Posts Tagged ‘fresh water’

Louisville as seen from the Falls of the Ohio, Jan. 2014 Happy New Year everybody out there in blog land!  I want to thank everyone over the past year who have dropped by to check out the latest from the Artist at Exit 0 at the Falls of the Ohio State Park.  This year is shaping up to be much like the previous one.  Which means both man and nature are predictably unpredictable with a sense of timing not easily plotted.  Since the holidays, the Ohio River has been up and much of the park that I access has been underwater.  That in itself is not news, but the length of time the water has been high has been.  It all points to heavy rains and snows in the northern part of the Ohio River Valley and water flowing downriver.  The forecast at the time of this writing is not encouraging with showers turning to snow today followed by a precipitous drop to sub-zero degree temperatures.  This cold could be historic for us and so far we have received more snow than in recent winters.  I think I will stay indoors today!  Since my last post, I have been to the river twice (including New Years Day itself) to see what there is to see and experience.  Here’s a synopsis so far.wooden pallet in the trees, Falls, Jan. 2014 Between rising and falling waters I have been able to skirt around the edges.  One thing that unfortunately hasn’t changed is the junk in the river.  I’m always interested in what gets stranded in the trees like this wooden pallet that has a corner delicately balanced on the surface of the river.  It’s cold out here and despite being warmly dressed, my eyes and nose water from the bit of wind that is also present. various kinds of debris at the water's edge, Jan. 2014 At the water’s edge is a mix of debris.  Most of it is natural with driftwood, wood bark and bits being the most prominent.  Trees that have surrendered to the river are rolled against other logs by the waves and the grinding (which can be very audible as well) knocks the limbs off with a loud crack and chews the bark away from the trunks.  Intermixed is various man-made and colorful junk that is mostly plastic in composition which also gets masticated by the river.  The above photo is fairly typical with lots of polystyrene fragments which also make up the core of my art materials.  Most artists have positive feelings for their materials, but I have a love /hate relationship with mine.  Let’s move on and see what other sights are along the river in this new year. floating automotive tire at the Falls of the Ohio, Jan. 2014 Floating tires always catch my eye.  Their blackness and circular perfection contrasts sharply with the rest of the objects on the river’s surface.  A short distance away from this wheel I find a dead steer at the water’s edge. dead steer in the Ohio River, Jan. 2014 I debated with myself whether to include this distasteful image in this post, but decided to do it since it represents some of the truth that is in the river.  Pictures of man-made trash are one thing and have an almost benign aura to them by now, but something that was once alive registers in a different way.  The gravity is far heavier.  This poor cow is the largest dead animal I have encountered in the park.  Dead deer and other smaller animals are not too unusual in the river.  No telling how far this unfortunate animal has floated to arrive here?  Rising high waters could once again carry it away.  I take this picture and walk on. plastic turtle sand mold, Jan. 2014 There are other objects that the river has delivered to the park like this plastic turtle sand mold.  Having gone through my river collections recently I discovered that turtles are among the most common subjects for sand molds.  Who knew?  I have found six or seven of them and they are all different like the plastic hamburgers from a recent post of mine.  Here’s something else to add to a growing collection. plastic pintail duck decoy, Jan. 2014 I have a Rubber Duck Collection as well and all found within the park.  Truthfully, none of them are actually made from rubber and are of course composed from plastic.  This is a hunter’s decoy of a pintail duck and would have been cooler had it been made out of wood…alas.  I haven’t seen much of actual bird life in the park except for a few hardy species that are around all year round.  I noticed that the ring-billed gulls that come here for the winter are not present.  I wonder if the cold has them migrating further south this year?  To mark how exceptional this winter has been, our area has seen a rare migration of snowy owls from the far north.  The snowy owl is listed on the official Falls of the Ohio bird checklist as extremely rare and accidental.  For me, this would be a good enough reason to journey here and this just might be the year to see one, but I haven’t heard if any were actually seen in the park?  A short distance away from here, a snowy owl in a weakened condition was rescued by our local raptor rehab folks and is being nursed back to health.

