Posts Tagged ‘garbage’

Rising Ohio River at the Falls of the Ohio, July 2013

High water at the Falls of the Ohio, July 2013

We have had (along with the eastern half of the country) a lot of rain recently.  When it has precipitated, it hasn’t been gentle rains, but rather torrential, monsoon-like downpours.  Consequently, everything is saturated and the Ohio River has quickly risen to engulf the riverbanks that are normally wide and clear this time of year.  I took a chance between rain showers to see if I could access my site for a few hours.  Maneuvering through the underbrush I was able to investigate the river’s edge that was slowly but surely creeping inland.  As a gauge to how high the river has risen, in the above photos…you should be able to walk out to those willow trees that are now in the middle of the river.  I watched columns of ants marching for higher ground.  The river’s edge attracts animals, particularly birds, that are hunting insects being driven by the advancing water.  I’m here doing a similar thing…except I’m looking for interesting junk that has floated in with the driftwood.  I always find something and here are a few recent images of this river treasure.

small, red plastic, bell pepper, July 2013

This is a plastic bell pepper to add to my ever growing collection of faux food.  This collection has grown considerably since I last photographed it in its entirety.  I’ve added several fast food items and I now can boast owning  several plastic hamburgers and hotdogs to accompany the fruits and vegetables.

green toy character head sticking out its tongue, July 2013

I don’t recognize this character’s head, but I responded to the tongue sticking out!  It was this discovery that caused me to go on a tangent.  I decided that in the relatively restricted area I was investigating that I was going to collect all the different green plastic items the river was delivering to me.  This is what I came up with.

green plastic junk, July 2013

I was amazed at the collection I was able to put together in less than an hour’s time.  Each item is unique…even the green plastic bottles which are different sizes, designs, and have different colored bottle caps.  Among my other finds include green discarded fishing line, a green “Lincoln log”, a lost lip balm cylinder, a hair curler, a circular green plastic “smokeless” tobacco “tin”, a flip flop, etc…

"Homage to Green", July 2013

I then took my 21 green artificial objects and arranged them in a line on an interesting wooden object I found that looked very alter-like.  This is a very different expression of what it is to be “green” and the plants behind these objects concur.  It was now time to visit my site and see if anything had happened there and perhaps to make something new.

expanded structure at my site, July 2013

I had that “oh no” feeling upon arriving.  There were several changes since my last visit.  Whomever is building this structure appears to be trying to construct a roof over my spot.  Most of the materials that I have gathered over the months were just thrown out and around the site.  There is no way for me to work here now in its present configuration.  I wonder if the rain prevented the “work” from being completed?  And then it dawned on me…where is the figure I left here?  I found him a short distance away.

big Styrofoam figure face down, July 2013

This is how I found him disarticulated and face down.  It appears that he was just lifted up and thrown aside.  I knew if I was to learn what had happened that I would need to reconstruct him.  It took me a bit of time to find his various parts, but I ultimately was successful and set him up on the “roof” in a sitting position.

Large Styro-figure head, July 2013

Large seated Styro-figure, July 2013

I said…”Dude, what happened here and to you?”  My friend was quite excitable in retelling the tale.  He said a couple of people came by a day or so after I was last here and just started ransacking the place.  The last thing he remembers was flying through the air and then blackness.  He at least confirmed my suspicions that more than one person was involved.  Here is the evidence I used to draw that conclusion.

giant polystyrene drink cups and bottle, July 2013

The last time I was here I noted a giant polystyrene cup lying in the sand just outside my space.  Upon returning, I picked up these additional cups and the blue bottle that were casually thrown on the ground and photographed them on a nearby log.   I’m deducing that these people live in the area since they sell these mega drinks at a nearby gas station.  Now as much as I’m torqued about being evicted from my spot…finding these added cups here makes me mad!  There is already enough junk in the river without bringing more and leaving it here!  It seems the height of disrespect and irresponsibility and my remade figure concurred.

Excited Styro-figure with arms spread wide, July 2013

My friend was growing excited with the thought of his recent tormentors returning to the scene of the crime.  He asked me what I was going to do about this and I have to admit it’s a dilemma for me.  Generally, I appreciate it when people interact with my art, however, there is little evidence that there are respectful spirits at play here.  I decided that if the river kept rising (and at this point it was about twenty meters away) that matters would become moot.  The water would rearrange the context here and I would simply begin again.  If, however, the river doesn’t reclaim this spot…I promised my figure that I would reassert my will.  I might do a little engineering of my own and see how I might modify the structure to suit my needs.  If you were me…what would you do?  I told my mustachioed figure to sit tight and that I would return the following weekend if the river would allow it.  To be continued…?

