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wooden cable spool and willow tree, Falls of the Ohio, March 22, 2014

It’s a sunny Saturday and warm for this time of year.  One of those days I can’t wait to get to the river.  Spring is still slow in developing, but it can’t be much longer now.  I spent a good part of the day just filling up my canvas collecting bag with all types of odds and ends both man-made and natural that have washed up on these fabled shores.  I’m finding so much stuff that for practical reasons I decide to see if I can find a spot up the bank and under the willows that might make a good location for a temporary outdoor art studio.  I can offload some of my larder for future use while continuing to walk the edge of the river.  I’m enjoying the sunshine and taking deep breaths of the fresh air.

U.F.O. studio...Unidentified Floating Object studio, March 2014

U.F.O. studio, Falls of the Ohio, March 2014

I chose a spot bordered by a large log that keeps most of the driftwood at bay and what I call the U.F.O. or Unidentified Floating Object which is circular metal platform that was once painted white with blue trim.  It’s starting to show some rust now.  This large object washed over the dam during a high water moment three or four years a go.  Since then it’s changed positions with the rising and falling river levels and was once completely buried under driftwood.  The U.F.O. is a platform that normally would be anchored out on  the river.  Barges and other water craft can tie on to it if necessary.  Some how this one got loose and relocated to the park.  When I first discovered it here I also imagined that it was a giant bathtub plug that helped keep the water in the river.   I was lucky that I had the same outdoor studio for many years before this winter’s high water rearranged the landscape again and floated all my collected materials away.  I spent a few hours walking the river collecting Styrofoam and sticks and can’t wait to make something new.

Mega Spool figure in progress, March 2014

Completed figure at the U.F.O. studio, March 2014

The first figure I make here is from the largest chunks of polystyrene I had found on this excursion.  I used two fishing floats (one larger than the other for expressive effect) for the eyes.  The nose is a plastic piece from a fooseball table.  The mouth is a red reflector.  My figure has ears, arms, and legs that are pieces of driftwood.  The figure has a benevolent feeling to it and I can’t wait to photograph it by the river.  I did run into a young sculptor attending the Kentucky School of Art who was collecting driftwood for her own project.  Her name is Jenn and she approached me asking if I was the person with the show at the Carnegie Center for Art and History?  She and her classmates had seen the exhibition.  Jenn is building an installation at the school and promised to let me know when she completed it.  It will be fun to see art made by someone else from materials collected within the park.

Large Styro-figure on a tiny willow island, March 2014

Styro-figure on tiny willow island, Falls of the Ohio, March 2014

When I first meet the river, I spend a little time looking around and scouting out potential locations to create the photographs that will represent this day in my project.  I decide that I like this tiny “willow island” which consists of clay and sand bound together by the living roots of this tree.  Waves and water wash all around it and at times it does look like an island.  As the river recedes to its normal pool, this tree will be high and dry at last.  It’s amazing what it takes to keep this tree in place with such a dynamic river always testing its resolve to survive.  During the highest river levels, this tree would be completely submerged underwater.  Many of the willows along this stretch of the river bear scars and wounds from large logs battering them, breaking branches, and grinding bark away.  I pose the figure on the root mass and move to the next shot which isn’t too far away.

Styro-figure and large, wooden cable spool, March 2014

Styro-figure and wireline spool, Falls of the Ohio, March 2014

Near tiny willow island is a large wooden “spool” for wire line or cable.  I’m amazed by this object’s heavy-duty construction.  This spool floated into here and is now partially sunk into the sand.  Small waves lap the shoreline and you can also see black coal dust swirling around the water’s edge.  Later when I see my pictures I’m struck by how similar this spool is to the circular platform that now forms part of my latest outdoor studio.  This new area to cache my materials is very visible and hence ultra public, however, if we have heavy spring rains…it’s very possible that all this will be washed away and rearranged again.  I often wonder what might go through people’s minds when they stumble upon my outdoor atelier?  It’s an odd archeological site of Styrofoam boulders, small piles of plastic toys, and a tangle of found roots and driftwood.  All the stuff you need to make an absurd figure!  I left my latest Styro-creation next to the spool.  I will go a head and tell you…I returned a week later and all I could find of him was his body and legs.  There must be headhunters out here?  I searched the area, but found no further trace of my figure.  As with most of my Falls projects, they continue to “exist” as images.  The exhibition that Michael Wimmer and I are participating in at the Carnegie Center of Art and History is entering its last week.  I’m so appreciative of the positive response I’ve received for my work.  The show will end with a tea and cookies closing.  If you are in the area, please stop by.

