’s wettest since records have been kept in the 1870s with nearly 14 inches of rain.  I tell you it seemed like more than that to me.  The month of March was also a wet one which caused the river to rise high too.  Following are images that were taken after that first bit of high water.  The theme this time is found circles and here are a few recent pictures.  The first image is the washed up plastic hoola-hoop defining a circle in the wet sand.  Here’s another found circle.

After the initial March flooding subsided, I came across this sight in the muddy bottomlands and couldn’t resist taking the picture.  Here’s another from that day.

Near the water’s edge in the western section of the park, I came across this object.  Whatever was covering this Styrofoam circle was worn away by the river, but its fabric bow remained.  It’s a graphic reminder that life itself is a circle.

The above broken circle is a detail.  Here is how this image first presented itself to me.  It was swept into the trees by the water.

I might have missed this next one if it hadn’t been for the color.  I believe it’s a toy meant to be thrown.  It flew into the river and here it landed.

I find so many automobile tires in proximity to the river that I almost stop looking at them.  But, their circular shapes always seem to catch my eye.  Here’s one recent tire with a small toy guarding the center space.

The rising and falling of the river is also a part of a great circle.  Soon these high waters will recede (that is if we don’t receive more record rains) and there will be a changed landscape to explore.  I found another quote I would like to end this post with and it’s from Albert Einstein and it seems appropriate.  He once said:

“Our task must be to free ourselves…by widening our circle of compassion to embrace all living creatures and the whole of nature and its beauty.”

I feel recognition that we are indeed a part of that circle and not outside of it is important to our future and the quality of life.  Until next time.

Read Full Post »

The Ohio River continues to rise because the sky continues to rain.  This flood will be one for the record books…perhaps in the top ten when it’s all said and done.  But who knows when that will be?  The weatherman hasn’t been very encouraging of late.  The timing of this flood is especially bad because it overlaps with the Kentucky Derby Festival and its two weeks of partying and activities which culminates with the most famous horse race in the world.  The additional water will keep the tourists away.

These images were taken just a couple of days a go and now the river is even higher.  In the City of Louisville, some of the most powerful pumps outside Holland are working around the clock pumping water from the low-lying areas.  Streets have been closed and the flood gates are up.  For the people who live nearest to the river…they have packed up and left a few days a go.  By now, the water has reached the roofs of their homes.  There’s nothing more that can be done.  It’s sit tight and see how much more rain will come and how high the river will rise.

My son Adam was curious to see the extent of the flooding and so we visited the Falls of the Ohio.  The familiar wooden steps that lead to the river bank were now half way underwater.

We watched a box turtle flushed from its home in the underbrush swimming to higher ground.  Fortunately, it received an assist in the form of currents pushing it to land where it was able to escape drowning.  Watching this greatly affected my son who has a tender heart when it comes to all animals.  He really gets upset when the nature shows on television become too graphic. He doesn’t understand that life feeds on other life and that this has been the way of the world for a very long time.  This flood has also affected my creative routine at least by the water.  I’m forced to hopscotch back and forth between events in time which I think is a healthy thing in my life.  I was beginning to feel a little too linear anyway.  So, here’s another Styrofoam project I made sandwiched between the last flood of a couple of weeks a go and now.  This project is also now a memory remembered by these images.

I really thought the previous inundation would be it for the year.  And so I set up shop atop this immense pile of wood and explored what was mixed in with all the natural debris.  Among the “treasures” was this toy gas hose…but that’s not all that I found!  Here’s something unusual too.

I set it up to help orient it for the photograph.  It’s what’s left of a taxidermed deer head.  The tanned skin that would have been stretched around it is now gone, but the remnants of the deer’s actual skull and broken antlers are screwed into the molded foam form.  This is another object that exists at the intersection of the natural and the artificial which I find curiously to be another sign of the times we live in.  When this trophy was intact, it probably was praised for its life-likeness.