My figure at my site, July 2013

The rising Ohio River, July 2013

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The ritual must have worked because when I returned to the Falls of the Ohio a week later the greening of the world was underway.  Small leaves were sprouting from the willow branches and many of the area’s trees were flowering.  There was a palpable sense of pollen being everywhere and my airways felt irritated as if coated by dry inhaled dust.  This is a dreaded time of year for people who suffer seasonal allergies.  I was glad not to count myself as a member of that unfortunate club.  As I walked along there were other marvels to behold.  I came across a rare Sand Lotus blooming along the shoreline and wondered how long its seed had remained dormant until the absolute right conditions presented itself?  Seeing this flower was worth the trip alone!

I returned to my outdoor studio and saw that the bottle tree had indeed dropped its leaves.

This, however, was not the only change that had occurred since my last visit.  My outdoor studio had been discovered and some person or persons had constructed a crude figure from the Styrofoam I had collected here.  A broken fishing rod stuck out from their creation’s body.

As is my habit, I began the day beach combing along the river’s edge and dumped some of my finds onto the sand.  I would try to make something from the objects I had come across.  Here is an earlier image of what would later become the figure I named “Phillip C. Nelson” after the words written upon a piece of blue insulating foam I found.

Before showing you how this figure turned out…I want to meander a bit like the Ohio River does. During the month of March, I’ve found three objects that at least have some references to where they may have originated.  Because the river is so powerful…glued on labels usually fall off by the time they reach the Falls of the Ohio.  Knowing where something came from can give you a sense of the journey it took to reach “here”.  Well, let’s just see where this takes us and I’ll begin with the object I discovered that traveled the furthest down river.

First, I was amused to find this piece of plastic with a stylized finger image on it!  It says its a thumb saver and I guess it functions something like a crowbar for stubborn thumb tacks so you don’t need to risk breaking a fingernail?  I have heard of Beaver Falls before because it’s the Pennsylvania hometown of one of my boyhood heroes…Joe Willie Namath who is an American football Hall of Fame quarterback for the New York Jets.  He brashly and correctly predicted that the Jets would win it all in 1969.  Beaver Falls is in the so-called “Rust Belt” because this was once steel making country before economic hard times caught up with it.  Beaver Falls has a population of approximately 8,900 people and is 31 miles Northwest of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania placing it near the origins of the Ohio River.  Beaver Falls is actually located on the Beaver River which flows for six miles in a southerly direction before its confluence with the Ohio River.  As for the savings and loan association…I’m not sure exist anymore because I couldn’t find more contemporary references to it.  The fact it is giving away a customer premium that involves thumb tacks seems somewhat old-fashioned to me!  Potentially, this object has traveled a great distance (approximately 560 miles) through time and space to reach me.  And now for found object number two.

Buried in the wood chips, I recognized this as the delivery box for a newspaper.  In this case, the paper is the Steubenville Herald Star which is still in business today.  Steubenville is also in the Upper Ohio Valley and downriver from Beaver Falls.  This town of approximately 19,000 souls is situated on the Ohio River which forms a border with the state of West Virginia.  Steubenville’s claims to fame include being called the City of Murals for the 25 murals it boasts in its downtown area.  It is also called Ohio’s Cookie Capital…I’m sure there is more of a story there.  And it is the hometown of crooner Dean Martin who was also Jerry Lewis’ comedy partner.  I estimated that this newspaper box traveled a bit more than 500 miles to reach here.  Interestingly, Steubenville like Louisville is situated within a Jefferson County. Okay, on to the next item which hails from Camp Nelson RV Park and forms the body of my figure.

The blue insulating foam that forms the body of my figure came from Camp Nelson RV Park located in Lancaster, Kentucky.  I have heard of Camp Nelson before because of its Civil War history.  Back in the mid 1860’s it was a recruiting and training camp for African-American soldiers.  Later it served as a refugee camp for freed slaves with some tragic consequences.  Earlier in Kentucky’s history it was known as Boone’s Landing because it was a favorable river fording spot for Daniel Boone.  It has been a recreational vehicle park since 1966.  This piece of foam with its black marker info has traveled the most interesting and surprising route to reach the Falls of the Ohio.  Camp Nelson RV Park is located on the Kentucky River.  It has floated down the most torturous and convoluted stretch of water that makes estimating distance traveled nearly impossible.  Eventually, it did float past our state capital in Frankfort and joined with the Ohio River somewhere between Prestonville and Carrollton, Kentucky.  That’s a bit more than fifty miles upriver from us.   Kentucky is rich in waterways and outside  the state of Alaska…has more miles of flowing water than any other state.  The little foam dinosaur is a child’s ink pad stamp and in my mind is a good symbol for the whole recreational vehicle industry especially since gasoline is over four dollars a gallon.  Well, other than show you a few images of Phillip C. Nelson exploring his new home…it’s been instructive for me to learn where some of the junk I find may have originated.  Every place and object has a story to tell.

