Posts Tagged ‘willow tree’

Katinka waving, Falls of the Ohio, June 2016

I had an unexpected rendezvous at the Falls of the Ohio recently.  I caught up with my friend Katinka as she was taking a walk along the riverbank.  I have always loved the way she looks when the sun strikes her face at just the right angle and creates this wonderful glow about her.  We are meeting by chance which is often the best way to go.   The two of us decide to walk together for a while.  She had an earlier start today than I did so I asked if she had seen anything on this beautiful morning that struck her as being memorable in some way?  Immediately Katinka answered that there was a tree near the water that impressed her as being particularly heroic.  Together we sought out the spot where it was rooted.

Portrait of Katinka, Falls of the Ohio, June 2016

We don’t have to go far and as it turns out and I’m already familiar with this tree.  It’s a Black Willow and it is growing through the metal holes of an old discarded car wheel.  I noticed this one…and another similar tree growing through a tire in the western end of the park a couple of years a go.  I can understand why Katinka thinks this tree is “heroic” as it tries to thrive while wearing a metal and rubber yoke.  I keep wondering what will happen next as this tree moves through time?  Will the limbs growing through the holes eventually get pinched off?  Will the willow send out roots all around this wheel eventually elevating it off the ground?  How is this tree going to accommodate this wheel?

Katinka with the willow growing out of a tire, Falls of the Ohio, June 2016

Katinka with willow and tire, Falls of the Ohio, June 2016

I have documented this tree through a few seasons and so this was a good time to take a few early summer shots.  The tree seemed healthy and was certainly taller than before.  I noticed that after this year’s high water subsided, that the tree had shifted a bit as the tire settled into the earth.  Linking the tire with the tree is an unusual union of the natural and artificial and Katinka agreed.  She said that she couldn’t help but feel that the tree got the worst end of this bargain…but we shall see.

Katinka at the Falls of the Ohio, June 2016

Katinka said she detected a theme developing and that she had witnessed other “unusual pairings”.  She asked me to hold out my hand and on my palm, Katinka placed the soft, hollow, plastic body of a toy animal that was missing its head.  She found this on the riverbank too.  Interestingly, nature seems to find a way to express life and in this case, a small seed landed in the dirt that had filled the toy’s hollow body and had sprouted!  This qualifies as a very small niche indeed.

Seedling growing from a plastic animal, Falls of the Ohio, June 2016

I placed the plant/toy on the sand and then I wished it well.  Simple as that.  I followed Katinka to our next spot.  She had seen something earlier and wanted to look at it again in case it was something that could fit the evolving theme of her tour of the Falls of the Ohio.  After a little searching around the vegetation around the willows, we found what we were looking for laying on the surface of the sand.

Hair band? with sprouts, Falls of the Ohio, June 2016

Once upon a time, this was an object that required hook fasteners to adjust.  In this found instance, the hooks from the cockle burr and other hardy plants have hitched a ride and their seedlings are using the man-made fabric for a substrate to germinate upon.  Perhaps as the plant continues to thrive and grow, it can jump off its host by spreading its roots far and wide?  I mentioned to Katinka that I knew a place that demonstrated a similar kind of union occurring between something artificial and natural and would she like to see that?  It was just a short distance along the water line and the sound of the river filled up any need for conversation.  The river can be satisfying in that way.

Snagged and disintegrating barge cable, Falls of the Ohio, June 2016

Reaching the spot, we could see a golden-yellow, tangled mess that was once a part of a large, tight, barge cable.  At some point, the cable was cut and floated down the river and was now stuck joining two separate willow trees together.  The yellow arc was swaying in the slight breeze.  Subsequent floods and even birds picking on this large rope for nesting material have continued the process of fraying it.  I thought there was something very art-like in the way this cable called attention to itself and the space around it.  In places at the Falls of the Ohio you can find other trees that have snagged lengths of this synthetic barge cable in their exposed root systems and limbs.  Here is another example of this as a river wave plays jump rope.

Barge rope snagged between two trees, Falls of the Ohio, June 2016

Both Katinka and I agreed that the snagged barge ropes offered us vivid examples of how the stuff we make interacts with the rest of the world.  While we were looking at the ropes, a new protagonist arrived via a muddy Ohio River wave.  A large plastic gasoline container became the latest piece of junk to become beached at the Falls of the Ohio.

