This was my Labor Day adventure which spanned two days of hanging out by the Ohio River. The remnants of Hurricane Isaac came through and gave us some much-needed rain. I was excited to return to my old studio spot and didn’t mind exploring and working through the drizzle. My clothes got soaked and muddy, but as long as I was able to keep my camera dry…I felt okay and had fun. It has been two months since I last laid eyes on my Styro-cache. Most of these polystyrene chucks were collected in the spring. I had heard that there were a few scheduled river clean-ups, but they obviously didn’t find my spot. It wouldn’t have hurt my feelings in the least if all this white trash had disappeared. The more public areas did look better, but I have a feeling that as long as people are around…there will be litter at the Falls of the Ohio.
Because I was dodging little rain showers, I quickly created a figure and moved him out into the river landscape. A nice family who said they were familiar with some of my other Falls projects happened upon me. Their daughters India and Esmay were interested in “Mr. Rednose”, so named because his nose is a burnt out light bulb from a string of Christmas lights. I asked permission from the parents to take the girls’ picture before posting something. Esmay seemed the most interested and kept sticking her finger into “Mr. Rednose’s” mouth. It’s cool when people I meet out here get what I do and appreciate my small call for creativity. I have a real concern for what kind of world our children will inherit. My own sons are now 11 and 16 years old and I remember when they were much smaller and followed me to the river to make a few memories of our own.
“To exist or not to exist…that is a choice.” Perhaps meeting little kids inspired me to play dress up with this figure. But I also kept finding props I could do this with. This blue blanket was just draped over a log and I wondered why someone would leave this here? Over the years, I have come across small camps that homeless people would just leave their stuff behind as though they planned to return. It was eerie when they didn’t. By the river, I came across yet another potential prop.
A fisherman had left behind as trash this polystyrene minnow bucket and “Mr. Rednose”picked it up. Since it was beginning to rain more regularly it seemed appropriate to try to use this bucket for a hat and here is what that looked like.
It was about this time that I decided to call it a day. The rain was coming down more heavily and consistently. I hid the figure in high, wet grass where it was waiting for me the following morning.
My second day out here was more about discovering nature. No sooner had I rescued my figure than I had one of my most thrilling bird sightings. This time it was an actual bird and not something I created myself! Walking through the wet grasses I unintentionally flushed a bird into flight that I recognized immediately. It was a Black Rail (Laterallus jamaicensis). It’s a small blackish bird with a short bill. It has white speckles on its flanks and a very diagnostic rusty-colored nape. Rails are the smallest member of a group of wading birds that include herons and egrets. The literature says that they are very secretive and seldom encountered. You are more likely to hear one at night along the eastern salt marshes, but there are a few that live in the Midwest. There are over 260 bird species listed in the official Falls of the Ohio checklist, but the Black Rail is not one of them. This is a second time I have spotted a bird not officially recorded in the park. I tried to let the park and our local bird club know about my sighting and I hope somebody else was able to see it? The flushed rail flew to a nearby willow tree and with camera in hand I tried to get a picture. Unfortunately, I was not successful. I will, however, look for it again in the same place the next time I come out here. The Black Rail was not the only interesting creature out in the park today. Newly minted butterflies were flitting about and I counted several species including the Viceroy which mimics the Monarch butterfly.
This Viceroy was taking advantage of the minerals present in a fairly large bird dropping! Out of the fossil beds, Great Blue Herons were outnumbered by the slightly smaller and all-white Great Egrets. Soon the egrets will be moving off to warmer climes, but the Great Blue Herons are year round residents.
Moving away from the river and back towards the willows, I stopped to admire several flowers including members of the Evening Primrose family. “Mr. Rednose” enjoyed the slight fragrance emanating from this tall flower.
I finished this adventure where it began. I moved my figure to the place he first took form and where he now stands guard over my Styro-larder. He might still be there welcoming visitors…or not. I look forward to returning the following weekend to experience all the surprises both great and small that this environment presents to me.