Phillip C. Nelson seemed to enjoy exploring the driftwood field.  And in case you were wondering what I did with some of those old cigarette lighters…this last view will show you.  Thanks for tagging along on this extended journey with me!  Until next time from the Falls of the Ohio.

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For me, the Yellow-bellied Sapsucker is a signal that Spring is underway.  I believe I have seen this very same bird in the same Sweet Gum tree for several years now.  Before the tree fully leafs out, he drills neat rows of holes in the tree bark which fill with the tree’s sap.  Visiting often, he then licks up the sugary mixture.  I have seen other bird species utilizing the work of this woodpecker including other woodpecker species, warblers and chickadees.  Before the insects and new seeds appear, the Yellow-bellied Sapsucker has accessed another food supply which he defends from all the other birds. 

Throwing his head back, this male Song Sparrow is expressing the feeling of the season.  Song Sparrows are year-round residents and have fully taken advantage of all the niches available at the Falls of the Ohio.  This year White-throated Sparrows have been more abundant than I recall from past years.  Every year is different from the previous ones and you never know what to expect next.  This year is off to a very wet start.

This is a male Prairie Warbler I came across recently.  I have “pished” this species closer to my camera’s lens by making little squeaky sounds that the bird found curious enough to follow.  I am hopeful of seeing other warblers before the Spring migration ends.  So far, I have seen Yellow-rumped Warblers, Common Yellowthroats, and a brilliant male Prothonotary Warbler attracted by the flooded bottomland trees.  There are thirty-five different warbler species on the Falls checklist and I have had the privilege of seeing most of them over the years.

The Warbling Vireo is another bird that is more often heard than seen.  It’s such a tiny bird and it has the habit of staying in the tops of tall trees.  I found this one on the exposed section of an oak branch.  If it weren’t distracted by trying to attract a mate it would be in almost constant movement in search of the small caterpillars and insects that it eats.

A new bird to add to the old life list is the Blue-tailed Robin.  It’s an infrequent visitor to these parts and so when one is sighted it becomes an event.  You can’t see this in the photo, but there are ten other birdwatchers with cameras and binoculars trained on this fellow as it dances and practices its courtship dance.  Everybody was extra quiet so that this bird wouldn’t spook and fly away.  Here are more images.

The Blue-tailed Robin male does an elaborate dance on a fallen log where it sings and flaps its wings in different positions all the while it struts its stuff.  The real test will happen further north in central Canada where its ability to display and attract a mate will mean the difference between passing on its genetic distinctiveness or not.  No wonder this bird can’t afford the opportunity not to practice!

Singing very high up in a Cottonwood tree, this male Northern Oriole is also singing loudly in its territory.  So far, it’s looking and sounding like a good year for this species!  Nearly everywhere I hiked in the park I either sighted or heard Northern Orioles.  The orange color is so distinctive and it contrasts so well against the green of the surrounding leaves.  There is so much moisture in the air that my camera records this as a slightly foggy picture.  I hope for better images of orioles and the other great birds here.

Another rarely recorded migrant is the Dragonfly Tern.  I found one coursing along the river bank and was able to squeeze off a couple decent pictures.  Like the name implies, it specializes in capturing dragonflies which requires the ability to maneuver at high-speed.  It has swept back wings that give it the acceleration it needs in tight corners.  Here’s another picture of it buzzing over a fallen log near my position.

This bird soon will be off to the Great Lakes region where it also breeds.  It barely scratches together a depression in the sand and gravel that it considers a nest.  There are usually two eggs laid that are heavily speckled like the small pebbles that surround it.  It winters in South America and travels thousands of miles each year.

On my way home from the park, I chanced to see this Red-tailed Hawk on top of a utility pole and recorded its image.  It is one of our more common hawks, but since I haven’t featured it in the Riverblog before, I thought I would include it in this post.  As the year progresses, I hope to feature other birds that stop at the Falls of the Ohio. For me, the difference between a successful trip and a really successful adventure sometimes hinges on seeing one nice bird!  In closing here are two Canada Geese.  One is real…

…the other is just a tracing in the sand I made.  Happy birding !!