Katinka next to a gas container, Falls of the Ohio, June 2016

Katinka with fuel can, Falls of the Ohio, June 2016

So far, Katinka and I had spent the morning together looking at examples of how nature was dealing with us through our surrogates…the trash we create and discard.  We both agreed that perhaps we should spend the rest of our time together just looking at the beauty that is nature.  Although the Falls of the Ohio State Park is a rather small and some would add a rather limited place…I can usually find something that seems extraordinary and perfect in its own way.

unknown, immature fungus, Falls of the Ohio, June 2016

Moving to the nearest decaying log I found a small and completely unfamiliar fungus seemingly bubbling up from the wood itself.  All fungi have an important role to play and gives rise to the idea that nature’s creations are rarely superfluous like our own tend to be.  I qualify that with a “rarely” since it seems to Katinka and I that what seems troubling about man is that out of synch quality with nature that we now seem to embody and in fact embrace.  What was nature thinking about when it gave rise to us?  The fungi have a purpose…what is ours, perhaps to usher in the next great period in the history of life?

freshly hatched baby turtle, Falls of the Ohio, June 2016

One more small and seemingly miraculous discovery before calling it quits for the day.  I spotted something moving over the shallow, water-covered fossil beds and a quick flash of the hand produced this freshly hatched terrapin.  Katinka checked it out before releasing back to the same spot where I had found it.  I hope it doesn’t run into any herons or raccoons that would make short work of it.  This was a nice way to end the day!  As my friend and I parted I watched Katinka as she immersed herself in a bed of violet flowering vines.  Until next time from the Falls of the Ohio.

Katinka in the vetch, Falls of the Ohio, June 2016


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First snow at the park, Jan. 12, 2016

The new year is off to an auspicious start.  First we had a bit of minor flooding that rearranged the park and the new and improved Interpretive Center has successfully opened.  I was curious to see what the river had left behind and make my first foray upon the riverbank and fossil beds.  On the day I had prepared to venture forth, well, it snowed the night before and covered many areas with a light dusting of what looks like confectioner’s sugar upon the landscape.

Artist at Exit 0 in winter gear, Jan. 12, 2016, Falls of the Ohio

I come prepared…mostly.  Even covered up, I could feel the wind and the cold which was blowing hard enough that it made my eyes water.  Reaching into my trusty Dutch field jacket, I pull out my vintage “Wind-Dodger” goggles and put them on.  I came across these goggles still new in their 1950’s box at a favorite junk store that is now gone.  They were manufactured by the Kono Manufacturing Co., of Woodside, N.Y.  I think the graphics on the side of the box sold me as to their value.  Printed in red ink it read:

“The scientific construction of the Wind-Dodger fits the natural contours of the features-providing maximum exclusion of wind and rain and all foreign particles in the air.  The elastic tape holds the Wind-Dodger firmly in place under every condition of work and play in all kinds of weather.”  I am a big believer in the value of science.

Further more, printed on the side of the box, was added they were suitable “For Work” and “For Play” and would be useful to railroad men, farmers, mechanics, construction workers, as they engage in sailing, hunting, fishing, flying, skiing, and driving.  It was a natural leap for me to assume that they would also be perfect for a river junk artist like yours truly.  One thing that the Kono Manufacturing Co. forgot to say is that they also steam up inside the goggles and require frequent drying.  Still, they prove to be better than nothing.

The scarf I’m wearing is the oldest piece of clothing I own.  It was given to me by a friend and artistic mentor back in the mid 1970’s and somehow I have held on to it over the years.  I realize that with a lot of the clothing I own…I can be ridiculously sentimental.

Snow on driftwood, Falls of the Ohio, Jan. 12, 2016

The biting wind and cold are a concern, but so is the footing.  The snow covers up a multitude of sins that cannot be seen.  It is still slippery out here and in places the mud hasn’t completely frozen.  Much of what I think I can find out here will remain hidden until warmer weather returns.  But, I’m out here anyway and so I make a quick walk around some familiar places and record what I can with my camera phone.

