Posted in Absurd, Art, art and environment, Art and Nature, art and the environment, Artist at Exit 0, assemblage art, collections, driftwood, environmental art, Falls of the Ohio, flip-flops, found materials, Found objects, lost and found, lost sandals, Louisville, material culture, nature photography, Ohio River flooding, plastic, recycled art, repurposed art, repurposed materials, sense of place, Site specific art, watershed, tagged Art, art and the environment, artist at exit 0, Falls of the Ohio, flip-flops, flotsam and jetsam, found objects, Genius loci, nature, Ohio River, photography, plastic bottles, plastic color spectrum, plastic pollution, sense of place, spirit of a place, walking along the riverbank on March 13, 2016|
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The river has finally given us a reprieve from the high waters of the past month. I got an early start from my home in Louisville and crossed the Second Street Bridge on my way to the Falls of the Ohio. Today, I decided to do something a little different and wandered the eastern bank of the Ohio River on the Indiana side which technically is not in the Falls of the Ohio State Park proper. I just kept walking and walking and had no trouble filling my collecting bags with potential art materials. Overall, it would turn out to be a good day and I managed a couple of modest projects which are the subject of this post.
I walked as far east as I could without feeling like I was wandering onto private property. I figured if someone were to challenge me, they probably wouldn’t object to me picking up the plastic and river-polished Styrofoam that soon filled up my bags. As it turned out, I didn’t encounter a person all day long. It could be that hiking along a muddy riverbank isn’t most people’s cup of tea, but that’s just speculation on my part! I did come to one spot that afforded a nice view of Louisville’s skyline. To take these pictures, I stood in what was once a creek that originally fed into the river. That must have been some time ago, however, because the view behind me is somewhat industrial. Now it’s a spot where the water backs up when the river is high. Everywhere I wandered I found lots of junk mixed into a driftwood and ground up tree bark matrix. Here are a few of the items I found that were a bit more interesting.
Here is a picture of miniature plastic river corn poking out among the woody debris. There’s something about finding plastic plants out here that still provokes me. I picked this corny cluster up and into the collecting bag it went to ultimately join the other fake food items that I have assembled over the years.
And now for a toy figure that probably represents a disk jockey character complete with over sized jewelry and a microphone. I don’t recognize this character and it occurs to me that I’m now hopelessly out of synch with cartoon popular culture. My sense is that programs come and go so quickly now that the plastic crap these shows spawn far exceeds the actual life of the shows themselves.
Moving closer to the railroad bridge that I like to work around…I found this realistic toy lion. I think this is an example of how you can develop “a six sense” for finding stuff, because this lion was the same color as the wood chips and debris it was mixed into. Stuff that is neon colored like many plastic items are makes them relatively hard to miss. Let me show you what I mean.
Here’s my latest color spectrum arrangement made from found plastic. I gathered these components up along my walk on the riverbank just east of the park. I found a place that was relatively sheltered by the wind that had just picked up after my arrival. Today, I found a bit more purple than I usually come across.
Most of the plastic items in this assemblage are bottles of various sorts. This time, I did add a few “humorous” toy finds like the plastic frog and rubber duck wearing sun glasses. Since I still had a few hours to devote to today’s walk…I decided to venture further west and into the park to see what changes the river had made and to make one other piece I had in mind.
After filling my bag up with plastic bottles, I then switched to collecting lost flip-flops. In a relatively short amount of time I had picked up enough of these cheap sandals of varying sizes, colors, and designs to make something with. Since this is spring and we certainly have had our share of rain…it stands to reason that flowers would soon follow. I began my arrangement by taking the larger flip-flops and using them as the base. Gradually, I worked towards the center overlaying and stacking the smaller sandals that a child would wear. The result was something that I called a “Chrysanthemum” in my plastic-addled brain.