plastic body of "Mr. Potato-head", Jan. 2014

Here’s a test for you.  Do you know what this is?  Time’s up…this is the plastic body of a Mr. Potato Head toy!  I count Mr. Potato Head as one of my artistic influences for my Falls of the Ohio Styrofoam projects and this is the first one of these that I have found out here.  According to Wikipedia, Mr. Potato Head has been in continuous production since 1952 (that’s a lot of plastic) and was the first toy advertised on television.  I can remember as a kid…using actual potatoes to make funny faces and now I use Styrofoam.

My former outdoor studio, now river-swept clean, Jan. 2014

I walked up the riverbank to access my outdoor atelier and discovered that the river has swept over it.  All the materials that I had cached here over the last couple of years have floated away and the large logs that defined my space are rearranged.  I will need to create a new studio if I continue here.  I suspect, however, that the river is far from being done and would wager we will experience more flooding in the near future.  I picked up a few small pieces of Styrofoam and willow sticks and made my first figure of the new year and posed him at the river’s edge as waves lapped the shoreline.

New Year's Day figure at the river's edge, Jan. 2014

He is not a large figure and the expression on his face is one of amazement.  I first posed him near the river in an old life-preserver that washed up.  In addition to being expedient on a cold day it also seemed symbolic.  For me, it always comes back to the river and its waters.  The quality of our fresh water remains our number one vanishing resource and the river’s course is the journey we all take through life.  I will continue to use my creativity at this one small spot on a large river and publish my results on this riverblog.  Thanks for checking it out every now and then.  As the year progresses, I hope to be like the river by being predictably unpredictable.  May we all have a wonderful 2014!

First figure with life ring of 2014, Falls of the Ohio, Jan. 2014

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Beloved, once again I evoke you from this beautiful water world I have discovered.  Repairs to my ship go slowly, but progress is being made.  Because of the uniqueness of this world and its potential importance to Styrosia, I continue to venture forth from my hiding places to discover what other life forms call this planet their home.  I continue to monitor the “bipedal humanoids” learning what I can from translating aspects of their culture using our technology.  The humanoids are unpredictable and possess enough data to be dangerous.  They are best seen and experienced from a distance. What I have also observed is that the humanoids have a great curiosity about their own world.  They are constantly engaging in explorations of discovery and seem to exhibit a need to know how the universe functions.  The irony here is that while they express concern for life at large, they are also systematically working to undermine the very conditions necessary to preserve and promote as much diversity of life as possible.  Every day life forms become extinct before they are even formally acknowledged as existing by their sciences.  This is a great topic, perhaps one for a future communication?  Today, however, I want to transmit a few images of interest to amuse and delight you from this alien world.  I would like to begin with an unusual characteristic that is exhibited in the local rocks and has been revealed through water’s ability to dissolve and shape the chemistry around it.

The appearance and proliferation of life on this planet is its most outstanding feature.  No where else in the explored universe can rival this world for the sheer variety and numbers of life forms that have uniquely evolved here.  At my current location are the preserved remains of life forms in calcium carbonate rocks of marine organisms that originated more than 350 million years a go.  Ancient as this is, the history of life is traceable to more than 2 billion years a go.  The humanoid scientists measure one year as being the amount of time it takes their planet to make one complete revolution around its star.  I believe it is correct to assume that life began in the ancient waters or “primordial soup” as the humanoids envision it.  Life and this planet have grown up together and each has influenced the other.  This planet is far from static and its oceans and land masses have shifted across the globe over deep time.  Today, humanoids travel great distances to peer at these local rocks.  What are they ultimately looking for in this ancient coral reef?  My hypothesis is that the humanoids are drawn to seeking a feeling of connection to the history of life on their own home world.  There is something in their behaviors that also suggests that they are mystified by the phenomena of their own existence.