Bent over willow tree, Falls of the Ohio, Jan. 12, 2016

I discover that a favorite willow tree is now almost completely bent over and resting on the ground.  A huge log that the river deposited on top of this tree has shattered one of its main branches.  I suspect that it is not long for the world.  Spring flooding will repeat this battering process and I assume the tree’s prognosis is not good.  Of course, there are other things that present themselves in this frigid landscape that rode in with the high waters.

Purple plastic rocking toy, Falls of the Ohio, Jan. 12, 2016

My eye is immediately drawn to this purple plastic “dragon” rocking toy.  I find another giant reptile reference on the rocks nearest the river and here it is.

Plastic dinosaur, Falls of the Ohio, Jan. 12, 2016

This plastic sauropod arrived in a fresh water wave.  I believe this species was formerly called “Brontosaurus”, but has been renamed “Apatosaurus” since it was discovered that an earlier scientific find gave the new name priority over the older, more familiar name.  I briefly allow myself to soak in the irony of finding an object made from ancient petroleum that washed up on these even older fossil beds that references this prehistoric animal.  Heady stuff indeed!  Nearby, was my next find that continued this line of thinking.

Plastic, Shoveler duck decoy, Falls of the Ohio, Jan. 12, 2016

And, what happened to some of the dinosaurs?  It is believed that they evolved into birds.  Right on cue, I find this plastic duck decoy!  It represents the male Northern Shoveler, (Anas clypeata).  I have found many other plastic duck decoys out here, but this is the first for this pretty species.  The winter river at the Falls of the Ohio is a good place to see different duck species.  In fact, winter may be the only time of year to see many of them.  The river is steaming because the actual water temperature is warmer that the surrounding air, but the wind is a little fiercer too.  I decide to keep walking and soon come across an old project I did from last year.

Site specific, green plastic bottle assemblage, Falls of the Ohio, Jan. 12, 2016

Site specific, green plastic bottle project, Jan. 12, 2016

snow-covered, green plastic bottles, Jan. 12, 2016

I created this site specific piece using green plastic bottles after last year’s flooding.  It was sited high upon a big mound of driftwood that was too big for this recent minor flooding to affect much.  Originally, I had filled the underside of what I think is the remains of a boat dock with the green bottles.  Time has shifted the bottles to the bottom of the wood form.

snow-covered vines, Falls of the Ohio, Jan. 12, 2016

While the snow is beautiful and transforming as these snow-covered vines can attest to….it is also getting ridiculously cold!  The fingers on my right hand hurt and sting from the cold because I have to take my glove off to operate my camera.  Soon images of a hot cup of coffee began to intrude upon my winter reverie.  It’s time to go home, but there was yet one more very pleasant surprise waiting in store for me.

Styro-Snowman in snow, Falls of the Ohio, jan. 2016

Styro-Snowman, Falls of the Ohio, Jan. 12, 2016

As I was heading back to the parking lot…I came across an old friend whom I was happy to see!  We first met at the Falls on an absurdly warm day in December when the temperatures were in the low 70 degree range!  I had photographed him as he was decorating river trees in advance of the holiday season.  My old Styro-Snowman buddy was just beaming!  At last, he was in his element and I’m so happy that his patience was rewarded.  Not wanting to intrude too much in his special moment, I bid farewell and took this parting shot as I left the river.  Stay warm everybody…from the Falls of the Ohio.

Styro-Snowman in his element, Falls of the Ohio, Jan. 12, 2016


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Map detail of the Falls of the Ohio State Park

