Posts Tagged ‘tree house’

August has been the toughest month and I have two measly posts to show for it.  The ankle is better and thanks for all the well wishes I received.  I guess my other newsworthy item is that my trusty camera broke while on expedition to the Falls of the Ohio.  I received the dreaded “lens error restart the camera” message and of course everything I tried after reading whatever I could about fixing it…didn’t work.  Now, I will need to have the pros look at it.  Although I have  never dropped my camera, I am, however, guilty of working in a dusty and sandy environment.  I’ll bet a well placed grain of sand is all it takes to render the most precise instrument useless.  If my camera proves to be a lost cause…then this was its last adventure.

A couple of weeks a go I was approached by a person who was looking for a friend that was last seen at the Falls of the Ohio.  The missing individual had made a phone call to his friend stating where he was and that he would remain at the Falls for a while, but had not been heard from since then.  I was being asked to guide the concerned friend to the places mentioned in their phone conversation.  Perhaps the missing individual would still be there or some clues as to what happened to him?  Our journey took us to the western section of the park over the sweltering fossil beds.  Like I mentioned earlier, August has been a bear.

We walked by large areas of purple loosestrife flowers that were growing in the moist soil and sands near the edge of the river.  For a few moments, we lingered over the flowers and watched all the insects drawn to them.  There was a profusion of butterflies and more than a few exotic wasps and bees.  Each year it seems the loosestrife flowers are spreading and their nectar should make the insects very happy.  The place we were walking to was just a head of us.  I featured it in a recent post called the “Mahalo Tree House”.  It’s a wonderful old cottonwood tree that recently was turned into a “club house” by kids I think?  Here are two recent views as we approached the tree.

My guest became excited to see this unique tree house and mentioned to me that it was exactly as described in his friend’s conversation.  We walked over a couple old fire pits that proved this site had been occupied recently.  I made a few mental notes of other changes I observed since my last visit, but kept those to myself.

My companion grew excited when he spotted the plastic rabbit in his clay niche.  This was one of the details mentioned by the missing friend. There was another clue as well.

The garbage bag that had been left behind during my last visit was now full.  Who was going to carry it up the bank to dispose of in a responsible manner?  There were other signs that started to make me feel uneasy.  What do you make of this?

Do you think it is respectful to the tree to spray paint it?  I think not.  There were other ill omens all around us.  Someone or some group had been decorating the place with found bones.  Several clusters of bones were hanging on the end of strings attached to the tree.  Here’s an example of this.

The oddest bone creation, however, was the weird face we found.  It was made from a pelvis and vertebrae that I think originally belonged to a small deer.  Some man-made elements in the form of fishing float eyes and a fake flower were also added.  It took me a moment to register where the eyes might have originally came from.  Black magic marker was used to draw additional designs on the bone.  The head’s eyes had a way of following you around the interior of the tree house.  The bone additions definitely made the place seem primitive.

My guest and I were feeling uneasy when we made the discovery.  We found the missing friend or what was left of him behind the main trunk of the cottonwood tree.

It was too difficult to tell if the friend had succumbed to natural causes or had help of some kind?  All that was left were the bones and fortunately none of them was used to decorate the tree.  One part of the mystery had been solved…the friend had been found.  It was decided to leave the remains were they lay so that law enforcement could conduct their investigation.

All that was left now was to say good-bye and retrace our steps along the river.  My companion was quiet for the most part.  The one time he broke his silence was when we passed two barefoot boys playing next to the water.  The surviving friend said it reminded him of his own childhood when he and his late sidekick would skip rocks off the surface of the Ohio River.  Here’s hoping September will be a kinder month.

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In my hands was the head of a small Styrofoam figure I made at the Falls of the Ohio State Park.  I found all the parts while walking along the northern shore of the river.  The eyes are fishing bobbers and the nose is the plastic cone from a moderate-sized bottle rocket.  I can’t remember what I used to make the purple lips!  I was on my way to see one of my favorite trees and wondered how it was doing after this year’s flooding?

The great tree with its amazing roots had survived in fine shape.  Approaching I could see that recent visitors had added new amenities to enhance the natural room existing under the trunk of this tree.  Long a go the river washed away the river bank, but the tree’s roots held fast and kept growing.  Here’s a side view.