Final shot from the big spool and tiny willow island, March 2014, Falls of the Ohio

Young groundhog, March 15, 2014

Here’s an adventure from March 15 which was a beautiful Saturday in the Kentuckiana area with temperatures in the low 70′s!  I spent so much time at the Falls of the Ohio on this day that I even managed a very slight sunburn.  Like much of the country (particularly east of the Mississippi River) we are so ready for winter to be over.  This particular day turned out to be a tease, because less than 24 hours later, temperatures plummeted and we had an accumulation of snow!  Most of the people I know are tired of their winter wardrobes, which also means triple the laundry load.  We are ready for the greening and warming of the earth.  On this particular foray to the river, I was on the look out for any signs of spring.  I came across this young groundhog basking in the sun near his hole.  He turned out not to be very social.

young groundhog at the Falls of the Ohio, March 15, 2014

He need not worry about me.  I wasn’t going to blame him for the extra long winter.  Here’s the back story.  February 2 is Groundhog’s Day and the myth goes if the “official” groundhog that resides in the small town of Punxsutawney,  Pennsylvania sees his shadow on this particular day…winter will be extended another six weeks.  Well this year, that captive groundhog which was yanked from his burrow by human hands did see his shadow and surprise…spring was predicted to be late in coming.  I did a little back checking on the Groundhog’s Day tradition and here’s what I found from the official website.  The idea is based on the Candlemas Day observance that Pennsylvania’s early German settlers brought with them in the 19th century.  This passage was quoted as the rationale for Groundhog’s Day…”For as the sun shines on Candlemas day, so far will the snow swirl in May.”  I’m not sure what the source for this quote is…but snow in May?  What is this some kind of ice age legacy handed over through deep time and what’s with the groundhog? The official Groundhog’s Day observance was established in 1887 and groundhogs and woodchucks the country over have been stigmatized by it.  This particular groundhog was having nothing to do with people and retreated down his burrow.

Cottonwood tree at the Falls of the Ohio, March 2014

The "Hobo Hut", March 2014

On this trip to the Falls…I visited the far western section of the park and wanted to see if I could find any signs of spring there.  I did find lots of river-carried junk, but will save some of that for another time.  I did stop by my favorite cottonwood tree that has been for many years, a popular place to hang out.  I saw a sign saying that it is now being called the “Hobo Hut”.  I came across a nice group of young people with theater and writing backgrounds who were going to party there.  This seemed to me to be as good a sign of spring as anything that can be learned from a large rodent.  After exchanging pleasantries for a few minutes I moved on.  Before long, I ran into this character and he educated me about spring.

The Harbinger, Falls of the Ohio, March 22, 2014

This is the Harbinger of Spring and I chanced to come across him on my walk.  He told me he had “heard” my thoughts and musing about spring and decided to introduce himself to me.  It was a warm day and once again I was out here without drinking water and if this were indeed a hallucination…at least it was a friendly and pleasant one.  He had a reassuring smile on his face to go along with the glowing yellow flower on his chest and shock of leaves sprouting from his head.  I decided to just go with whatever would happen next and here is that story.

The Harbinger of Spring arrives at the Falls, March 22, 2014

Contrary to popular belief, the official arrival of spring has nothing to do with groundhogs or even the vernal equinox.  Spring arrived by boat to the Falls of the Ohio and I just happened to stumble across him as he prepared to do his work.  The Harbinger allowed me to tag along to see the preparations and ground work needed for winter to transition to spring.