I did enjoy having a little bit more of the riverbank to explore than I have had this past month. We still have lots of potential for rain and high water. I think on my next trip out here I will explore what the high river has deposited in the western section of the park. I wonder if my ball collection is still around or did that eventually get reclaimed by the river? I guess I will need to wait until next weekend to find out. For now, here is one last image from this trip out at the Falls of the Ohio.
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Posted in Absurd, art and environment, Art and Nature, art and the environment, Artist at Exit 0, assemblage art, collections, environmental art, Falls of the Ohio, flip-flops, found materials, Found objects, Installation, lost and found, lost sandals, material culture, nature photography, plastic, Plastic art, public art, recycled art, repurposed art, repurposed materials, sculpture, sense of place, Site specific art, watershed, tagged Art, art and the environment, artist at exit 0, assemblage art, colorful plastic containers, Ekoart, Falls of the Ohio, found objects, material culture, nature, photography, plastic, plastic art, recycled materials, repurposed art, sense of place on January 24, 2016|
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Over the Martin Luther King, Jr., holiday weekend I was able to make it out to the Falls of the Ohio State Park on a couple of occasions. It helped that this was a three-day weekend. I was curious to see what was lying around the riverbank after our first dusting of snow had blown away. As I was expecting, I found a lot of plastic bottles and containers, Styrofoam, and plenty of driftwood. I first inspect an area for the larger pattern left by the river. The stuff that floats most readily often defines the high water mark on the riverbank.
This is a typical detail of stuff that builds up on a driftwood mound. There are many automotive and boating references particularly plastic bottles that held various petroleum products. There is also a wealth of plastic beverage bottles to illustrate the carelessness of some folks recreating on the river. I have a mental image of this stuff eventually flowing downriver, into the Mississippi River, and out into the wider world through the Gulf of Mexico. What I see at the Falls of the Ohio is only what I see. I know there is a glacier of plastic and junk that by passes me and will show up somewhere downstream. With each succeeding flood, I keep thinking that all the stuff that had been accumulating upriver has already been washed into the watershed. That, however, doesn’t seem to be the case and the amount of “fresh trash” that shows up in the park seems not to have a limit.
Both days that I worked at the river were very cold ones. The piece I made using found yellow and green plastic was the coldest with temps hovering around 10 degrees and it was colder than that with the wind. After picking up what caught my eye, I retreated to my little studio area near the U.F.O. (Unidentified Floating Object) that is this welded and painted steel platform that washed into this area over five years ago.
I saw a possibility in the space under the UFO that was formed when the river shifted the driftwood mound. I cleared the space a little bit and found a plank and stump in which to set up what I would eventually call “Arrangement in Yellow and Green Plastic”. All the bottles and other colorful plastic items were picked up in the immediate area. The wind was really biting and so I sought shelter by the treeline. It took a little patience to make this piece because the wind kept blowing away the lighter items. Eventually, I fit everything together and held it in place by strategically using found bottles that still had weight to them because mud or sand had become their new contents.
My photos of this piece vary from one another because elements kept blowing off. I was struck that I could make a colorful gradation using primarily yellow and green plastic found just in the willow habitat. I favor doing these color pieces because they also reference the electromagnetic spectrum and without light, those ancient plants that lived and succeeded millions of years ago would not eventually become the crude substance from which these bottles were fabricated. It’s interesting to me to think that much of the energy we derive from fossil fuels is captured starlight from an ancient time. We owe it to the plants to be able to stabilize this energy through photosynthesis and fix it into their very tissues.
Eventually, the cold started to get to me and I was fast losing what little light was present on this day. I might have moved the blue plastic drum out of the bottom picture, but it was frozen into the ground and full of sand and mud and would have been a challenge to lift. After awhile, I began to like it for the additional color it lent this scene. One thing concentrating so much color in one area does is call into attention the brown drabness that subsumes everything else.