I also picked up this Styrofoam fragment of what I’m guessing was perhaps a Halloween novelty?  Amazingly, the little skull image survived.  I found another human bone reference out here on the wood pile.  It’s a miniature pelvis made out of plastic.  Luckily, I have never found the real deal and probably would freak out if I did.  Here’s that hip bone and a second image with some other fun stuff I picked up including one of the smallest and cutest squirt guns I’ve seen.

Sitting on a huge log, I started getting comfortable on my new spot.  I thought I could last here until the summer heat drove me under the willows.  I began to gather materials to make sculptures with like I had done with my previous plein air “studios”.  Mother Nature was providing all the material I needed to keep me and this project going for a long time.  Here’s my Styro-cache with its river-polished foam.

It’s all gone down river now, but before that happened I made one other figure out here.  I called him “Hoser” and set him up next to the “Danger” figure.  First, I started with making a head.  The eyes are old fishing floats.

I felt very meditative in this setting.  I could see the skyline of a city with its proximity to nature and it made me speculate on how it all was going to turn out?  Would we eventually strike some kind of working balance with the planet or was this a taste of what was coming or even worse?  I would walk around my wood pile looking for a stick or branch I could use for a limb to help blow life into this Styro-man.  This is how he eventually turned out.

With gasoline approaching four dollars a gallon I decided to put the fake gas pump nozzle and hose to good use.  I strategically placed this object into the figure’s polystyrene body more as a reference to the fact that here was another resource that we pissed away.

I located “Hoser” near the “Danger is My Middle Name” figure, took my photographs, and walked away.  That was the last I was to see of them.  Within days, the river started to rise more from rain that fell north of here and then it started to rain in earnest in the Ohio River Valley.  That was two weeks plus…it’s still raining and the river keeps on rising and the adventure continues.

Read Full Post »

The river has given ground, but just a sliver of it.  Although the waters have retreated, the Ohio River is still higher than usual.  On the immediate riverbank is a new wooden obstacle course of washed away trees and huge logs.  I find myself a walking stick and go exploring.  I cover ground I have visited hundreds of times before and yet  is made different with each episode of high water.  I began this trip descending the frail cut lumber staircase whose bottom steps were recently covered by the river.  I see a man and his children playing in the sand and pebbles and it looks like they are also building something.  I wait for them to wander off to gather fresh materials before sneaking a closer peak.

They have taken a recently washed up piece of Styrofoam and added some other found elements to improvise a toy raft.  Jutting from the foam are many spent cigarette lighters ( you can always find these).  There is also the red plastic flag from a mailbox…the kind you stand up to alert the postal carrier that you have outgoing mail.  I can also see a larger piece of blue plastic, perhaps a sail?  To me, it also resembles a shark fin.  As much as I like this family’s creativity, I am however, dismayed by the graffiti on the side of the log. This is something I’m starting to see more of on the bridge and through out the park.  It makes me wistful for the days when scrawling bad words and so and so loves so and so in the sand were sufficient means of expression.

The walking stick comes in handy when you are not sure how deep the mud is in a certain area.  You need to pick your path through by stepping on branches and broken planks.  You can see brightly colored plastic just about everywhere you go.  There are moderate to heavy waves along the river’s edge.  Today I have a paper sack with me to collect the small river treasures carried by the water.  This proves to be a mistake because the sack soon becomes water-logged and the bottom falls out.

I pick my way towards the railroad bridge because when the river was at its crest…this spot had the most incredible amount of wood and debris floating in the water.  I wanted to see the aftermath.  I came across this formation created when the water level left these logs high and dry.  A very fine coating of mud and dampness unifies the scene in neutral tones of brown and gray because the greening of spring is only just beginning.  I had hoped to see a bird or two, but they weren’t in this area.