Most of the work that I have created at the Falls of the Ohio State Park was made between the two “P’s” on the above map detail.  I lifted this image from a recent brochure about the Ohio River Greenway.  I’m just noticing that the word “park” has an “e” at the end…what’s with that?  Is this a variation of Ye Old Park(e) or a simple misspelling?  Anyway, the green line that separates the dark blue river from the blonde fossil beds is the area I walk.  Most of my river finds and the pieces I make from them occur in this area.  The thicker black line is the old iron railroad bridge that I have  featured so often throughout this blog.  It’s been a while since I posted anything new here.  In fact, since I started the old riverblog, this is the longest I have gone without posting something.  I have had a series of misfortunes that have dented my mojo with the biggest being losing my day job.  I’m not one that easily compartmentalizes my life and occasionally things spill over and affect other areas.  Among the other changes included having to purchase a new computer.  It’s taken a while to get used to doing things in a different way.  I’m still in the process of transferring images and data from the old machine to the new one.  I have too many images that need parking in a “cloud” somewhere.  I debate with myself whether or not I absolutely need all of these pictures?  I do harbor the ambition to produce a book or two about my stories and collections, but I’m sure I have enough material already.  This blog after all, has over 3,ooo images that I have already published.  What it doesn’t have are the first five years or so of this project that are recorded on 4″ x 6″ color prints that were developed at the local drugstore.

At the water's edge, Falls of the Ohio, 2014

Although I haven’t posted much recently, I am still going to the river.  It’s been an unusual year out here and for much of this spring the river has been high.  Summer is now upon us and with that comes the high heat and humidity.  This adventure happened in early June after the willow trees had fully leafed out.  I believe this is also my first post using just images recorded with my cell phone.  I now have a new Nikon my brother gave me as a birthday present.  He is an avid nature photographer living in Florida and had a spare digital SLR he could part with.  I can’t wait to try out the new camera at the river and I hope to do this soon.

Old willow tree at the Falls of the Ohio, 2014

willow tree detail, 2014

I have really fallen in love with this old willow tree.  Last year, I photographed my “La Belle Riviere” piece using this tree as my model.  This tree is a survivor.  It’s managed to go through many floods and while it is severely bent over and its roots are exposed…it keeps on living and adding character to this landscape.  I have noticed that the center of its trunk is starting to hollow out a bit.  I wonder how long this willow has held this ground?  I was musing about these things when I noticed movement in a nearby stand of mixed maple and willow trees.  I picked up my collecting bag and walking stick and quietly moved over to investigate.  I was quite unprepared for what I was about to discover!  Here are a few of the first images I made of my new find.

Great Wolf Spider, Falls of the Ohio, June 2014

Great Wolf Spider, Falls of the Ohio, June 2014

It was another giant spider!  I recalled that it was about this time last year that I encountered the Giant Driftwood Spider which is a completely different animal from the spider I was looking at now.  It’s body was a bit over two feet long and a mottled white in color.  This seems to be another example of what I have come to coin as the “Falls of the Ohio Godzilla Effect”.  Over the years, this particular park has regularly produced freaks of nature.  The most striking of which are the giant insects (and now spiders) that pop up on occasion.  My theory as to why this happens here has everything to do with contemporary pollution and a degraded environment.  For some reason, arthropods in particular are sensitive to these ecological changes which can result in gigantism in these organisms.

Great Wolf Spider, Falls of the Ohio, June 2014

Great Wolf Spider on a stump, Falls of the Ohio, June 2014

I decided to call this the Great Wolf Spider, (Lycosa styreni).  Looking around, I could find no trace of a web and decided that this was a ground hunting species like other members of the family of wolf spiders, Lycosidae.  I imagined that this impressive spider subsisted upon the small mammals that it could capture within the confines of this park.  That would include many rodents including squirrels, rats, groundhogs, and perhaps the occasional beaver.  I also imagine that stray cats and dogs would be on the menu too.  This spider has large pink-colored fangs that gave it a somewhat bucktoothed appearance.  As long I kept my distance and did not make any threatening moves…the spider tolerated me.  I also noticed that this amazing creature also has unusual eyes.

Detail of Great Wolf Spider eyes, June 2014

From what I could discern…this spider sported four eyes total and all in a row.  It had two large and rather mismatched eyes.  One eye possessed a large red iris that leant a diabolical aspect to it.  On either side of these “great eyes” were two smaller, black vestigial eyes.  I wonder if the smaller eyes are used to detect peripheral motion?  It was disconcerting in the least to be the object of attention from these unblinking eyes.  I approached this spider with caution.  Although I was fearful once the spider moved…I, however, was never in any actual danger since the spider never took any aggressive actions toward me.  I was of course satisfied to keep my distance just in case!