The Harbinger's shadow, March 2014

According to the Harbinger, the first thing that needs to happen is an increase in the intensity and duration of sun light.  While I stood quietly nearby, the Harbinger willed the sun into the correct position in the sky.  This was manifested by my magic friend’s ever lengthening shadow and the warmth I felt on the back of my neck.  Not much can occur if the sun doesn’t cooperate.

The Harbinger wills algae to life, March 2014

The Harbinger wills algae to life, March 2014

The next step is to awaken the plants and begin the “greening” process.  I watched the Harbinger sit on a dormant clump of loosestrife and open his arms.  I heard a barely audible melody that I could not identify and heard it more through my mind than my ears.  According to the Harbinger, the “greening” begins by warming up the simplest plants that are connected to the water.  In this case, mats of algae were turning bright green before my eyes.

The Harbinger with a clump of grass, March 2014

The land plants came next.  I observed the Harbinger walking over to a clump of grass and green blades began to grow out of the gravel.  This process would continue through all the flowers, shrubs, bushes, and would culminate with the appearance of the first tree leaves.  The familiar animals would then return.  My friend told me that this process took great effort and patience and could not be accomplished in a single day.  For now…he was through, but over the next week or so he promised dramatic results.  I parted with the Harbinger as he settled into a cavity formed in a living tree.  For now, the sun tiring of its efforts was setting and evening was fast approaching. The Harbinger would spend the night here and resume his work when he felt the conditions were right to do so.  I had one more surprise coming.  As I turned and walked away…a red flower appeared at the Harbinger’s hole and the sun began to sink in the west.  See you next time from a greening Falls of the Ohio.

The Harbinger waves good by, March 2014

The Harbinger by his tree, March 2014

River Roller

The Falls of the Ohio beneath the railroad bridge, March 5, 2014

The Ohio River water level has been bouncing up and down these last few weeks.  On this excursion, I caught up with it while the river was receding.  The shoreline that I am accustomed to seeing is still underwater, however, if you walk carefully between the wet and the dry, there are areas you can explore.  I brought a fairly empty canvas collecting bag along in anticipation of river treasure.  After a couple of hours, I took a break and dumped the bag out and here is what caught my eye.

Collecting bag contents, early March 2014

Literally, a mixed bag of junk including many familiar items that I have long-standing collections formed.  The Styrofoam is for a small sculpture I have in mind.  The flip-flop sandals, well…I have been collecting them for a while and I have a vague notion of an artwork that I want to make with them.  I have ideas, but I’m waiting for the river muse to send me more signals.  The same holds true for the small, plastic wheels.  I have about two hundred of them stacked in a pile on my basement floor.  I thought I could finish the wheel piece for the exhibition at the Carnegie, but it remains unresolved.  I have also gathered several found combs and the variety of forms a simple object can take always interests me.  Recently, I gave my comb collection to my friend Jeff for his birthday.  He is probably one of the few people I know who would like receiving such a gift.  Jeff was once a middle school art teacher and he keeps a cigar box filled with the smallest pencils in the world.  Each pencil had been sharpened to within an inch of its existence by his former students.  Here’s an example of an interesting comb followed by other images of objects found on this day.

comb from a vacuum cleaner, March 2014

Later, it was determined that this combination comb and brush is from some kind of vacuum cleaner.  Now whenever I go out the river, my friend asks me if I have any other combs for his collection.

plastic corn on the cob, March 2014

My Fake Food Collection keeps expanding.  I found several new pieces on this excursion with this one being the most memorable.  Plastic corn on the cob with a little pat of butter melting into the kernels.  In the background, you can see how much junk is intermixed with the wood debris.

hand-formed duct tape ball, March 2014

Here’s the latest addition to my hand-formed ball collection.  This one is made from duct tape.

pink plastic octopus sand mold, March 2014

I’m starting to develop a large collection of sand toys of all kinds.  Here’s a pink plastic octopus sand mold.  I think I will photograph this collection soon.