It’s a cool and very overcast day and got progressively colder as the day wore on.  In fact, it would blow snow on this night.  Because the light was subdued, there were fewer harsh shadows and I felt that I could read the forms better.  Everywhere you looked there was the jumble of logs and branches twisted and interconnected together.  I recognized little from just a couple of weeks a go, with the exception of the UFO or Unidentified Floating Object which was miraculously still there.

This big circular platform first appeared here a couple of years a go.  It came with another flood that swept it loose from wherever it came from, washed it over the dam, and deposited it here.  My sons first thought it looked like a flying saucer, but I said it was an unidentified floating object instead.  We also speculated that this could be the plug found at the bottom of the river…and when it was pulled, the river drained like a bath tub.  It’s about a dozen feet across and we used to dance on it.  I’m really surprised that it’s still here and didn’t move along with the river on its way to the ocean.  Apparently, nobody has missed this thing since it’s been here for years.  When it began spitting rain I decided to turn back the way I came and headed for the staircase.

The people who made the “Styro-raft” were gone and now was a better time to sneak a peek at their creation.  I snapped a few photographs for my collection.  Before leaving I could see that they had attempted to launch their colorful craft into the river…but the Ohio was not in the mood.  I have had this experience before where the wind and waves on the river push back whatever you hope to have float away.  It probably disappointed the kids, but in their imaginations I’m sure they can see a little of themselves riding their unidentified floating object on its journey westward towards adventure and new lands.

Read Full Post »

The Ohio River rose and just as quickly receded.  Logs were left to dangle on top of the dam’s walls stranded there by the retreating waters.  Along the shoreline, new deposits of driftwood are laid out in parallel rows and tell a story of where this wooden wave crashed before relenting.

I’m always amazed at how quickly the water backs down.  Higher on shore, you will find where most of the bigger logs and limbs were trapped.  And, as the river draws back into its deeper channels, the lighter flotsam that was able to ride the waves is deposited about mid-bank in a debris field that features a lot of plastic.

As high water events go…this one was very mild.  I had no real idea how high the water would go when I blogged about the rising river.  A few more feet up the bank and the water would have reached my spot.  Here’s a shot showing the extant of the flooding.  Look at the color of the wood for the clue.  All the newest material is blondish-brown in color, while the older wood has had a chance to oxidize a greyish color from the summer sun.

This time I was lucky and my collection of Styrofoam and sculptures remained in place.  I checked out Pot Belly and Lorraine and they were pretty much as I left them with the exception of one detail.  Someone gave Lorraine a penis!  I guess they didn’t know she’s a lady…I guess you would have had to read my mind on that one since I didn’t provide any other clues as to their gender.  Most of the time that doesn’t strike me as being important in these pieces.  Here again is the happy couple high and dry.

I did make a quick, newer figure from the latest Ohio River junk.  My inspiration for this guy came from the green hand that says “Clap for the Lord”.  He isn’t a particularly handsome guy, but I am thankful that my site didn’t get washed away this time.  I don’t think I was ready to let it go especially when I still had so much material to use.

Just a few days a go, much of the northern and eastern sections of the U.S. were buried under heavy snow.  When that eventually melts, it will swell the streams, and creeks that are a part of the Ohio River’s watershed.  When that happens the river will rise here again.  How far it will get this time is uncertain.  It’s now officially winter and periodic flooding has been known to happen.  I know in my heart of hearts that the river will swallow up my studio site and I will have to establish a new base.  At least, I will have the consolation of discovering what the river has left behind.

Read Full Post »

Perhaps you heard that we had an unusual flash flooding incident in Louisville on Tuesday, August 4?  It made the national news.  It’s not everyday that parts of the city receive 6 1/2 inches of rain in an hour!  This storm just hung over the city and wouldn’t budge.  The dark clouds poured it on and we experienced serious flooding damage.  I haven’t been to the Falls this week, but I’m really curious to see what’s different.  Is my studio under the willows still there?  Are there new materials washed up?  I had water come into my house via the basement and roof and so I have been busy with that.  My problems have been minor compared to some and so for that I’m thankful.  It’s just another meteorological moment in what continues to be the oddest of years.  For now,  I’m treading water ” blog-ilogically” and rather than offer you a brief interlude of pre-recorded music will submit these images instead.  I always have more photos than I can post.  This occasion gives me the chance to show the ever changing landscape around the Falls of the Ohio.  These are images from July 2009.