Great Wolf Spider waiting in ambush, Falls of the Ohio, June 2014

The Great Wolf Spider seen from behind, June 2014

My last images of this impressive arachnid show it blending into its surrounding environment.  The sun light filtering through the tree canopy produced a dappled light and dark pattern that helped camouflage the spider as it lay in wait of its next meal.  The only bit of movement that could betray it was the slight, subtle twitching produced by its driftwood-like legs.  It was at this moment that I decided to back off and head home.  I don’t know if this spider is a one of a kind creature or whether there are other examples of this species that could populate this park?  I’m inclined to believe that I was observing a single individual.  The question is…how long will it be before our continued abuse of the environment produces monsters we may regret?  Until the next adventure…

At the river's edge, Falls of the Ohio, June 2014


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fallen willow leaves, Nov. 2013

A gorgeous fall day with light that was almost impossibly bright.  It’s autumn at the Falls of the Ohio State Park.  Small groups of migrating birds including various warblers, titmice, and kinglets are moving through the willow tops.  Around each stand of willow trees, the ground is covered by yellowing leaves that have been recently dropped.  There is a fresh, spicy, vegetative fragrance in the air as the more recently shed leaves give up their essence before curling up and turning brown.  Although I have been to the Falls numerous times lately… it’s been a few months since I last visited my old outdoor atelier in the woods.  Today seems as good a time to check out how my site has fared in my absence.

Styrofoam on site, Falls, Nov. 2013

The wooden structure that once surrounded my cached materials remains collapsed.  Some of the larger pieces of Styrofoam I had gathered from the river have been moved nearby.  Stuff has been scattered around, but that is also part of the ongoing history and fate of this material.  I may refer to this junk as “mine”, but I don’t feel a true sense of ownership.  While this material remains out here…it belongs to all of us.  We created, used, and then disposed of it, often carelessly.  I don’t have a lot of time to spend out here on this particular day and so I got busy making “something” from this largess.  I select a few chunks of polystyrene that will become my latest figure and before long I attract an audience of one.

Gray squirrel watching me, Nov. 2013

Gray squirrel watching, Nov. 2013

This Gray Squirrel seemed very intent upon my activities.  Perhaps he thought there might be food involved?  I have to say that I was really amused by this little animal checking me out.  He watched me for a minute or two and then headed deeper into the trees.

Styro-figure with large foam sections, Nov. 2013

The figure I created was not very complex.  It’s head was rather skull-like and so I added a found black and white swimming noodle and a pink nose that was the plastic handle to something to give it more “levity”.  One of the first places I posed my latest was by the larger remains of former projects that were moved away from the other Styrofoam pieces I had assembled.  It doesn’t appear that whomever moved this stuff…did anything else with it.

Fall mushroom, Falls of the Ohio, early November 2013

Coming across a late season mushroom, its whiteness and material consistency reminds me of the polystyrene I salvage to make art with.  Both the mushroom and Styrofoam are made from extracted, spent life.  The difference is the mushroom is alive and one day will also return to the earth to nourish other life.  The Styrofoam on the other hand, is a dead material and probably won’t decompose easily for quite a long period of time.  To move away from thoughts about decay and such…I move into the light and to be near the water.

Styro-figure with black and white swim noodle, early Nov. 2013

Head of Styro-figure, Nov. 2013

It doesn’t take long before I find just the right location that will represent this figure and day to me in photographs.  I rediscover an especially picturesque willow tree whose trunk and roots have been sculpted by time and the river to form a portal or window.  This is where I decided to photograph and leave this figure.

Figure seen through the willow portal, Nov. 2013

Through the willow portal, Falls of the Ohio, Nov. 2013

Because the ground was muddy and soft…it was also easy to stand my figure upright.  My attention wandered back and forth between the possibilities this novel view afforded.  I imagined the figure looking back at me through the portal and other shifting points of view.  Here’s how the figure looked set up on the other side where I once originally stood.

On the other side of the willow portal, Nov. 2013

On the opposite side of the willow portal, Falls of the Ohio, Nov. 2013

The day was getting late and it was time for me to move on.  On the walk back I came across a recently deceased mouse in the willow leaves.  Something about this season brings out the melancholy in me.  All life, no matter how small, strikes me as being worthy of note.  Using my fingers, I raked the willow leaves away from the mouse’s body and created this parting image.  See you next time from the Falls of the Ohio.