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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.

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It’s raining as I write this post.  It has seemingly rained the entire month of April in my area resulting in a swollen Ohio River.  I think we are on another collision course with the record books for most precipitation during April.  Only once this month have I been able to access what passes for our normal river shore line and it was very muddy!  We have had tornado warnings and flooding this Spring.  The following adventure occurred between the two episodes of high water we have experienced.  I was walking along the Woodland Loop Trail at the Falls of the Ohio State Park when I was stopped in my tracks by this hand painted sign the river deposited during the first flood.  Is it another way that the universe is trying to communicate to us?  Is nature saying we are taking a big chance with our treatment of the environment?  I wonder who will win and what the prizes are?  Care to buy a ticket?  I decided to pass, but there were plenty of consolation prizes all along my walk courtesy of man and a too high river.  Since this is Indiana, I thought it was fitting to find one of these.

For thousands of years the Falls was home to a sizeable population of native people.  Now, you are more likely to find one of these.  Another piece of Americana I came across I added to my fake food collection.

What can be more iconic than a fake cheeseburger?  What’s sad is that this isn’t the only one I’ve ever found out here.  I even have found a couple of plastic crinkle-cut french fries too.  Let me see if I can find a picture of one…hold on…yes, I also found this recently.

Moving along the trail, the unmistakable smell of skunk kept getting stronger and stronger in the humid air.  It’s possible that one of these animals drowned in the flood and its carcass was deposited here.  Or, one of the many birds of prey could have taken it.  At the odor’s epicenter, I discovered two species of vultures polishing off what’s left of the unfortunate skunk.  There were three black vultures and one large turkey vulture taking turns at the miserable remains.  Here’s one of the black vultures keeping an eye out while his friends gnosh.  I could see them around the tree trunks.

The dominant bird here was a big turkey vulture which is unusual from what I have observed at the Falls of the Ohio.  I normally see them retiring when the black vultures arrive.  This bird was the last to leave the skunk and the first to return.  Here he is giving me the “eye” from a low hanging branch.  As I approached, he joined the other vultures in a tall tree with a vantage point of me and the skunk. 

All that was left of the skunk were a few innards and its skull.  Perhaps the vultures will eat this too?  That skunk odor was so pervasive and offensive, I’m amazed that these vultures could stomach this, but then again, they have probably had worse meals.  Not to far from the birds, I did find a big piece of Styrofoam that was washed into a bottomland area.  Using what I could find nearby, I constructed this unnamed figure, photographed it, and kept moving down the trail.  Where I left this figure was in the center of a trail loop that curled back towards the Interpretive Center.  Here are images of this improvised piece.  It was an especially pitted and worn hunk of polystyrene.

I circled around and could see the sculpture from another angle.  Funny thing is that while I write this…I know it is no longer standing and was probably swept away again by the Ohio River for parts unknown.  It occurred to me recently that this month is the riverblog’s second anniversary.  As long as the river keeps things interesting, I will try to do the same through these posts.  I have many other images of recently found junk and once this more recent flooding subsides…no doubt will be able to fill this virtual collecting bag.  My parting image is the last picture I took of this short-lived artwork.

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It’s a wonderful spring day on the debris heap.  On the old bridge several diesel trains have been carrying their vital shipments back and forth across the Ohio River.  These trains are also a noisy element here when they are crossing.  Among the other sounds you can count on hearing are the aircraft about to land at the local airport and the sound of the river flowing under the gates.

The flooding we experienced a few short weeks a go has left a lot of debris deposited at the Falls.  During the height of the water, the area I’m exploring today was a watery gyre of spinning driftwood, junk, and plastic jugs and bottles.  It’s dry now and in the eastern section of the park under the railroad bridge.  You can’t miss it because in places it must be 12 to 15 feet tall.  It’s all interwoven logs and debris and it can be very treacherous walking here.  You always must be careful where you place your foot and weight because it might just be an air pocket covered in paper and leaves that can cause you to fall into a hole.  It would be no fun walking out of here with an injury.  I usually have a long walking stick with me to help me maintain my balance walking over the backs of logs.

If you are careful, you can explore this wooden mound safely.  It presents several interesting vantage points for photography.

Naturally, I’m also on the look out for interesting objects that have come to rest here.  My collecting sack soon fills with mostly plastic artifacts.