While the humanoids look for the proof of their connectivity to the history of life on their planet, many other interesting forms don’t question this and simply “be”. I have especially grown fond of the sessile life forms that have decided to flourish in the spots most favorable to them.  Once a year, these stationary forms decide to  climax in an electromagnetic spectrum display that is pleasing to the eye.  I have decided to take as many self images in the company of these “flowers and plants” during this “flowering” using my self as a measure of scale.

Many of these “flowers” participate in symbiotic relationships often with very diverse and contrasting species.  This particular sessile life form attracts flying animals that feature exoskeletons.  The flowers provide nourishment for these animals and the plant finds an agent to move its genetic material from itself to others of its own kind.  I have observed more of these smaller, exoskeleton-bearing creatures than all the other animals combined and they would make a rich field of enquiry that could occupy the careers of many Styrosian scientists.  Here is a different example of such an animal.

This is what the humanoids call a Mourning Cloak butterfly and I observed it warming itself in the star light.  It’s reverse coloring is cryptic and resembles a dried plant bio-solar panel.  Its mouth parts have been adapted over time to make a tube that can easily extract sugary liquids produced by the plants that these butterflies favor.  There is an exchange of services that benefits both life forms involved in this process.  Other flying animals with a very different morphology also inhabit this space.  Here is a sequence of images from what the humanoid data base refers to as a Black-throated Green Warbler looking for “insects” among the “willow trees”.  Their movements are quick and this species is just traveling through on its way to a warmer environment in the southern latitudes of this world.

These animate life forms are called “birds” and have internal skeletons made of a lightweight material.  They also have an unusual outer covering that gets shed once a year and helps these animals to fly.  Here is a different and much larger bird I came across feeding at the water’s edge.

From the streaked markings and lighter coloring I identified that this is a juvenile Green-backed Heron.  I disturbed its hunting and feeding along the water’s edge.  Observe that it has a crest on its head which it uses to register increased alarm.  In the next moment, the heron jumped into the sky and with a few quick wing beats was gone from view.  My love, I think you will enjoy the sessile life forms as much as I do!  The humanoids refer to them as either “flowers” or “weeds” and they don’t try to escape if you express interest in examining one like the animate life forms do.  Following is a small portfolio of self-images and some of the variety in these self-sufficient life forms I have experienced on a single solar day.

I have noticed that the humanoids have reserved some animosity towards the sessile life forms that they refer to as “weeds”.  To my sense organs, I can not tell the difference between preferred species and the ones considered to be undesirable?  If one quality of a “weed” is its ability to thrive in a variety of conditions…one would think that the humanoids would admire this since this is a quality they share with “weeds”!  This is certainly a planet of mysteries and contradictions and how I wish you were here to experience it with me.  I have observed that the photons emitting from the local star are traveling farther to reach me with each day.  The temperatures have also been getting cooler and the sessile life forms are undergoing changes to the cellular solar panels which are turning color themselves and in some cases falling off the main body of the life form.  There is a frenzy among the smaller exoskeleton animals to gather as much  energy from each plant as possible.  I’m predicting that this world will go into a dormant period before re-emerging in the warmth of a new solar year.  It is also now time for me to end transmissions for the moment.  How I hope you and my fellow Styrosians are receiving them? Finally, I will conclude with two images.  One is a self-image of me in front of small white and yellow “weeds”.  The last image features some of the flying exoskeleton animals attracted to this plant.  Until its time for my next communication…good by from the water world.

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My beloved…I still live!  I hope my repair to my communication transmitter has been successful and that you and our fellow Styrosians so far away across the universe will receive this message and know that I still exist.  While exploring a little known solar system my ship was damaged in a collision with undetected fragments of space debris in orbit surrounding a smallish, blue-green planet.  This planet is the third nearest to its star. This solar system is comprised of eight other planets of varying dimensions and densities.  Damage to my guidance system made controlling my craft difficult and I entered the atmosphere of this planet like a meteor across the sky.  Fortunately, I arrived without attracting attention and I was able to affect a safe landing.  My craft, however, will need much maintenance. Hopefully, the coordinates of my position reached you before I entered this planet’s dense gaseous atmosphere? Here is an image of my vehicle which I call home and its contents are a dear reminder of the world from which I originated.  So often I have thought of you and wondered if we will ever see each other again?