The Falls looking east, 7/09

Looking east, I like the way the railing on this handicap accessible ramp echos the hard lines in the bridge beyond.  A visitor contemplates the exposed fossil beds below the Interpretive Center.

Activity on the fossil rocks, 7/09

Activity on the Fossil beds, 7/09

People on fossil beds, 7/09

Looking at this trio of images reminds me of the 19Th century painter Georges Seurat.  Perhaps it’s the frieze-like quality of the trees and the people absorbed in their own forms of river recreation?  So far this year, this was the most extensive exposure of the fossil beds.  I heard the other day that we have had a ridiculous 20 inches of rain over the past couple of months.  I wonder if our annual precipitation record is at risk this year?

Logs, view west, 7/09

These logs have been rolled against other downed trees in the water.  It’s the grinding action of water and wave that peels the bark and knocks off the branches.  In this way, trees are reduced to being straight logs.  I’ll end with another view of the Ohio River flowing westward.  Several hundred miles to go before entering the Mississippi River.

River flowing westward, 7/09

Read Full Post »

high water bottleman, 5/09

My latest figure made from river junk comes at a time when the river is getting higher.  We have had a lot of rain today and so for the next few days the river should continue to rise.  When you live on the Ohio River, this is important information.  For example, the morning talk was of a small fishing boat going over the Falls that needed rescuing…that and a large white pelican was sighted again.  Might be the same bird from two years ago.  Didn’t hear anything else about the fisherman…hope they are ok.

high water and interpretive center, 5/09

foot of steps, high water, 5/09

Two views looking east…the top shows the interpretive center and the steps leading to the river.  The next shot is from the foot of the steps themselves.  It should be interesting to see how high up the steps the rising river level will creep. During the Great Flood of 1997 the river completely climbed the steps.  This event shouldn’t be that bad.  Fishing has been great with lots of anglers catching striper hybrids, catfish, skipjacks, and an occassional sauger.  Did see many large carp trying to leap over the fixed wier dam as in classic salmon pictures. 

Bottle man, 5/09

I moved the Bottleman to another location to get a better sense of his context.  A couple days ago, you could walk by the trees that are now submerged.  Most of the fossil rock formations are underwater.  The Bottleman is on some sort of mission just one step ahead of the river.

heron and fridge, 5/09

Took a little time to do some birding and had some success.  Saw my first Black-headed Blue Warbler, male and female traveling together.  They were here and gone before I could get a snapshot.  I did, however, find this Great Blue Heron fishing from floating logs as an abandoned refrigerator went by.  Years ago, when I first started this project, I found a refrigerator lodged in the top of a tree and I couldn’t believe the river could get that high.  Other notable birds…lots of Magnolia Warblers, various thrushes, Blue-gray Gnatcatchers, Great Crested Flycatchers, Indigo Buntings, and a few Scarlet Tanagers were still around.  Double-crested Cormorants were fishing all along the river and close to shore.

bottleman and stash, 5/09

This is where I left the Bottleman by a log with a large hole in the side.  Perfect for stashing away plastic bottles in case of an emergency.  The figure is made from pink insulation foam, regular polystyrene, hickory nuts for eyes, part of a walnut husk for a mouth, wood, plastic bottlecap nose, and a fork for emphasis.  He’s near the water and probably gone by now.  The logs rolling over one another in the water made the strangest creaking and squeaking noise and reminded me of my father grinding his teeth in his sleep.  We will see how high the river gets and if that pelican hangs around.

Read Full Post »

%d bloggers like this: