Posts Tagged ‘ritual’

On a variable day where the sun played hide and seek among the clouds,  I visited the Falls of the Ohio to see what there was to see and experience.  Thus far, Spring is shaping up to be much warmer than normal and many different  plants in the city where I live have flowered early.  I was curious to see if this pattern was holding true with the trees out by the river? Upon arrival, I could see that the trees hadn’t “leafed-out” and so I directed my attentions to a slightly high and wild river.  I began looking for river treasures when I met this strange fellow.

He called himself the “Guardian” and he was doing the same thing as me.  Namely walking along the edge of the river and picking up objects that were washing ashore.  The water level has been high and many of the youngest willow trees were poking out of the sand like large hairs on the back of some big animal you can’t totally see because it’s that huge.  I tagged along with the Guardian and we conversed freely.  It’s funny how no two beings react in the same way to the “treasures” the river offers up.  For example, people are always trying to give me driftwood that they think I will like.  Rarely, am I attracted to their finds.  Driftwood aesthetics is a matter of personal taste as is the attraction for all the other stuff that washes up here.  I didn’t think anything at all as the Guardian started collecting plastic bottles.  While those bottles held little interest for me…the polystyrene chunks I was stuffing into my collecting bag held no interest to the Guardian whatsoever.

The Guardian was keying on green plastic bottles in particular.  I had to know why these bottles and what was he going to do with them?  And then there was the added mystery of his name.  If he’s the Guardian…what is he guarding?  My new friend said he would be glad to tell me, but it would in fact, be easier to show me.  Together we walked up the shore to the tree line where my new friend had a project he was working on.

I was amazed to see that he had planted a river-polished cedar trunk into the sand and had attached his green plastic bottles to the nubs that were once branches of this tree.  Judging by his project’s progress…he had been hard at work before I ran into him.  Here’s another view that shows where he positioned his bottle tree.

He told me he had been doing this activity once a year for many years and that he is called the Guardian because he is the protector of this particular ritual.  It’s purpose is to awaken the coming of Spring after a period of dormancy.  There are other beings like himself that are scattered across the planet and serve the same or similar functions through their various rituals.  As he added new bottles to his tree, the Guardian chided me in a friendly way saying did I think the seasons just transitioned on their own? The Earth in fact needs the help of all who love her to keep her from falling into neglect.  The Earth needs to know that folks do care because that extra bit of genuine concern is important and provides the extra energy needed to sustain everything that lives.  Otherwise, this huge task is simply not worth it and the world slips into apathy and falls back asleep.

As the Guardian spoke to me, large dark clouds started gathering overhead.  The first large drops of rain began falling in the sand around us.  It was time to go and I parted company with my new friend.  I thought about what he told me.  I guess I hadn’t considered that the very planet might also be alive and would respond positively knowing that others simply cared.  As I walked home I said a little prayer of my own inside my head and awaited the further greening of the world.

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The Woodsman, 8/09

For generations, folks around the Falls (or the Wickets as they are known among the locals) have been gathering the driftwood.  Some use it to decorative effect.  I met a man who told me he gets $25.00 per arrangement for attaching plastic flowers artfully onto small, but nice pieces of driftwood.  I have also seen where people prefer their wood plain and display it along with their other yard art.  And then there are those who prefer to burn what they collect during the cold months.  Whatever your preference…there’s no shortage of wood around here.

Woodsman on the rocks, 8/09

The river has been up and the wood has been gathering at the high water points.  Once the river goes back down, there will be these neat lines of wood to remind you how far up the bank the river has traveled.  Insect life is abundant now.  I’ve seen many butterflies and other pollinating insects.  What caught my eye this time were the large wasps better known as Cicada Killers.  They are aptly named.  The female wasps are huge and are among our largest wasps.  Hunting the cicadas exclusively, the female wasp will paralyze it’s prey with a sting and drag it back to the hole it has dug in the earth.  In the burrow she will lay her egg on the still living but immobile cicada.  Soon the egg hatches and the larval wasp will feed upon the cicada and another generation will play out.  Here is a picture of a male Cicada Killer who has confused a dried willow leaf for a female and is attempting to mate with it.  Males are two-thirds the size of the females.

Cicada Killer, male, 8/09

There are all kinds of other giants around here.  Check out the tracks left in the wet sand by various creatures also drawn to the river.  It’s fun trying to identify the various animals that call the Falls home by their spoor.

Woodsman with tracks, 8/09

Now is also a good time to see lizards basking on the logs.  Here’s two pictures of a Five-lined Skink.  They like to burrow under the driftwood and hunt insects in the tangles.  Their young are the small familiar lizards with the blue tails.  This one allowed me to get close before darting away.

Five-lined Skink, 8/09

Five-lined Skink, detail, 8/09

One last image and thought before I turn for home.  I have been looking at old camp fire sites and feeling the ritualized antiquity in them.  It’s time now to take this wood I’ve gathered to my place.  I will build my fire tonight and connect with those who came before me in the hypnotic dance of the flames.Woodsman and camp site, 8/09

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Falls facing west, 6/09

On Father’s Day I got up early and headed to the river.  I had a three hour window of opportunity before the family gatherings began.  Those close to me know how special these excursions to the river are for me.  It’s part of my mental health maintenance ritual.  I need to come out here, see what I can see and make an object/image from what I find.  Here’s this day’s post.

King's head in studio, 6/09

This is where I sit surrounded by the materials I use to make my particular form of art.  Whatever that is happens to be open for debate.  Where exactly does the art occur?  Is it in the process of walking the river and selecting materials?  Is it in the sculptural models I make from them?  Is it located in the images I photograph of those models in their unique site specific contexts?  Could it be in some of the great conversations I’ve had with people intrigued by what I do?  Is it in trying to build awareness of our inherent creativity and connection to the planet?  Does it reside in the activity that is this blog?  Maybe someone out there can help me out?

Falls looking south, 6/09

I’m not deterred by weather…unless lightening is involved.  I’m out here when it’s 100 degrees or below zero.  Today it rained off and on.  Where I sit under the willow trees you can mostly stay dry.  The activity of making something causes me to forget my physical discomfort.  The Ohio River has been a little higher than usual because of all the rain that fell east of here.  The little bit of wind was generating waves that forced the driftwood to tumble over the debris and collect along that day’s shoreline.

King's Rain, 6/09

I imagined this figure as being some kind of “king”.  I think that comes from his head gear.  You can’t really see this, but there is a plastic rose under the “crown”.  His nose is a burnt out Christmas lightbulb.  The ears are some rubber object I broke in half.  The mouth is a plastic bottle cap.  His eyes are waterlogged nuts.  I liked posing this figure near the water’s edge…just out of reach of the waves.  The green ring could be his symbol of office.  I later lost the ring, but found a green wiffle ball that took its place.

Facing east, 6/09

This shot gives a good view of the willow habitat as you look east.  I didn’t see this until I got home, but the tree lying in the foreground connects with the bridges beyond it.  Very few people came out today.  I did see the mink again which delighted me.  I hope it hangs out for awhile and calls this place its home.  It’s a little bit of unexpected, but welcomed wildness.  Last shot is of the “King” set up in a different location.  The smudge to the right is rain water on the camera’s lens I didn’t notice at the time.  I left the figure standing at the Falls and went home.

The King's game, 6/09

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