I have so much to tell my fellow Styrosians that I hardly know where to begin.  Duty compels me to start with a report concerning my original mission.  I have crashed on a beautiful planet where the majority of its surface is covered by that most precious combination of hydrogen and oxygen.  I am so excited to have found water in abundance!  I have detected water in all three of its known states including gas, liquid, and yes…I have even seen ice!  It was the chemical signature for water that compelled me to take a closer look when the accident occurred.

Most of the water I have been able to analyze locally is of the fresh variety which contains many other chemical additions some of which are naturally occurring.  I have, however, been able to learn that the vast majority of the water on this planet is heavily influenced by the compounded interactions of sodium and chlorine.  I have not only discovered water…but water in different flavors!  After surviving the shock of my sudden and unexpected arrival, I couldn’t wait to explore this new environment which offers such a stark contrast to our own dry home world.  There is so much water here that it actually falls from the sky!  Please excuse me while I transmit additional self images made while engaging in water joy!  They at least offer further visual evidence of the importance of my unexpected discovery.

How I wish you were here so we could experience this together.  I have been able to further confirm that our hypothesis about the connection between water and life is correct!  The abundance of water is equaled by the sheer amount and variety of life forms that inhabit this world.  Where there is water I have found life even in the precious fluid itself! There are sessile, terrestrial life forms that process sunlight through green, cellular solar panels.  They anchor themselves and obtain moisture through a system of filaments interwoven into its supporting substrate. And there are also many animate life forms that move through space and have evolved into hierarchies where every environmental niche is occupied by a specialized life form.  Interestingly, there are even species that dominate and consume other life forms. Our scientists will have much to study in this new world! I would like to expand on one of those species which seems to occupy a very prominent position on this planet.  It is an interesting life form and is bilaterally symmetrical like us and appears to be sentient to a degree.  Monitoring their communication patterns I have been able to translate and understand something of its language and culture.  I have heard self references to being a” bipedal humanoid”, but I’m not certain if I fully understand what is meant by that.  This animal while claiming intelligence and rationality is actually characterized by numerous contradictions.  The most observable of these traits is a predisposition towards delusion and self-deception.  It does much harm under the guise of doing good. This animal (which I believe as some members of its own kind acknowledge have evolved from what are known as “primates”) is constantly engaging in selfish behaviors that are having a deleterious effect on this planet.  Ironically, they are harming not only the other life forms here, but ultimately themselves as well.

Recently, I was exploring a water channel when I saw a shape flying towards me from some distance away.  It appears to be an antique flying craft bristling with armaments.  The dominant species here is addicted to using hydrocarbons extracted from the ground which are then  further refined to produce fuel and energy.  I quickly captured this image over my head and placed it in the catalog I am compiling for future reference.  I have observed other technologically superior war-like aircraft in the vicinity before, but this one was unusual.  These so-called “bipedal humanoids” are constantly engaged in warfare somewhere on their planet.  This is one of their most primitive characteristics.  Monitoring their telecommunications I have ascertained that violence is an integral part of their conflict resolution process.  The “bipedal humanoids” are capable of rationalizing and justifying any act they commit. When they are not fighting among themselves…they are consuming or damaging resources often with other primitive machines that require hydrocarbons to function.  For instance, observe this case that I recently experienced and documented.

In a nearby field that was once occupied by photosensitive sessile life forms, I observed a humanoid operating a large machine.  This machine did violence to all that was alive in this area.  The remains of many different kinds of sessile life forms were stacked into random piles, but what is the purpose of this activity?