two found plastic dinosaur toys, March 2014

I found two plastic dinosaur toys on this trip.  I believe these are intended to be the same species…Dimetrodon which was an early reptile with mammal-like characteristics.  Dimetrodon hails from North America and the early Permian period.  When the Falls of the Ohio was an active marine ecosystem (about 370 million years a go)…Dimetrodon would still be about another 200 million years into the future.  The vast stretches of time and the ebb and flow of life forms is mind-boggling.  I am in the here and now and what I have noticed on this trip to the river is how few other life forms I’ve seen.  The spring migration of neotropical birds is not too far off and I always have my eyes open for early arrivals.  Today…I get lucky.

detail, head of the River Roller, March 15, 2014

The River Roller, March 2014

I was poking around the shifting shoreline when I spotted this heavy bodied bird in a willow tree.  With its blue head, yellow ocher body, and light green tail…I knew I was looking at my first River Roller.  Rollers are a family of old world birds and this is the only representative on this continent.  This species has a rather large and heavy bill that serves it well when it feeds on the nuts of hardwood trees.  At the Falls of the Ohio, you can always find walnuts, hickory nuts, and acorns.  I believe that this was what this bird was doing…looking for food.

River Roller at the Falls of the Ohio, March 2014

I think this is a female roller because the colors are not as bright as the pictures I’ve seen of the males.  In size, this bird is comparable to the American Robin.  I observed this bird checking out the holes and hollows in the willow trees which is pre-nesting behavior.  The females are the ones that choose which sites are suitable to raise their chicks.  This bird will eventually move on to the northern portions of the Ohio River Valley.  The River Roller has never been documented nesting in this park.

River Roller among the willow rootlets, March 2014

River Roller investigating willow roots, March 2014

The River Roller hung around for about five minutes before flying off for parts unknown.  During the time I watched it, the roller demonstrated a strong curiosity for the environment at the river’s edge.  It seemed especially interested in the willow trees themselves.

The River Roller at the Falls of the Ohio, March 2014

I wish this bird well and hope it reaches its intended destination.  I feel this way about every bird that migrates through this area.  After seeing this once in a life-time rarity I felt that my day like my collecting bag was full and it was time to go home.  That wraps it up for another river adventure.  See you next time.

View at the Falls of the Ohio, March 2014

 

Skyliner

Skyliner, Falls, late Feb. 2014

We are all getting antsy for spring to arrive…winter has been hanging on and on for dear life.  It’s been hard to access the river because the water level has been high.  Most of the places I visit at the Falls of the Ohio State Park are currently under muddy water.  We have had just a handful of nicer, warmer days, but that has accelerated the melting of the snow and ice throughout the more than 800 hundred mile long Ohio River Valley.  I don’t mind the cold so much, but it’s harder to do what I like to do on a swollen waterway.  Here’s how one of my spots under the railroad bridge looked during my last visit.

muddy, high water at the Falls of the Ohio, Feb. 2014

Not a pretty picture seeing a river as brown as gravy.  Lots of logs and wood floating on top and when you look more closely…there is also plenty of plastic and polystyrene in the mix too.  Another view this time with me standing on the wall that separates one side of the river from the other.

high river at the Falls, Feb. 2014

All those white spots are pieces of Styrofoam.  With my usual haunts inaccessible I moved further east…just outside the park’s entrance.  There has been a lot of activity in this area that has caught my notice.

Skyliner on the riverbank, Feb. 2014

There has been a campaign on the Indiana side to make the river more accessible particularly in areas that afford a good view of Louisville’s skyline.  To do this the vegetation has been bulldozed away.  I came across an elderly person walking her dog and she said to me quite unsolicited..”Bout time they did something to clean up this mess!” as she pointed a thin finger in the general direction of the river.  In this case, one person’s mess is another creature’s habitat.  The true “mess” comes from all the plastic bottles and chunks of man-made junk that make it into the water.  No amount of removing trees and creating views will help with this and it seems what we prefer looking at is a very selective process.  I brought my collecting bag along.  I’m hoping to pick up materials to use in an upcoming art workshop at the Carnegie Center for Art and History, but I find a few other interesting items as well and photograph them upon discovery.