Mouse/willow wreath, 2013

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Orangeman, Falls of the Ohio, Sept. 2013

The Orangeman was really excited to see me and asked me breathlessly, “Where have you been lately?”  I filled him in about my busy life and work and then turned the table by asking my friend what all the hubbub was about?  He knows that if I could I would spend most of my time down by the river and probably go completely native and become a river rat in the process.  He also knows that if there is something not to be missed down by the Falls of the Ohio…that I would do my best not to miss it!  The Orangeman explained that he had several things he wanted to show me beginning with a monumental discovery he came across in a discarded plastic five gallon bucket.  This would be Exhibit A.

plants growing in a found bucket, Falls of the Ohio, Sept. 2013

The slightly sun-faded blue bucket or pail was sitting on an angle in the sand…just as the river had left it.  River mud and dirt more than filled the bucket up passed the midway point.  Orangeman walked me over to the bucket and said “Peek inside and tell me what you see.”  I did as he asked and more than a little perplexed I replied…”Well, I see a few small plants and vines growing in the dirt.”  Orangeman groaned…”That part is obvious, however, the deeper meaning lies in how resilient life is and even within the confines of a plastic bucket…life wants to grow and express itself.”  I had to admit that the Orangeman was making an interesting point here.  At home, I keep flowers and plants in flower pots and other containers made for the purpose and get pleasure from seeing them thrive and be beautiful.  What I hadn’t considered was the idea that any container also acts as a barrier.  Life wants to join with life and be a part of the interconnected whole.  The roots of these bucket plants were only going to be able to spread so far.  Still, as the Orangeman explained…”The will to live and grow is strong even if there are limitations present.  There was more to see and the Orangeman walked me over to Exhibit B.

plant life growing in a shattered plastic drum, Falls of the Ohio, Sept. 2013

I must admit that I was impressed by the second example that my friend the Orangeman showed me.  In a shattered plastic drum, various grasses and so-called weeds were sprouting through a large hole in the top of the container.  Years ago, dirt and sand filled the barrel through the actions of river water and wind rendering it too heavy to pick up and move.  Different plant seeds found their way into the barrel and discovering this small niche…set out to colonize and thrive as best they could.  Perhaps these grasses will find enough of what they need to move through their life cycle and produce seed for another generation?  Or perhaps they won’t due to all kinds of other variables, but the point remains that life will take that chance.

Orangeman speaks, Sept. 2013

I hadn’t seen the Orangeman in such a didactic mood before and I was impressed with his earnestness.  Previously, he had struck me as a happy-go-lucky guy and not especially bothered by all the serious stuff in the world.  I certainly was seeing a different side of my friend that I hadn’t seen before.  We walked and talked together and before long reached the last sight he wanted me to see.  We might as well designate this as Exhibit C of the day.

Orangeman and willow/tire tree, late Aug. 2013, Falls of the Ohio

The Orangeman stopped next to an old discarded tire and with a flourish of his arms and hands and said, “Here it is!”  The “it” part was a small willow tree that was growing through the center of the tire.  I didn’t tell my friend this but, I already knew about this particular tree and another one I had discovered very similar to it in the western section of the Falls of the Ohio State Park.  I had even photographed this very tree on several occasions.  This is how it looked in late spring.

willow tree growing through a tire

We had a relatively cool spring and it seemed to my eye that the plants at the Falls got off to a slow start.  The willow-in-the-tire took its time ‘leafing out”, but eventually it did.  Now I must say that a tree growing through the middle of a tire is a remarkable thing, however, there is more to admire about this particular tree.  The Orangeman invited me to make a closer inspection.

willow growing through holes in a metal wheel, Sept. 2013

Amazingly, this willow tree was growing through the holes in the metal wheel that were still in the tire!  The tiny, wispy seeds from a willow tree must have passed through one of the holes and taken root in the mud and soil beneath the tire.  Hungry and thirsty for light, the various branches moved through the holes.  I told the Orangeman that this was indeed an amazing example of life making do in very unpromising circumstances.