This area was once home to a large variety of life forms and now they have been displaced.  I have observed this before and very recently.  The “bipedal humanoids” created an area that they call the Ohio River Greenway and ironically they removed many of the larger photosensitive life forms to accommodate easy access to the river for their other hydrocarbon burning vehicles.  This seemed strange for many reasons, but perhaps our biopsychologists can figure that one out!  I was able to get a closer picture of the large machine that was utilized to sterilize this particular area and it is frightening to stand next to.  I waited for its operator to leave the area before doing my reconnaissance.

Alas my beloved, it is time for me to regenerate back at my space craft.  I will leave you for now, but I promise more from this fascinating planet.  In my next transmission I will show you more images of the life forms I have observed and maybe something of the history of life on this planet.  For now, accept this self-image made next to the many sessile life forms that lend this land beauty and interest.

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I’m looking forward to new adventures at the Falls of the Ohio and once the river subsides I’ll be able to do that.  What I knew so well over the past year is just that…the past.  Floods always rearrange the riverbank around here and a new supply of “stuff” will be deposited…unfortunately.

There is so much trash and debris floating around here it is a bit amazing and depressing.  Just for the record, most of the trash is not coming from my home city of Louisville.  It’s not that we are any better than anyone else, but the fact is this garbage has traveled with the river from as far north as Pittsburgh and other venues north of us.  The Falls of the Ohio seems to catch-all particularly at this very spot.

This was the view under the railroad bridge on Sunday.  A tremendous amount of debris has been concentrated here and once the water recedes there will be mountains of driftwood with garbage mingled throughout.  You can see how daunting a task it would be to try to remove what can be recycled here from what should decompose naturally.  The prevailing currents and wind push all this floating debris against the Falls of the Ohio until the next bout of high water adds or subtracts it from here.

Yes, it’s very colorful, but completely unwanted.  Most of what you can see here seems to be plastic drinking bottles.  I guess it’s much easier to throw them in the river than to deposit them in some recycling bin!  Once the river backs down, I imagine I will find all sorts of “treasures”.  A good friend of mine who also happens to be an artist has a difficult time reconciling why I spend so much time down here making art from Styrofoam, etc… I tell him that there are more important issues in the world than what occurs in the art world and that I’m worried about the planet.  Making something creative from this junk is my way of calling attention to the problem.  It’s not just the objects, but the context that all this is presented in that’s more crucial.  It’s not a gallery or museum but rather the very space of life itself.

As far as floods go…this has been a fairly gentle one for us, thus far.  More water up north will translate to an increase in the river level again.  We may go through this a few more times over the next couple of months.  There were record snow falls this year and all the melt water from that has not been reckoned with yet.  The staircase beyond the sign is a common way that people access the riverbank.  Now let’s check out the stairs themselves.

I walked along to all my favorite spots…or at least the ones I could reach.  My boots were a wet and muddy mess, but it felt good being outside.  I saw a few of the early migrating birds, Red-winged Blackbirds, Rufous-sided Towhees, Belted Kingfishers, and yes the Yellow-bellied Sapsucker which I believe to be the same woodpecker that I have spotted visiting the same sweetgum tree for the last four years.  Unfortunately, it wasn’t a good day for bird photography, but maybe next time!

This is a view near the Interpretive Center.  The rising water does so centimeter by centimeter in very undramatic fashion.  It can be very disarming, however, to feel your feet getting wet when just a few minutes before the ground you were standing on was dry. 

I found this to be an interesting and melancholy image.  Usually, picnic tables conjure up pleasant images of family outings, but the river obviously is disinterested.  This table has its legs up in the air like some dead cartoon animal.

Just a typical view of bottomland when the river rises.  I think the water accentuates the vertical elements in this composition and causes me to notice the trees more.