Taco Bell cat toy, Feb. 2014

I came across this smiling yellow cat toy that I think came from a fast food establishment.

plastic containers for paint, Feb. 2014

Finding these paint containers made me realize how hungry I’ve become for color.  I’m looking forward to the world turning green again with color notes supplied by wild flowers.

bright orange plastic paratrooper, Feb. 2014

This plastic man with his bright, radioactive orange color was hard to miss.  He was a skydiver or paratrooper in a former life and probably fell to earth using a plastic parachute.

Skyliner with the City of Louisville behind him, Falls of the Ohio, Feb. 2014

There were other signs from life that the season’s are about to change over.  I’m ever alert to what the birds are doing.  I spotted my first Red-winged Blackbirds of the year and they are among the first migratory species to arrive.  Male Northern Cardinals are singing their courtship songs and scouting out the best spots to build a nest.  On the river, however, I spied what I consider a bird sign of winter.  A nice sized flock of Lesser Scaup ducks were mostly sleeping and relaxing on the surface of the water.  In this area, it seems we see more duck varieties in late fall and early winter. Here’s a peek at the scaups.

White-winged Scoters, Falls of the Ohio, Late Feb. 2014

Before I move away from the ducks…I found one other to add to my growing collection.  This is a Mallard decoy made from plastic.  Not too long a go, I found another plastic decoy representing the Pintail Duck.

found plastic Mallard duck decoy, Falls, Feb. 2014

One other bird note…I heard them before I could see them, but I knew what they were instantly.  The familiar calls of migrating Sandhill Cranes winging their way back north.  Like geese, they fly in V-shaped formations to avoid the air turbulence created by other cranes flapping their wings.  These birds are high flyers and this was the best I could do in taking their picture with the camera I have.

high flying Sandhill Cranes, Feb. 2014

As February becomes March…the forecast for the Kentuckiana area is calling for freezing rain and snow.  It appears that Old Man Winter will be hanging out for another week.  Spring will eventually get here and already you can tell that it stays light outside longer with each passing day.   I am, however, really eager to see how the river has rearranged this familiar landscape.

Skyliner on the Ohio River's edge, Feb. 2014

Once the Ohio River recedes there will be a new landscape to explore and who knows what I will find?  I like that each year is different from the last.  Well this post is drawing to a close.  Thanks for visiting and see you soon…from the skyline of Louisville and the Falls of the Ohio.

Looking toward the skyline of Louisville, Late Feb. 2014

artistatexit0:

plastic pine growing out of a stump, Sept. 2013I consider this a great honor that fellow blogger Isaac Yuen focused one of his posts around my art projects from the past year and the tales I’ve created around them. For several years now, I have enjoyed Isaac’s award winning blog Ecostories. He has made me a believer in the power of the spoken and written word to convey universal truths particularly when they speak about our evolving relationship with nature. Stories are important and everyone has a story to tell. Isaac has a great way of taking on complex narratives and making them understandable. I encourage you to check out his thoughtful, positive, and beautifully written blog.

Originally posted on Ekostories:

I t wasn’t my intention to continue with the art theme. But as the rule of three calls and  I learn more about writing and blogging, I found myself more inclined to follow intuition than push through to produce work that doesn’t feel right. Perhaps it was just easier to showcase other people’s incredible work instead of doing research for a long piece. Given the choice between being attuned and growing lazy, I’m sticking with the former interpretation.

I’ve been a fan of Albertus Gorman’s work over at The Artist at Exit 0 Riverblog ever since I began blogging in 2012. For the better part of the last decade, Gorman has used materials washed up at Ohio State Park to create sculptures and craft stories that explore the impacts we have on the places we inhabit. Some of his work from Ohio Falls is now featured in The Potential in…

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Carnegie Center for Art and History banner, Feb. 2014

Our first gallery talk about the”Potential in Everything” exhibition happened yesterday.  Through a light dusting of falling snow, about 20 people braved the elements to hear R. Michael Wimmer and myself talk about our respective projects.  I was delighted by the turnout and had a great time too.  I am glad to have had this gallery opportunity because the river has been so high of late that getting to my usual spots at the Falls of the Ohio has been a challenge.  Perhaps this is nature’s way of redirecting me?