This wooden mound has waves of its own.  It has peaks and valleys and you can sense how the water moved from the artifacts that were swept along and how and where they came to rest.  The lightest stuff like plastic bottles are good indicators of how far the margins extend and where drainage occurred.

After exploring the area and collecting materials, I soon had another temporary studio going.  This time I’m not finding any huge sections and chunks of Styrofoam around.  There are, however, lots of smaller pieces absolutely everywhere.  I gathered these pieces up and soon I was making a figure to take advantage of this riverscape configuration at the Falls of the Ohio.

I found a spot with a good view of the city and made this guy.  His name comes from the spot where I left him.  I can feel that my face has received more sun than unusual and since I didn’t bring any sun block…decide that it’s time to go back home.

The place is marked by a “Danger” buoy that drifted in with all the other debris.

Around “Danger” are all kinds of other junk mixed among the driftwood.  Tires are ubiquitous as are all the plastic containers and playground balls.  Among the natural materials are wood (limb and lumber), nuts, dried reeds, and lots of shredded tree bark.

I’ve been busy cataloguing with photographs all the small items I found and collected from the Falls over the years.  I have posts to come of that material. I also have several other figures and adventures to relate to you.  With this project you have no choice, but to work with the river and I have been trying to play catch up where and when I can.  The next expedition takes place in the western section of the park.  There I will attempt to capture images of an unusual animal rumored to have been seen there recently.  Wish me luck!

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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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He ran through the willows as though nothing could touch him.  His foot speed was something to behold and he took great pride in that.

In all the land there was nothing that could catch him…or so he thought.  All that was about to change.  Perhaps it was the rhythmic pounding of placing one foot in front of the other, but atypical thoughts were now crossing his mind.  He did notice something in the land for the first time that disturbed him and so he ran across the breath of it to see if it was also true there as well.

The swift figure ran over to the driftwood that had been layered at the Falls after the last flood…and discovered that his pursuer was here too.  Next he tried the river.  Surely, the currents would have washed it all away by now?  But he found that what was bothering him was gaining speed as well.

By the water, the runner found that it was just as bad here and in a moment of panic he decided to run home.

He lived in the roots of a favorite willow tree and he found what was vexing him also now found him here at his home.  The runner had finally come across an opponent that he could not put behind him.

In the willows, it was like this discarded net he nearly ran into.

By the driftwood, it literally was everywhere…on top and intermixed with everything else.

By the river it was perhaps even worse.  There was rubbage floating along and drifting by with the currents.  Who knew where this stuff would eventually end up?

He even found it by his beloved home and he wondered why he hadn’t noticed this before now?  Something in the day had opened his eyes to the truth around him…everywhere he went he could find discarded waste and it bothered him. Yesterday, he was able to put it out of sight, but today was a different.  The runner found what he couldn’t out run was a sense of responsibility he was now feeling for the land that was his home.

The trash that was everywhere to be seen, ( if only people would choose to see it), was like a grenade in the sand just waiting to explode.  At some point, it would enter the ecosystem in even more intimate ways and affect the lives of all that live here.  For the first time, the runner realized that he had a shared responsibility to the other life around him and that ultimately, they would all share the same fate together.

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I was looking around the driftwood for whatever there was to find and having a good time.  I found this toy giraffe head with the puffy cheeks.  I also had the good fortune to watch from a distance a beaver that was cruising close to the riverbank.  It’s only the second one I’ve seen out here that was alive.  I kept trying to get closer to take a better picture, but soon the beaver spotted me and dove underwater.  I never saw where he eventually resurfaced…but I know they are out here.  Their chewed willow sticks are among my favorite materials to use for my art.

It was shortly after the encounter with the beaver that I met Marlin for the first time…in fact he tried to scare me away!!  He took me by surprise and I don’t know how someone or “thing” so large was able to approach me without my knowing it?  Soon I learned that Marlin can move quietly when he wants to.  Here are my first camera images of him that I shot reflexively as he attempted to frighten me away.

When I clearly was not going to flee, his face actually took on a more fearful expression as though he was more afraid of me to begin with. 

I did my best to reassure him that I was out here at the Falls to be respectful and appreciative of being out in nature and this seemed to reassure him some.  I found out during the ensuing conversation that his name comes from the fish image on his bling necklace he wears.  It was also found out here among the driftwood and so we had some common ground right away.  We are both beachcombers of a sort.  Here’s a better look at that fancy necklace that I thought was a kid’s canteen at first, but now I have no idea what this really is except it’s a toy of some sort.

