Posts Tagged ‘mountain top’

I’m at the Falls of the Ohio again because the Ohio River has been priming my subconscious all week with the sound of running water.  I am also very close to finishing the piece I’m making for an invitational art exhibit I’m participating in which revolves around the issue of coal and mountain top removal.  This is a topic of some importance in Kentucky.  We have a love/hate relationship with coal.  On the one hand it is an energy resource we have in some abundance and it does provide much-needed jobs and revenue, however, the toll it takes on everything it touches is also well documented. Over the last few posts you have seen some of the process I’ve been involved with the coal the Ohio River has deposited at the Falls.  Today I’m gathering the last of the coal I need for my art.

The spring floods of 2011 washed a lot of coal into the park.  My “usual” Falls of the Ohio project touches upon another important issue which is the quality of our number one vanishing resource… fresh, clean water.  As is the case with most aspects of the environment, few issues stand in isolation from all the other problems out there.  Considerable overlapping is the norm which makes all these problems that much more complex and challenging.

The piece I’m making for this invitational exhibit isn’t intended to be a didactic one.  I’m not sure that screaming at people ultimately does much good when it comes to something as complicated as the coal issue.  I also don’t pretend to have the answers.  I’m hoping that the artwork I’m making with this coal will operate effectively just under the surface of people’s imaginations where it might linger long enough to resonate.  We will see.  In the meantime, I’ve “enjoyed” working with this material.  I have decided that it does have an odd beauty of its own especially when the river tumbles away its rough edges.  I have found simply creating small mounds of coal whether in old car tires or just by itself to be a reflective act.

After playing with the coal for a few hours, I decided it was time to do something else.  It has been a while since I last baited a hook and went fishing.  I got the idea when I came across a long willow branch that a beaver had gnawed all the bark off for food.  Looking around the riverbank, I also found a hook, lead sinkers, and enough waste fishing line to outfit my found pole.  Fishing floats are something I find in abundance and always have a few in my collecting bag. I also pick up the lead weights that other fishermen lose because this metal doesn’t need to be out here either.  Looking under rocks, I scrounged up enough insect larvae to use for bait.  Now I was ready to throw my line in the water…and wait.

I guess about twenty minutes passed before I got my first nibble.  I lost my bait several times before I was successful in hooking a fish.  The sight of my float going completely under the water was a thrilling one!

This fish didn’t give me much of a fight.  After a few runs in different directions I could feel it tire and lifted it out of the water. To be honest, I didn’t have the slightest idea of what species this was, but I know that I have never seen anything quite like it here before.  It’s coloration was unusual with its light blue body and bright red tail.

It’s eyes are large and I surmised that it usually lives in the depths of the river where light rarely reaches it.  I thought it had some similarities to the sauger which is a walleye relative and also found here, but it lacked the sharp teeth that the sauger has.  It’s gill covers or operculums were metallic and reminded me of the bottoms of aluminum cans that the river washes into the park.

I quickly took a few more photographs and then released this fish safely back into the river.  When I got home I tried to look up some information about my catch, but couldn’t find much about it.  Apparently, Rafinesque and LeSueur, two early naturalists who described many of the fish found in the Ohio River and Falls of the Ohio, were mum on this subject which was disappointing.  Until I can locate better reference material I decided to just call it something descriptive like the Red-tailed Goggle-eye.  Of course, any information that any of you out there might have would be welcomed! Seeing this fish I also had another more disturbing thought.  What if this is evolution in action and the continued degradation of the environment is shaping new species from older ones that can deal with the new reality?  Evolve or die. This brought the question of man as an agent of evolutionary change to mind since we are culpable for many of the changes going on in the larger world.  Well for now, I’ll just sleep on it and see what turns up tomorrow.  See you by the water!

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