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Archive for August, 2011

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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It’s been nearly a month since I last visited the Falls of the Ohio.  My still tender twisted ankle and the brutal heat of this summer has me concentrating on other projects and exhibits.  Admittedly, I haven’t posted much and that periodic malaise that can affect bloggers hit me too.  My ankle is slowly getting better (intimations of mortality!) and with hope the oppressive heat is relenting?  I made the short trip from my home in Louisville to Clarksville, Indiana where the Falls of the Ohio Interpretive Center is redoing its exhibits.  I’m glad the mammoth skeleton will still be on display and I’m curious what else will be featured?

Each year the center’s foundation stages its “Rock the Rocks” fundraiser which features a silent auction.  I usually contribute one of my sculptures made from the river-born junk I find in the park.  This year my donation is entitled “Priscilla” and she’s a piece I made years a go and predates the old riverblog.  I hope she finds a nice home.  “Priscilla” with her dark eyes has a depth to her that seems to raise many questions.  Well, that’s how I read her!  The main question remains…why do we do the things we do that we know can harm the environment?  “Priscilla” knows she shouldn’t exist.

After my errand, I hung around to look at the Ohio River as it presents itself at the Falls of the Ohio.  Most of the fossil deposits are exposed and in my mind I’m walking out among them which in reality is always an interesting experience.  It’s easy for me to fantasize that I’m on another planet or a different place in time.  I know, however, that it will be a while yet before I wade across the shallow river and back out upon the water-scalloped limestone.  I don’t think my ankle is ready for that test yet.  It would be a long way to limp back.

I stopped and talked with several birders who had their scopes and binoculars fixed upon the distant fossil beds. Summer shorebirds were present including Great Egrets, Caspian Terns, Spotted Sandpipers, and an uncommon siting of an American White Pelican which had just flown away!  I missed it but was glad to hear that it had been seen regularly over the last three weeks.  I recall a few years a go, there was another young male bird that hung around for a while.  Once upon a time they were seen as far east as the Miami River in Ohio, but that was in the 19th century.  Now the pelicans are seen more frequently and might be extending their range again eastward along our great rivers.

I enjoy birds of all kinds and near the birdwatchers, a male American Goldfinch fed on sunflower seeds from one of the center’s flower beds.  I don’t know exactly what it is about the attraction to birds, but it lifts my spirits.  I go back to my car and collect the surprise within.  Although I haven’t physically been out here as much as a usually am…my thoughts don’t stray far from this environment.  I made a new figure in my basement and I’m eager to snap a few shots of it in the context of where the materials I used to construct it were found.

This is “Cubby” and he is eager to see the world.  We walked along the trail together and came across this spot where the morning-glory vines were growing in profusion.  Only in the shade did we find the blossoms still open.  The heat of broad daylight would shrivel them to nothing.  Along our walk we could hear the sound of cicadas and the smell of sun tan lotion was lingering in the air.  It’s the weekend and the park is full of visitors.

As we walk through the grass, the blades come alive with the many grasshoppers that are present.  “Cubby” and I check them out and we also notice a few nice Buckeye butterflies flitting about with their beautiful blue eye spots checking us out too.

It’s amazing what a month can change around here.  It seems so verdant and overgrown.  We find evidence that some of the recent and powerful thunderstorms have blown over a few old trees.  This seems to happen with increased frequency.  When it does rain, it seems to be accompanied by strong winds and torrential downpours.  There is so much moisture and energy in our weather systems as the fronts move along the Ohio Valley.

It’s been a year of contrasts.  Our spring was so wet and led to some flooding.  Several months later the driftwood evidence is all around.  The park staff have had their hands full re-establishing the walking trails.  Chain saws and small bulldozers are required for that job.  All this wood will just sit here until it decays or washes away with the next flood.  The Ohio River is a dynamic element that continually shapes this park.

I made “Cubby” for an exhibition that will be held at Bellarmine University in September.  It’s a two person show and my exhibit partner, Scott Scarboro, also uses found materials, but his works are of a more urban nature.  He likes using discarded mechanical toys and using sound in his work.  I will post more about that show as it happens.  As for “Cubby”, he derives his name from the unique head-gear he wears.  Last year, I came across the “skin” of a river-exploded teddy bear and saved it into the collecting bag.  This is how that find manifested itself.  To further reinforce the bear cub idea I added a small plastic bear head image that I think came from a pacifier.  It holds his breach cloth in place which comes from the lining of an old glove.  And in case you were wondering…he’s also anatomically correct underneath.  If you are bothering to cover the loins…there might as well be something there!!!  Well, I guess that’s it for now.  It feels good to blog again.

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