What a beautiful day and I stayed out for many hours by the river. It’s been a bit of roller coaster with the weather the past few weeks. We have fluctuated between below freezing temperatures you can feel in your bones and highs in the 50 to 60 degree range. Folks around here have been blaming our worse than usual cold and flu season with the variability of the weather. I don’t know if this is true, but for me…going outside to breathe fresh air is restorative to my physical and spiritual health. Since I last set foot here the river has again risen and receded. The large raft of driftwood under the railroad bridge has been dispersed by the high water and actually made it a little less of an obstacle course to maneuver around. The air over the river is also once again alive with Ring-billed Gulls searching for food. I’m also hearing both the Northern Cardinal and Song Sparrow practicing their songs in anticipation of Spring. Their songs make me want to sing one of my own.
More evidence of a high river comes in the form of man-made junk that has floated into the park. I have found tires in all their forms to be good indicators of the entropy in this system. What once took great amounts of energy and heat to form and use is literally sinking into the sand. The wheel is one of mankind’s great inventions and here it is just another piece of garbage we have discarded. I’m out here today not because I’m looking for things to get me down, but rather the opposite! I’m looking for signs and symbols of the renewal to come.
Today, I’m looking for a member of the genus Lepus which includes hares and rabbits. For some reason…intuition I think, has brought me here on this particular quest. I have heard that members of the rabbit family start behaving oddly during Spring in anticipation of the breeding season. The expression “mad as a March hare” is an old English expression used to describe this moment. Of course, rabbits and hares have older associations as well. The ancient Greeks equated rabbits with the goddess Aphrodite and rabbits have long been symbols of fertility. Logic tells me that if I can locate a hare that Spring will be here in no time at all. I guess I’m putting more trust in the hare than I am the groundhog! The month of February is nearly over and I’m hoping to find signs that hares are in the area. So far, I’m not having much luck…just the tracks of people who came before me. I’m not giving up yet though and the day is young.
I’m operating with my “hare brain” switched in the “on” position as I walk around my familiar haunts. I look in areas that seem likely to me to hide rabbits and hares like this willow tree with an old barge cable wrapped around it. I’m not sure why this tree is “talking” to me, but I’m going with my intuition. There are no hares here, and maybe this spot is too close to the river anyway?
I walk by a wooden spool for holding large cables. This is also new and wasn’t here the last time I passed by. I see there is an opening large enough for a small mammal to hide in and so I go to investigate. Carefully I approach the spool, but there is nothing here either. I’m beginning to feel that there aren’t many other places I can look, when I remember there is a section of the park I almost never visit and so letting intuition be my guide…I go there.
The area I trek to is just east of the railroad bridge and dam that catches most of the driftwood that has been pushed from upriver. This barrier is no obstacle at all when the river is at flood stage. It is all this driftwood and pent-up junk that flows into the park when the Ohio River gets high. It’s a tricky, shifty area and frequently muddy too. All these conditions were present on this day. It’s not an area the public is encouraged to visit and most people have enough sense to stay away.
As you can see…this area also gets lots of trash too. This is what I eventually can look forward to receiving, perhaps in the next flood? This plastic separates so completely with the rest of the environment that I’m surprised it doesn’t compel people to pick it up like it does at the grocery and department stores?
Naturally, I find weird things here. It’s not everyday that you come across an alien’s head, but here it is next to other junk. I find three dolls in various poses tangled in mud and driftwood and other toy bits that floated down with the currents. I find a little bit of this and that, but no March hares or rabbits.
The soles of my shoes are caked with mud and so I find a suitable stick to scrape away the sticky earth. I sit on a broad log to do this and take a rest at the same time. While I work away at my shoes, a train crosses the bridge and I watch it as it crosses. My mind wanders freely and I remember the unusual art of Joseph Beuys which became a favorite of mine during graduate school. His work is frequently perplexing and takes getting used to. I like his art, but found I was more attracted by his ideas and writings. The value he placed on art as a potential agent to further our own evolution away from the strictly materialistic way we treat ourselves and the planet we depend on inspired me. His ideas about an expanded notion of art seemed to give art more of a sense of purpose which I also found to be smart and optimistic.
Bueys often referenced animals in his art and believed that they were more aware and in tune with the world than we are. The hare in particular was an important symbol to Bueys because it mediates between the earthly and spiritual realms. Hares are burrowing animals and line their nests with their wool. The insulating properties of felt became another material that Bueys incorporated in his art. While I was sitting still and reflecting on the work of a favorite artist…the hare appeared!
It must have just emerged from its burrow under the logs and debris and was still covered with mud. It looked in my direction with ears pricked up and our gaze locked upon one another. Holding still for just a split second, I was able to capture this image before it disappeared back into the earth. I exhaled in the knowledge that Spring was one day closer to arriving. I savored the moment, gathered my things, took one last look across the river and headed for the skyline of Louisville over the Second Street Bridge.