Posts Tagged ‘Snowman’

Four trees with exposed roots, Falls of the Ohio, Dec. 2015

Here’s a little story set at the Falls of the Ohio State Park in Clarksville, Indiana that will help carry us into the new year.  This tale is from a few weeks back, but I have been saving it.  I have, however, been using many of the images I created on this day for use with my Christmas cards.  Making ornaments, setting up holiday lights, and coming up with a new batch of cards to give away are my ways of getting into the spirit of the season.  I also enjoy attempting to put into words something about my Falls experiences and the following is this year’s gift from the river.  Today, we are in the western section of the park.  I know of four special trees with exposed roots (three sycamores and one cottonwood) that hang out together and have survived a very tough year and were due a visit from me.  With the daylight fading, this would be a good place to watch the sun set as the Ohio River turns left on its journey westward.

Styro-Snowman, full face view, Falls of the Ohio, Dec. 2015Getting into the right spirit of the season can be difficult for some folks.  Especially, when the weather is abnormally warm and you were hoping for snow to get winter kick started in the right direction.  The Falls of the Ohio, like much of the eastern portion of our country, is currently in the grips of El Nino.  Our area has set several all-time records for heat for this time of year.  What a contrast from last year’s polar vortex!  As luck would have it, the Styro-Snowman happened to be around when I was visiting the river.  I stuck around to see what would happen next.

The Snow Star arrives, Falls of the Ohio, Dec. 2015

Although this snowman wore a fixed expression, his odd movements communicated befuddlement?  Something was missing or just not right.  I could see him looking around for something…perhaps a reminder of the season, but nothing appeared obvious?  After roaming the fossil cliffs for several minutes he stopped and looked towards the sky.  That’s when an amazing thing happened and if I didn’t have these pictures to prove it…I am sure you would not believe me.  As the sun, our star, was setting…another star much smaller and shaped like a snowflake descended from the sky.  I wondered if my friend here had willed it to him or did the star appear spontaneously?  As the star drifted by the Styro-being reached up and gently brought the star down to earth.  I could sense a feeling of joy coming over the snowman.

Styro-snowman gets a big idea, Falls of the Ohio, Dec. 2015

Along with the snowflake star…a small white sack appeared on the ground.  Inside the sack were five, slightly beat up plastic tree ornaments like the kind you can sometimes find at the Falls after the flooding has subsided.  The snowman looked into the sack a pulled out a roughed up, but still functional, deep red ornament.  His expression widened and I almost felt like I was reading his mind.  The snowman walked over to one of the four trees with the great roots and began decorating its branches.


The first tree the snowman embellished had a more open arrangement with ornaments hung on several branches.  For whatever reason, the snowman didn’t find this to be satisfactory and he took his five ornaments off and moved to another nearby tree.

Hanging the ornaments with care, Falls of the Ohio, Dec. 2015

Hung the ornaments on the branches of a sycamore, Falls of the Ohio, Dec. 2015

On a low hanging limb of another rugged sycamore, the snowman hung up his ornaments with care.  He saved his bright red bauble for last and placed it upon the branch which was accomplished precariously by standing on a large tree root.  The snowman looked content when he was finished and paused a moment or two to soak up his handiwork.

The Styro-snowman admiring his work, Falls of the Ohio, Dec. 2015

Styro-snowman with baubles arranged all in a row, Falls of the Ohio, Dec. 2015

Oddly, the snowman had hung up his ornaments in a straight line that ascended the tree branch.  Wordlessly, I could tell that he was moved by this alignment, but why?  The tree, after all, could have been decorated any number of ways.  Something about this configuration made me think of celestial models and how we rank planets based by size or their proximity to the sun.  The now extraordinary branch seemingly had this cosmic link going for it.  The snowman stood behind his decorations and peered up the line which seemed to be sighted to a particular spot in the night sky that seemed a little darker than the surrounding space.

Returning the star to its rightful place, Falls of the Ohio, Dec. 2015

Without saying a single word, the Styro-Snowman elevated the star that had come to him from high above.  He had borrowed some of its magic and now it was his time to pass it on.  It floated off until it reached that now dark spot in the firmament that it normally occupied.  A bright flash of light signaled that the snow star was back in position.  It is said that all life contains a little star power within it and I think I just witnessed that in action.  With his spirit lifted, the snowman looked over his shoulders at me and with his fixed acorn smile disappeared into the river.

