Posts Tagged ‘high water’

“The river is rising…the river is rising!!”  “All within the sound of my voice, hear me!”  “We may not have long to prepare before the water claims us.”

I visited the Falls last Saturday and indeed was surprised to see how high the river had risen.  The Army Corps of Engineers had let some of the water through the dams and this action, I figured, was a result of the rains that fell upriver hundreds of miles away?  The river had crept its closest to my studio spot since I established it back in the spring.  The Styrofoam that I had cached there became panicky and started organizing itself before the inevitable inundation.  The call about the river rising came from an especially large Styrofoam figure that I hadn’t seen before. 

“This could be it…this could be the big one.”  “All inhabitants of Styro-land make preparations.”  “Gather all things that are precious and can float away and seek higher ground.”  “Is there anybody out there that can hear me?”   

 In the background, the sound of logs crashing and rolling over each other in the waves made a particularly un-nerving grinding and squeaking sound.  Every once in a while a large pop would register as something wooden broke apart. 

“Is there anyone out there to harken to my call and needs help?” These words came from the figure I dubbed “Pot Belly” and I soon realized that he wasn’t alone.  At the edge of my vision, a figure moved.

“Dude, I’m here and what’s all the noise about?”  “Sounds like you need to take a chill-pill and relax.”  “The river rising is no big deal.”  “It’s happened a million times over thousands of years.”  “So, what could be that different this time around?”  This reply came from an equally large Styrofoam figure that was relaxing on a log and watching the waters inch closer by the moment.  I decided to give this figure the name of “Cross-legged Lorraine”…for obvious reasons.

Pot Belly then proceeded to tell Cross-legged Lorraine that unlike previous floods, this one was going to effect them directly.  This wasn’t a hypothetical scenario or some dim recollection from a by-gone day.  This is real.  Soon their bodies would get caught up in nature’s momentum and be carried away and altered in the process.  Whatever happens and wherever they may next wash ashore…they would be different.  For some, reaching the ocean would be one step closer as the river flows westward before reaching the Mississippi and it’s journey south to the Gulf of Mexico.

The realization of Pot Belly’s words could be read on Lorraine’s face.  I think the photograph I took of her conveys a little of the panic in the situation.

I watched as the two Styro-figures slowly walked to an area that was slightly higher in elevation.  Pot Belly lifted Lorraine onto an especially large log and that was where I left them.  I may or may not see them again and I suddenly felt sad.  I was the only human being around this day to witness this event.

Through the leafless trees, I could see the little area that I had made my temporary home for my flights of imagination this year.  I’m going to miss sitting on a familiar log with all this “potential” gathered around me. To all things there is a season and I know that the river will soon rearrange this spot as though I was never here.  All the materials I gathered will move along and perhaps I will recover some of it a little further down river.  Over time, the waters will deposit other materials and I will gather those too and make what I can make in this dynamic location.  I gave my studio site another good look and selected a few nice driftwood branches and walked away.  I can’t wait to see what happens next.

My thanks to my eight-year old son, Adam for his editorial advice.  He suggested that Lorraine should say “Yo, dude…” in her reply to Pot Belly, but I thought that sounded too skateboardish.

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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.

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