R. Michael Wimmer talks about one of his works, Feb. 2014

Folks in attendance for the artists' talk, Feb. 2014

It was a nice mixed ages group and a few local artists attended as well.  People were very respectful and asked some interesting questions.  Michael and I have very different processes, but the end results involve using something that has already functioned in the world and making something new from them.  For me, that shift took many years of transition because my formal artistic training involved “staring down”  a blank piece of paper or canvas and making something happen in a more traditional way.  Although my old drawing professor might disagree with me about this…so much of the work I now do comes out of the conceptual concerns I first encountered through drawing.

Flat-faced Cat with Bird and homemade ball collection, Feb. 2014

When I get the chance to talk about art and creativity in general, I like to mention how important it is for all of us to cultivate that impulse to turn the ordinary into the extraordinary.  Sadly, I hear far too often from too many people how they aren’t artistic or have any business being involved with creative acts and I know this to be untrue.  I feel that part of my role is to get folks to expand their definitions of what is creative or aesthetically minded.  Creativity is a precious, universal resource and available in everyone and may represent much of our hopes for a better future.  We need to get people turned on to their own potentials instead of emphasizing the consumer in them.  Too help illustrate this I brought my Homemade Ball Collection with me and placed it upon the pedestal that my “Flat-faced Cat with Bird” is sitting on.  I found all these “balls” at the Falls and they are made from electrical tape, duct tape, cellophane tape, and aluminum foil.  Rolling these waste materials into balls is not necessary for their disposal, however, I was struck by the artistic impulse I perceived in them by their anonymous makers to shape and form.  There is obvious care in their making and rolling something into a cohesive ball has a satisfying side to it.  After this sidebar and when the talk ended, I went outside to see how my “other” ball piece in the tulip poplar in front of the center was doing?

detail, La Belle Riviere in the Carnegie's tree, Feb. 2014

detail of La Belle Riviere in tree, Feb. 2014

La Belle Riviere in tulip poplar tree, Carnegie Center, 2014_1_1

“La Belle Riviere” seemed to be in good shape.  I was curious to see if any ice would be decorating it, but not this time.  Ice can contribute a lot of weight which might take my nylon line beyond its limits.  I look forward to spring’s arrival and how the appearance of this piece will change as the tree transforms.  New Albany, Indiana is just a few miles downriver from Louisville.  The town has an extensive riverfront and I took the opportunity to check it out in greater detail.

Concert, special events shell, New Albany, IN, Feb. 2014

There is a large earthen berm that protects the New Albany from the adjacent Ohio River.  A key feature of their riverfront is this structure used for concerts and special events.

Sherman Minton Bridge at New Albany, Indiana, Feb. 2014

One way to reach New Albany from Louisville is to cross the river over the Sherman Minton Bridge.  Bridges in our area are a usual and often contentious topic of conversation.  This one was closed down recently for much-needed repairs, but caused a headache for commuters while it was being fixed.  Bridges are vital to river towns and a new one is currently being constructed near Louisville’s downtown. This new bridge was years in the planning and much of the controversy surrounding it involved where exactly would it cross the river and how would it tie into the existing interstate highway systems.  The Ohio River has been high due to snow and rain in the upper part of the valley, but I walked down to the river’s edge and guess what I found?

Styrofoam and ice, Feb. 2014

Styrofoam in the river at New Albany, Feb. 2014

Yes, it’s river polished Styrofoam.  There’s goes my main art material floating towards the Gulf of Mexico.  There are a couple other events associated with “The Potential of Everything” exhibit including a family workshop I will be leading on March 1.  I have enough collected sticks and polystyrene that it will be fun making things with other people.  I will also be giving a solo gallery talk on March 4.  Michael will be doing a studio talk and welcoming people to visit his place on March 25.  And, there will be a closing tea and cookies event at the Carnegie on the exhibit’s last day on April 5.  So, if you are in the area and haven’t seen the show…there are other opportunities coming hopefully in beautiful weather! If you want to see my found homemade balls in more detail, I did a previous post about it entitled “The Need to Form:  Handmade Balls from the Falls of the Ohio” and can be found in this blog’s search feature.  Speaking of balls, I did find one other item by the river in New Albany and I’ll end this post with it.  Stay warm out there!