willow/tire tree, June 2013

I’m going to monitor this tree with the Orangeman’s help because I’m curious to see if it can continue to thrive and grow.  Will it eventually lift the tire into the air like some perverse hula-hoop as the trunk thickens and becomes more pronounced?  Or, will the holes in the metal prove too restrictive and choke the life out these branches?  Or, will something else out of the blue change the situation?  The river usually gets the last word and flooding could easily send a flotilla of battering logs the willow tree’s way.  The Orangeman and I parted company, but not before I thanked him for his time.  Indeed, he had given me much to mull over.  The idea that life is very resilient and will find a way to endure was comforting to me…especially as the physical world continues to change around us.

plastic pine growing out of a stump, Sept. 2013

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Into the light, May 2013

Styrofigure in early May, 2013

Stepping away from the place where it was constructed revealed a whole new world for the Polystyrene Person to explore.  The sun was shining and birds were singing and the Falls of the Ohio were once again turning green with emerging tree leaves.  Driftwood was everywhere along the river and there were plenty of micro-environments to experience.

Polystyrene Person dancing in inner tube, May 2013

Being made of trash caused the Polystyrene Person to be less judgmental of the discarded man-made items it came across.  An old inner tube became a tiny arena perfect for dancing.

figure with plastic cable in the trees, May 2013

alternate view of figure with plastic cable in the trees, May 2013

A tough plastic cable captured by the willow branches during the last bit of flooding became another object of interest.  The Polystyrene Person admired the graceful  arcs and how the cable defined this bit of space.  The white figure played with the cable by walking around and stepping through the loops.  There was still more stuff snagged in other trees.

barge cable and figure, May 2013

Discovering a fraying barge cable tangled in the willow branches and dragging on the ground gave the new figure an odd mental image.  What if this was how the sky was tethered to the earth?  What would happen if this cable broke?  Would the blue sky with its flimsy clouds just drift off into space?  Remembering that this was simply a rope caught in a tree brought the smile back to the figure’s face.

Polystyrene Person among willow roots, May 2013

Standing among the roots of a fantastic willow tree, the Polystyrene Person marveled at how the tree maintained its grip on the earth.  Beneath the larger roots was a dense mat of very fine rootlets that held the soil together.

Polystyrene figure standing in water, May 2013

figure among water and willow roots, May 2013

The figure moved to the river’s edge and couldn’t wait to experience water.  It was such an entirely different sensation than standing on solid ground.  Cold water splashed up onto the Polystyrene Person’s face and being wet wasn’t the most pleasant feeling.  The literal tug of the river caused the figure to scramble up on the roots of a nearby willow to keep from being drawn further into the liquid.  Instinctively, the figure realized that it would be lost if the river was allowed to have too tight a grip.  Pulling the Polystyrene Person  back upon the shore, I explained it was time for me to go home.  I offered two choices to my creation.  It could stay at the river and face an uncertain but potentially exciting future where it more than likely would be destroyed by either nature or the hand of man.  Or, it could go home with me and see a different part of the world.  Perhaps because the river was a little scary, the Polystyrene Person opted to go home with me.

The Polystyrene Person opening my car door, May 2013

Because my hands were full…the figure opened my car door for me.  It’s really a very polite and innocent being.  During the short ride from the river to my house…I asked the Polystyrene Person what it would like to do?  The figure replied that it would like to continue to be out in nature and so I found the perfect place in my yard for it.  Happily, my latest creation takes pride in watching over my spring plants as they reveal themselves during the new season.

Polystyrene Person among the Hostas, May 2013

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The huge mound of recently deposited driftwood under the railroad bridge is both an obstacle and a magnet.  It’s not easy to walk over and it helps to have a good walking stick to help maintain your balance.  The rewards for persevering are a nice elevated view of the Louisville skyline and the potential for finding interesting junk intermingled with the wood.

Once you move over or around this mound you enter the margins of the willow forest and you can see what the full force of the river can do to a landscape.  These black willows are tenacious and their roots hold on.  Here’s another image of a remarkable willow tree and its root mass.  This one wears a trophy from the flood like a victory pennant.