As I was walking along the Woodland Trail, I came across this storm sewer that services the town of Clarksville.  Why it’s exactly here next to park land is debatable?  While I was walking by I was startled by an increase in the volume of water gushing from this location.  This is another aspect of flooding.  So many of our small towns and cities need serious overhauls to their aging sewer systems and the increasing volumes of water exposes their weaknesses. 

The water here smelled like the combined scents of every laundry detergent known to mankind all mingled together.  There was also a “nice” foam head along the margins.

For now, I haven’t been able to do as much with my project on site.  At home and in my new studio room, I have been sifting through images and bits of plastic that I have accumulated over time and wondering what to do with it all?  I’ll end this post with one more recent flood image.  In a small back water area, I came across this flock of Canada geese who seemed to be like me…just waiting for the river to return to normalcy.

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View facing east, fossil beds, Falls of the Ohio, 8/09

At last I made it over to the fossil beds on the Kentucky side of the park.  As previously mentioned, this hasn’t been an easy year to forecast storms or the amount of water to be found locally at any given time.  We have experienced the extremes.  For now, I can get off the Indiana bank and explore a very special landscape.  This side of the park is so interesting that it’s difficult to pack it into one post.  I’m going to attempt it in three.  I did make several Styrofoam sculptures and a few sand drawings.  I took about eight hours to walk the park from east to west and back to the lot again.  If you like to hike vicariously you may enjoy this trip over the fossil beds.  The rocks date to 375 million years ago and the fossils preserved here help form a picture of life as it existed during the Devonian Age.

Vulture tree, 8/09

I began my trip in the cool morning.  I rolled my pants legs up just below the knee and walked into the flowing water.  The wet rocks are as slippery as ice and it’s tricky to keep my balance.  The worn out sneakers I’m wearing are fine for walking in mud, but the lack of any tread turns this phase of the walk into a skating event.  The dry rocks pose obstacles as well.  The fossil beds are an undulating surface of river worn rock and it’s easy to twist an ankle or knee here.  You need to find or bring a good walking stick for additional stability.  I’m carrying my collecting bag and my camera and going to see what there is to see today.

vultures chasing possum, 8/09

The first feature I walk towards is this stranded tree that has become a bird magnet.  Black vultures are using it as a roost and ducks and herons circulate around this new hub.  The Black vultures are having a good year and seem to be increasing in numbers.  Last week I counted a flock of sixty birds flying along the dam’s wall.  The vultures have been dining on dead fish either caught by fisherman or marooned in small ever-drying pools. There are fish bones, scales, and skeletons all over the fossil beds.  I did witness something  I hadn’t seen before.  Off in the distance I could see the vultures pursuing something alive!  I did capture this one image of vultures chasing an opossum. You can’t play possum with vultures!   There were a few birds that managed to get a few pecks in, but the possum never stopped running and was able to get off the wall into some cover.  It’s a regular Mutual of Omaha’s Wild Kingdom moment at the Falls of the Ohio.

Fixed Wier Dam, 8/09

Here’s a view of the Fixed Wier Dam with the vultures flying along.  This wall was built in the 1920’s to create a stable pool of water for Ohio River commerce and to generate electricity at the Lower Tainter Gates.  I’m guessing that it’s about fifteen feet to the top of the dam.  When you are walking on the fossil beds below it’s an odd feeling knowing that the surface of the river is way over your head.  Slots formed on the top of the dam create pathways that feed water to the Little Slough and  Whiskey Chute channels.  A small marsh near Goose Island receives this water too.

artificial waterfall, 8/09

Our stopping point in today’s post is just up ahead.  A small amphitheater of terraced limestone provides a glimpse of the cascades that originally flowed here.  It’s also a good place to sit and relax or watch birds.

The "Falls" at the Falls of the Ohio, 8/09

I made a figure from found materials and photographed it at this location.  From here the scene shifts towards the western limits of the park.  Some of the best views of the city’s skyline are also up ahead.  Until then, here is another water feature to enjoy!

At the "Falls", facing east, 8/09

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