I dedicate this little story to all who seek some personal connection to the spirit of the season or who simply are following magic stars of their own.  Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays, and Season’s Greetings from the Falls of the Ohio.

Found Christmas star in the shape of a snowflake, Falls of the Ohio, Dec. 2015

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snow covered driftwood, Dec.29, 2012

The last month of the year which began so warmly has finally delivered some cold and snow to the Falls of the Ohio.  The newspaper says that somewhere between two to four inches fell overnight.  I’m sitting in the comfort and security of my home and all is well except for that small voice in my head telling me I need to go check out the river.  The voice is persistent and annoying and makes little sense on such a bitterly cold day.  Naturally, I caved in simply because snow events are uncommon here of late and as a chronicler of the Falls, I have a self-appointed mission to document what happens.  I also know from past experiences that these snow and ice events can be beautiful and have a way of revealing a different side of this environment.  Who knows, maybe I will come across something I’ve not seen before?

Blanche in the snow, Dec. 2012

Upon arriving I discovered that my way of accessing the riverbank was gone!  The trusty wooden staircase that led from the parking lot to the river is completely missing and I think that some of the maintainance issues it had finally caught up with it?  To compound events further I discovered that my right boot has a hole in the sole and the cold water I just stepped in has made my sock and foot a soggy, frozen distraction.  I’m about ready to get back in my car when I hear that familiar voice again.

Blanche's face, detail, Dec. 2012

This time that voice wasn’t coming from within me, but rather just a short distance a head of me.  The voice reassured me I wasn’t suffering a relapse of the flu I recently overcame!  Seemingly materializing in thin air was this small, but classic version of a snowman who asked to be called “Blanche”.  I suppose that makes her a snowwoman or snowperson and it’s weird the things you think about in certain moments.  I would guess that the figure was about two feet tall or so.  She had a fishing float for a nose, coal eyes, and bits of red plastic around her neck and mouth.  Attached to her head was a rather interesting hair comb.  Blanche thanked me for showing up and apologized for “getting into my head”.  It was she who had called me to the river to tell me something important.  As she spoke, I forgot all about the hole in my boot.

Blanche rolls a snowball, Dec. 2012

Blanche rolls several snow balls, Dec. 2013

I hope I’m getting all this right because several things were happening at once.  While Blanche spoke to me she was also rolling snow into three balls of graduating sizes.  What she in essence told me was that while life did originate in the water…the relationship was deeper and richer than that.  Water was in fact “life” and the medium where its collective unconscious resides.  It is water existing from the North Pole to South Pole in all its forms like snow, rain, ice, salty, fresh, steamy, cubed, etc…that holds the memory, wisdom, and promise of life.  As it turns out water also unifies life.

As I was trying to absorb what was being told to me…I snapped a few photos and hoped that the cold wouldn’t affect my digital camera.  Blanche took the three balls she created and stacked them one on top of the other.

Blanche creates a friend, Dec. 2012

As I watched, Blanche added a gold plastic hat she found as well as an orange golf tee for a nose.  As she worked Blanche hummed a song and I watched in astonishment as a second snowperson appeared before me!  Blanche said his name is “Frio”.

Blanche and Frio, Dec. 2012

Frio and Blanche, alternate view, Dec. 2012

It was the most incredible display I had ever seen!  Right before my eyes the seemingly inert snow took on another form that came to life and reinforced some of Blanche’s message to me.  There would be more.  Frio then asked me to continue to tell the water’s story through my blog because the fate of water and life was more important than ever.  It was vital that water remained as pure and clean as possible or the normal rhythm of the planet would be disturbed. He told me that the internet was something similar to the collective unconscious and the best way to send out a message to the billions of people now living on the planet.  Water and life need all the friends that can be mustered to act on its behalf.

Blanche and Frio singing, Dec. 2012

My encounter with the Snow Folk ended in song.  Before Blanche and Frio headed out they sang a song to the Falls celebrating how this is a unique place on the planet where time and space intersect in interesting ways.  There was a verse dedicated to me and the continued success of my project now entering its tenth year.