From all the cars in the parking lot, I’m guessing the fishing must be pretty good today.  I stepped by some earlier evidence in the form of this longnose gar skull.  I think this one was caught by rod and reel.  But, I have seen the remains of hundreds of these fish before stranded and killed by a retreating river.  Longnose gars are routinely in the 3 to 4 feet range in length.  The jaws are lined with small needle-like teeth for catching and holding on to smaller fish.  The gar is a surface fish and floats in on its quarry like a piece of driftwood very stealthily before surprising it with a quick flash of the jaws.

Moving to the river, I decided to watch what the fishermen were doing and catching.  In about twenty minutes, I watched two large catfish being landed.  Here are two guys that have this down.  Using multiple poles, they cast both worms and cut shad into the swiftly moving waters.  Snags and lost tackle are common since this part of the river is also full of rocks and boulders.

I was inspired by the scene and left them this contour drawing in the sand before moving on.

Earlier I had seen a flock of grackles by the water flowing under the bridge.  They were catching some food item here that I wasn’t able to figure out what it was…perhaps dead minnows?

The grackles were working the river just like the fishermen were.  I left them a drawing in the sand as well made with the tip of my walking stick.  The sand today is moist and firm which holds a fine line better than usual.

Of course, while I’m walking along I’m filling my collecting bag with the odds and ends that make up the rest of this riverblog.  Some of it is just stuff that I will attempt to make art with and the rest are souvenirs of our material culture.  Once the bag was full, I turned and headed up the bank to get under some trees and out of the sun.  I then made this sand butterfly to mark the spot where I turned for the willows.

I have set up a new outdoor studio near the margins of the driftwood mound.  Instead of a plank to sit on, I’m using this large wooden bridge or railroad tie.  I haven’t found the large sections of Styrofoam that mark last season, but what I can find I’ve gathered at this spot.  I did make a figure on this day which extended this adventure, but I will wait until next time before unveiling it to you.  Thanks for tagging along…you have been good company!

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June began all bare bones in the aftermath of our minor flooding and now at month’s end it passes overgrown with vines.  Near the tainter gates, a massive raft of driftwood lies intertwined with the landscape.  We haven’t seen such a wooden mound in many years.  June had some odd and compelling images and here are a few more before we turn the page.

The willow trees are the heroes here tenaciously clinging to the sand and clay.  This taunts the Ohio River which sends high water and a battering ram of floating logs their way every once in a while.

Willow wood is flexible and the sustained high water’s flow is echoed in the shape of these trees.  I imagine the river as an artist shaping its garden at the Falls of the Ohio.  There’s a bit of that bonsai- look if you can get past the larger scale.

The willows’ branches do their part in snagging some of the flotsam and jetsam floating loosely in the retreating waters.  Branches become decorated with plastic bags, fraying barge cables, driftwood, the occasional dead deer, refrigerators, fishing line, and whatever is present in the Ohio River.

Here plastic sheeting has been caught and stretched some length across these trees.  It looked like something some installation artist might attempt.  I also came across a “nylon crinoid”…in actuality, an unraveling barge cable that made me think of the extinct sea lilies of ancient oceans and in fossils which are pages in the book of life.

Walking across the sand I came across this unusual view which gave me the idea for the title of this post.  Very nonchalantly, this mostly destroyed hippopotamus was standing its ground.  I’ve read somewhere in a book that the name “hippopotamus” means “river horse” in some African language?

Another view, but this one from the top.

I made another Styrofoam figure on this day.  I imagine this as being a figure of some exotic Spanish dancer with fancy combs in her hair.  I won’t say this is the best figure I’ve ever made, but it’s also not the worst.  It just happens to be how things turned out when I picked this group of materials and objects to make something with at that particular moment.

Now for a full length view.  That pink radiating thing is made of plastic and helps to add other visual interest.

Before leaving for home on this day.  I watched a couple of guys using a throw net to catch shad to use for fishing bait.  I couldn’t help but see them in the context of the Ohio River which was so many more feet above their heads.  Here we are at the bottom of the valley.

Since I’ve used the book metaphor a few times in this post…it’s fitting that I end with this picture taken on this day.  It’s really a small plastic photo album whose transparent sleeves were full of coal gravel and water.  Until next time…


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