Getting to know Marlin a little, I learned he was a bit of a philosopher and observer of life.  Human beings in particular have been a favorite object of study.  Marlin mentioned how impressed he was with our ability to create something out of nothing, but was mystified why we couldn’t see the bigger picture and ramifications of our actions?  We took a walk together along the river talking about this topic.

Marlin said he saw many people out here and some even brought their children along.  He said he enjoyed this notion of one generation following in the footsteps of the one that came before, but was worried that the wrong lessons were being transmitted about how to treat nature.  He walked a few feet from me and bent down to pick something up he found lying in the dried mud and sand.

It was a plastic sack full of trash left behind probably by fishermen.  Marlin found it confusing that a person could bundle their refuse so carefully and then forget to pack it out.  It was left to rot on the riverbank.  When other people see that this kind of behavior is tolerated…it just encourages them to do the same.  Marlin wondered if it was part of humans’ natures to be so contradictory and if so…how did that help our kind rise to the top of the food chain?  He also wondered why someone else who saw this bag of trash didn’t take it with them…even if it wasn’t theirs?  I’m afraid, I wasn’t able to provide much in answers to his questions since I struggle as a human too with this issue.

Marlin moved closer to the water and said that if this bag were left unattended that it and whatever the contents were would surely find their way into the river.  I couldn’t dispute that.  Marlin also said that people like coming to the river to recreate and that ultimately their very drinking water comes from this source…why would you foul it?  Other life forms like fish, birds, and even that beaver I watched earlier all depend on this water to be as clean as possible.  Why would we be so careless as to poison it with all our various waste products?

Water is the lifeblood of the planet and we can’t even imagine life without water.  It is a precious resource!  I listened to Marlin preach a little more and then told him I had to go home.  As I said my goodbyes, I took that bag of trash Marlin found with me and deposited it in the nearest trash can I could find.  I promised Marlin that I would try to do my part by also spreading the word about keeping our shared planet as clean as possible.  This is how Marlin looked…as he parted company with me.

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The other night after supper I had an hour or so to visit the river before the sun set.  So, I escaped to the river and my favorite park to check out the quality of the light as it slowly sets below the horizon.  During this time of year, the days are longer.  In short order, I was able to make this little figure from Styrofoam found on site.  What looks to be a green feather on this guy’s head is actually a miniature plastic skateboard missing its tiny wheels.  I used found coal for his eyes and his ears are small clam shells.  I tied some string around his waist for a belt.

Although it rained lightly a couple of days a go, things are looking a bit stagnant and dry in places.  The weatherman on the television gave some earlier hints that strong storms were a possibility for our area.  We shall wait and see.  For now, a quick stroll is in order before the rain comes or at least until the sun sets for another day.  Wandering near the river, I hear the calls of Killdeer plovers who are so good at sounding the alarm whenever danger is present…in this case, it’s me.  I managed this one quick photo of a bird hiding in an isolated patch of  grass.  The bright red eye-ring is visible making its eyes appear larger.

I noticed that whenever one of the resident vultures flew over, this bird would duck down in the grass.  Although the vultures don’t pose any danger, the Killdeer instinctively hide from what might be a bird of prey intent on eating it.  I have seen an American Kestrel make a meal of one of these large plovers before way out on the fossil beds on the Kentucky side.

There is a drying out occurring and all the small pools of water are evaporating.  In the process, they become more and more stagnant and I bet there’s a wealth of life in a single drop of this water.  I move the figure closer to the river’s edge to see what we can find.

The fishermen have had their moments.  Left on the bank are the remains of dead fish and the trash the anglers didn’t want to deal with packing back to their vehicles.  Of course, the vultures love all the fish and make short work of them.  What the birds miss…the flies find.

I do get a bit upset by the litter left behind by the fishermen.  I wouldn’t consider them sportsmen because they seem to have little regard for this resource.  I wish the people in charge of patrolling the park would come down here more often than they do.  I’m sure they would find many people out here fishing without a license.  I think some official presence visiting occasionally would be a good reminder to keep this place cleaner.

There are still isolated piles of previously collected river debris waiting for the trip to the landfill.  I hope at some point in the near future that this junk gets picked up for good.  For the moment, it represents a job half completed.  At this point in my visit, I perceive  that the quality of the light is different and a breeze is kicking up.  From the west I can see that the weatherman has a good shot of being right about his forecast.  A storm is on its way and I gather my stuff for the return trip home.  I hope the storm is a good one because this place could use a little freshening up.

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