The stars were in alignment and I got to spend a nice Earth Day at the Falls of the Ohio. It was a little cold and windy…nothing layering in sweat shirts couldn’t handle! I found so many interesting objects and spaces that I filled up my camera’s memory card. I now find myself with a richness of images I couldn’t post in one go…and so I will try to keep it focused in some way. As proof that everyday should be Earth Day…the official celebration in the park has been moved to May after the Kentucky Derby. Supplanted by a horse race! Last night was Thunder Over Louisville which year after year is usually the largest fireworks display in North America and kicks off the two weeks long Kentucky Derby Festival. Thousands of people were out here partying on both banks of the Ohio River. They left their trash after the event, but fortunately it looks like the clean up crews are doing a good job and keeping this stuff out of the park. After all, it already has enough detritus of its own. Of late, I’ve been really fascinated by how these big barge cables and ropes that wash into here weather over time. They are made of tough stuff, but the river wins in the end. Sometimes they unravel and drift beautifully from willow root to branch like mutant Spanish moss. Some of their colors can even be shocking compared to the neutral earth tones of their surroundings. Here’s one such scene I’ve been trying to describe. This is one of my Earth Day photographs.
I later came across a nice length of barge cable stretched out across the sand. For fun, I started coiling it and taking pictures of the different configurations I came up with. Here’s the way it looked stretched out.
When I look at my pictures at home, many of these cable fragments reference fossils. I get a strong feeling of ancient sea lily crinoids and nautilus-like ammonites preserved in the rock that was silt millions of years a go. I also played with the spiral form and activated an intimate space with its spring-like energy.
Creating a tighter spiral evoked ammonite shells and wavy tentacles. Ammonites were coiled cephalopods with some resemblances to our squids and octopi. The ammonites were so successful for so long. Beginning somewhere in the Devonian they prospered and radiated out to fill all the world’s oceans until the Cretaceous Period crashed. Their run lasted more than 330 million years and now they are all gone. We have a way to go to match that record.
In most of the places I walked today I could hear the Northern Orioles singing. I tried imitating their call notes and once in a while I could get a bird to reply. I saw various warblers, vireos, woodpeckers, wrens, and more…however, the most memorable bird event happened at my feet. I stepped too near the nest of a Song Sparrow and flushed the bird that was hiding with its clutch of eggs. Here’s a photo of the scene. Can you find the bird’s nest? Look closely at the dark spot on the left side of the young willow greenery.
And now…lets look a little deeper and closer at this spot.
Inside were four tiny eggs tinged in green and speckled with brown spots. I’ve read that the Song Sparrow is heavily parasitized by the Brown-headed Cowbird which opportunistically lays an egg of its own among the sparrow’s clutch. The unsuspecting parents raise the cowbird as their own. As far as I could tell, this nest was in good shape. Perhaps having a really obscure nest site has so far protected it from the cowbirds which are common in our area? Walking further, I came to another nesting site of a different kind near my outdoor studio. Like the Song Sparrow…this spot was also well hidden.
The tire swing helps give it away otherwise it easily blends into the natural driftwood environment. I imagine a family coming to play here because there is evidence of children… including a misplaced fuzzy duck toy. The kids keep raiding my Styrofoam cache, but haven’t made anything back at their fort! Walking around the structure, I find the door is closed.
I even crawled up on the “roof” for a look. The builders have taken a natural space created by interlocking logs and enclosed and defined the space by leaning and propping up other found wood. It all blends in perfectly.
I moved a few planks and logs aside and could see the interior. I set the duck back up and snapped this shot.
Because my driftwood structure neighbors like to borrow the Styrofoam I’ve collected…I decided to leave them a present using the biggest polystyrene chunk they dragged over here. First, I need to improvise a head.
After finding some appropriate limbs…I set the figure up in the corner of the log fort. I thought it looked pretty good against the new green leaves of the willows. In my head I heard this little bit of imagined dialogue…”Wait, wait…it’s not yet Earth Day! That’s been postponed until May 12. Come back then and bring the family.”…as he waved all wild-eyed and everything.
I’m not sure how long this guy will last? It would be nice to think that the kids who play here could see this figure as a part of their creative environment.
The root mass from this great log makes up one “wall” of the driftwood fort. Here’s another view looking back before I moved on to the rest of my day.
I’m going to bring this post to a close with two photos of a willow tree I saw the other day. These trees are buffeted by the elements and begin to take on character and personality as their will to survive kicks in. With their branches reaching for the sun…their incredible roots hang on to the mud and are sculpted by the Ohio River. It’s good to think of trees during Earth Day.