Blanche and Frio depart, Dec. 2012

I was completely charmed and captivated and thanked the Snow Folk for the song.  I watched them turn and walk into the river where they completely disappeared.  I’m still trying to digest this experience.  It’s not everyday that water speaks to you in your own language.  Thankfully, I have these photographs to show you and to add weight to Blanche and Frio’s message to us.  After a while, I felt the cold again and decided this time that a mug of hot chocolate or coffee would help me feel my fingers and toes again.  Happy New Year to you all from the Falls of the Ohio.  See you in 2013.

skyline of Louisville, KY at year's end, Dec. 2012

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The six or so inches of snow that quieted Louisville over the past two days inspired a spontaneous celebration of a traditional form.  The conditions were just right for an impromptu snowman festival!  Nearly everywhere I travelled through the city I found these ephemeral sculptures gracing both public and private spaces.  Before it became too late in the game, I grabbed my camera and recorded a few images which I’m presenting here.  I went through Tyler Park, the Douglas Loop neighborhood, the Highlands, and the Shelby Park area and in a matter of a couple hours and found some interesting creations.  I had so much success in a relatively short amount of time and distance, that the possibility of hundreds of snowmen existing scattered throughout the city gave me an extra reason to smile!

For those of you who have followed my riverblog, this may seem like a departure, but it really isn’t.  I count the making of snowmen, scarecrows, and other seasonal folk art figures among the influences for my polystyrene art.  I’m working with that same impulse towards figurative expression that people acknowledge when they make a snowman.  Can this be art?  I certainly believe so.  A friend of mine once wrote that art was turning the ordinary into the extraordinary.  When you mix intention with a user-friendly material like snow, than the creation of art is within most people’s grasp.  Eventually, when these things melt, the water that comprises them will at some point reach the river.  Considering how much snow has fallen over the Ohio River Valley, I would expect to see high water around here.

The basic idea for a snowman hasn’t changed much.  Take three snowballs and stack them in graduated size from largest to smallest and use whatever is on hand to form features and accessorize.  The use of a carrot for a nose has become a beloved standard.  It’s been interesting to see how closely people have adhered to the snowman ideal and where variation or invention has occurred.  Most of what I’ve seen over the last couple of days has been fairly traditional, but there were a few nice surprises to keep things lively.  I came across a few snow creations that demonstrated both imagination, teamwork, and skill.  Here are a few more single figures.

I imagine children and family at work on these beloved sculptures.  It’s no accident that so many of these snowmen are close to the front door of the house.  In this way, they are very site specific. They are meant to be seen and commented upon.  Most of these snowmen, if they have arms, are rather feeble.  For practical reasons, it is just too difficult to make an arm out of snow unless it is a part of the main body.  I had to laugh at the one sporting what appears to be a wooden samurai sword!  When you pair two or more snowmen together then you create another dynamic.  Take a look.

The snow figures above I thought were very successful in a “Miro-esque” sort of way.  The work on the right looks like a dog sitting up and begging.  These are fairly large works and whoever made them must be an old-hand at snow sculpture because both works also have holes in them as expressive elements.  Check out this trio of works.  The use of deer antlers on the smallest sculpture is an unusual touch.

And now for a few more animal snow sculptures…how about this seal! It’s very effective and simple.  The colorful scarf leads the eye right to the details that form the face.  I like the way twigs are used to suggest whiskers.

This bear sculpture by Tyler Park is one of my favorites.  I walked by it at night and there were also Christmas lights behind it!  Again, the use of twigs provides just the right amount of detail in the form of claws on the paws.  I think the eyes might be walnuts?  In this piece, the snow arms work.

Resting sphinx-like in front of an apartment building is what I presume is a reindeer or stag.  If it weren’t for the small branches suggesting antlers, I would have guessed this is a dog.  The lack of any other materials makes me believe this is the unplanned work of a child.  It has a smudge for a nose.

Perhaps the oddest piece I encountered was this modest sized figure.  What set it apart aside from the more extensive use of clothing, is the mask covering the face.  I did a double take on this one because the white mask didn’t fully register until I was right next to it.

I like that there is a time limit to a snowman’s existence.  For as long as the weather remains cold, and people leave it alone, then the work will be around to bring a little joy to all who see it.  For many adults, it is a pleasant reminder of childhood winters with its promise of missed school days.  Around here, the temperatures are dropping into the single digits overnight and there is more snow on the way.  For the time being, the city’s snowmen are safe and in good company.

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