I ran into Steve the Arrowhead Man earlier in the week and he told me that teenagers had discovered this tree and turned it into a party hangout.  Nailed to the tree was a hand-drawn sign that read “Mahalo”.  Driftwood had been collected and neatly stacked near an improvised kitchen area that had counter space, a stone-lined fire pit, and a plastic trash bag to carry garbage out.

I like the counter-top plank that also helps frame this view out the window.  The skyline of Louisville can be seen on the farthest shore.

Sitting in the Mahalo Tree was more about fantasy than reality.  The fire pit was located too close to the tree!  Still I admired the sense of play and creativity and decided to leave the figure I was making now named “Mahalo Man” as a present for the next visitor to the tree house.  I finished my figure with materials I found around the tree.  Here’s a portrait of my latest creation.

First, I moved Mahalo Man by the sign nailed into the tree…but I didn’t like it.  So, I reached into the old collecting bag and pulled out a plastic bunny rabbit I had found on the walk out here.  The rabbit had a coin slot in the back of its head.  I finally left Mahalo Man under the earth and rootlets beneath this great tree.  Here is another view of this figure with his rabbit companion.


The rabbit figure lent a certain Alice in Wonderland quality to the ambiance surrounding the Mahalo Tree.  I hope to check back here sometime during the summer and see what other changes have been made by man and nature.  I  will close with a final rabbit picture next to the hole in the bank our friend now calls home.

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Along the western section of the Falls of the Ohio State Park is one of my favorite trees.  It’s a large cottonwood tree that you can sit under its roots!  Many years a go the river must have eroded the bank surrounding this tree and enough of its root system was left and continued to grow that a nice sized space was formed.  It’s a favorite place for young lovers and people taking shelter from thunderstorms.  I’ve taking advantage of this “room” while waiting out rain showers and it’s also a handy place to escape the summer heat.

There are other tree formations in the area and many of them are quite sculptural and picturesque.  I find myself taking many pictures in this area.  One day while I was engaged in this activity, I accepted an invitation to hang out and take a break with a new friend of mine.  Although he is shy and doesn’t like cameras, he did allow me to take his portrait and a few images of him in his home.

He doesn’t have a name in the conventional way we have names.  He simply describes himself as the Spirit of the Tree and he has adopted this special cottonwood tree as his charge.  As far as I can tell…what he does for the tree to look after it is “pray”  for its continued good health. 

This is a picture of the “front door” of this tree house.  It does break with traditional idea of a tree house by being ground level instead of elevated.  The “back door” is covered by river scavenged planks .

The Spirit of the Tree invited me in and I took a look around.  Yes, there were beer cans and the remnants of fire pits.  I imagined that this tree was used by homeless people on more than one occasion.  There was even graffiti that some careless person thought was needed in this already special place.  All this causes the Spirit of the Tree much concern and he tells me that it takes a lot of incense and sweet grass to purify the tree.

This is not the Spirit’s first tree, but he did say it was his favorite one so far.  Because it is so accessible by man and the river…it’s just a matter of time before nature reclaims it.  You can see the evidence of this process all around the cottonwood tree.  Once upon a time, there were several other trees keeping this special tree company, but wind and water have taken their toll.  Unfortunately, there aren’t enough “Spirits” around for every tree and so they must be choosy by necessity.

I have included several images of the views out from under this cottonwood tree.  You can just make out the skyline of the Louisville and the fossil beds in the background.  Sitting under this tree…you might think is potentially scary, but I have always found it comforting.

You can see how the roots just drop down into the ground.  They are large and numerous enough to buttress this tree.  There is even a window providing a view of the western side of the park and here it is.

I talked with the Spirit of the Tree for about an hour before heading home.  He told me he chose to reveal himself to me because he had seen me before and felt I was respectful in my dealings with his tree house.  In those instances when indifferent people show up…he climbs the trees roots and branches and hangs out in the woods until they leave and then he purifies the tree again to keep it going strong for a little while longer.  My parting image of the Spirit of the Tree is of him standing on this tree’s amazing roots and looking up at the riverbank.

Because there aren’t enough Spirits to go around to take care of all the trees we need in this world…I think it would be a good idea of everybody who cared about such things would adopt a tree or two for themselves.  Doing so would be good for our spirits too!  To end this post, here is another angle on that really sculptural tree that fell down years a go.

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