softball core and snow at the river, Feb. 2014

The Ice Tourist

willow trees and ice, Jan. 2014

Polar vortex…that’s the new buzz words for us this winter.  The Kentuckiana area has tasted this Arctic gift twice so far and we haven’t had a winter this cold in many years.  It manifests with the temperature bottoming out around 0 degrees Fahrenheit…colder still with the wind chill.  Snow and ice also accompany this blast of icy weather.  Once under the spell of the polar vortex…all one can do is ride it out.  It’s going to be bone-chilling cold for several days in a row.  Even if you know it’s going to happen, you really don’t feel prepared for it.  People tape plastic over their windows to trap heat and foil wind.  Shoppers rush out to purchase bread and milk.  Folks let the faucets drip throughout the day and night to prevent freezing and bursting water pipes.  Still, the plumbers are busy.  Extra layers of clothes are needed however,  you still feel cold around the edges.  If there is a weakness in a machine…the extreme cold will find it and this happened to my trusty rivermobile.  School may be out, but otherwise it’s pretty much business as usual.

ice formations, Falls of the Ohio State Park, Jan. 2014

The part about “business as usual” also strikes me as being a bit sad.  I am of the opinion that the reason the Earth has winter is to slow everything down and that’s vitally necessary.  It’s meant to be reflective and allows a moment for a deep breath before moving on again.  We all have more than enough pushing us to accomplish tasks at increasing breakneck speed.  The polar vortex challenges us to slow down if we can.

Ice formations, Falls of the Ohio, Jan. 2014

Ice formations on willow trees, Falls of the Ohio, Jan. 2014

In an effort to foster personal wonder for the world, I made it out to the Falls of the Ohio on a day that wouldn’t risk frost bite.  Over the years, I have prized coming out here on cold winter days especially if it meant seeing different ice formations.   There are ice ribbons, sausage-shaped icicles, frozen homemade candles, and just plain ice blobs on display.  I love the variety of forms and the play of light through the magic of solid water.  The most interesting ice formations are near the water’s edge where the willow trees catch the rising steam off of the river.  The water is warmer than the surrounding air temperatures and this “fog” helps coat the roots and branches with glassy layers of ice.  I thought I had the place all to myself when I was joined in this frigid landscape by a new friend.

The Ice Tourist, Falls, Jan. 2014

The Ice Tourist following my tracks, Jan. 2014

He described himself as being a fellow “ice tourist” and so that’s how I remember him.  He said he was curious about the ice, but also wary of stepping through thin ice and feeling the burn of extremely cold water.  I’ve had this experience before and so I could relate.  The Ice Tourist told me he had followed my tracks into the ice field and so far I had kept him out of danger.  We spent about an hour together before parting.  Here are some more pictures of him posed next to the ice formations we encountered.

The Ice Tourist, Falls, Jan. 2014

The Ice Tourist among icy willow, Jan. 2014

Ice Tourist and ice formation, Jan. 2014

The Ice Tourist had to check out everything as closely as possible.  He would climb upon the willow branches and roots to get the best view.  As it turns out, he was a local guy who like me, likes to hang out near the river whenever he can.  He was wearing a very thin and worn out t-shirt that said something about the town of Jeffersonville on it.  That’s the next town over from the Falls of the Ohio State Park.  I mentioned something about the poor condition of his garment and how it didn’t look substantial enough to keep him warm.  His response was that feeling warm was as much a mental state of mind and he was far too engaged by this novel environment to feel the cold.

The Ice Tourist, Falls of the Ohio, Jan. 2014

The sun was rising.  The day was warming and the ice was beginning to drip and lose its strength.  Today’s show was at an end.  The image of a hot cup of coffee or cocoa was starting to have great appeal to me and so I said my farewell to the Ice Tourist.  Perhaps we will run into one another again at the river…we shall see?  Leaving my new friend behind, I walked the riverbank  and could see that the Ring-billed gulls that had been absent during the polar vortex were once again in residence in the park.  I wonder if the groundhogs will see their shadows tomorrow?

Ring-bill gulls and mallard ducks, Jan. 2014

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