I returned to the river two days later. It was still very cold, however, a big improvement over the previous day. The sun was shining and the wind was absent. Having completed and photographed one colorful plastic arrangement, I set about creating a new one in a different palette of colors. Searching the area I decided to work at…I could see plenty of red and blue plastic items spread out among the driftwood. It took me an hour or so to pull these bottles and objects together. I wished that I might have come across a few more violet or purple items, but I guess these are colors that are used less than straight up red or blue? I know that in terms of lightfastness, red and purple plastic fades away quicker than many other colors.
Using a bit of the geometry I was feeling from the willow trees and the way the sunlight was hitting their trunks…I decided to site “Arrangement in Red and Blue Plastic” on the sand. There’s a distant view of the Ohio River through this informal avenue of trees. Watching how the shadows of the tree trunks were being cast upon the sand was an important element in the overall composition of this piece.
Among the items comprising this work are a blue plastic child’s putter golf club, the cap to a plastic cane that held Christmas candy and several flip-flops of the right color. When I finished this piece, I left it in place as I did the other arrangement. Perhaps the next time I return to this area, I may combine the two groups of plastic? I could create another grand rainbow with the addition of finding more orange in particular. I probably would throw in some black and white plastic items since they are here in quantity as well. I felt relatively good about this weekend’s projects and some of the images that resulted. When I am occupied with a project, I really don’t feel the elements in the same way. I suppose there is a bit of mind over matter happening too. When I do feel the cold, however, is when I decide to turn for home and come across a frozen sight like these containers locked in ice! Stay warm and safe everybody…from the Falls of the Ohio.
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Posted in art and environment, Art and Nature, Artist at Exit 0, assemblage art, environmental art, Falls of the Ohio, found materials, Installation, lost sandals, material culture, nature, Ohio River, photography, plastic, Plastic art, public art, recycled art, repurposed art, repurposed materials, sense of place, watershed, tagged Art, art and nature, art and the environment, artist at exit 0, assemblage art, driftwood mound, Falls of the Ohio, green plastic bottles, lost and found, material culture, photography, sense of place, snow globe on October 26, 2015|
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That big summer rush is over now. The Interpretive Center panel is finished and this past Saturday, I picked up all the works I had on display at Eastern Kentucky University. I now have no other plans for my art which feels good for a change. I like staying busy, but don’t want to be so on the go that I don’t enjoy what I do. Art is one of those things we eat greedily until it time to move over to the next course. The process of creating and displaying new works has become such a consumptive activity on its own and it’s funny that I don’t hear more artists talking about the good and bad aspects of this. With this officially being Autumn, I went looking for traces of color at the Falls of the Ohio.
I showed up under the old railroad bridge with a mostly empty collecting bag. At this time of year, it isn’t so much the interesting objects that just floated in here with the latest flood, but rather the interesting items that have come to the surface after all this driftwood started to break down. As proof, I offer this recently discovered snow globe or dome. It’s too hard to see from my image, but there is a winter holiday scene inside the dome! It will be cold soon enough and Christmas as well. I’m all set with this little decoration that still has bits and pieces of fake snow inside.
Today I have no plan other than to wander. As luck would have it, I revisited an area that I haven’t checked out in the past 2 1/2 months. One of my favorite pieces I made this year involves setting up green plastic bottles inside an old boat dock that was deposited on top of the driftwood pile and that happens to be in this spot. When I was here last, the vines had pretty much ensnared and intertwined with all this wood and made walking a bit treacherous. All the greenery from those vines is now history, but the woody stems are still a tripping hazard. Coming across my piece from earlier in the year…I decided to reconstruct it as best I could. All the bottles were still here and the light was looking especially good.
Under the wooden dock are four compartments that I filled with the bottles. They can only be seen from this side and so this piece has evaded detection for the most part because it is not visible from the path that skirts the periphery of this driftwood mound. I just happen to like how the light gets concentrated within these green plastic bottles and activates the work in just the right conditions. The wooden compartments add a little structure to what would be generally be thought of as a chaotic composition.
Although we still have plenty of “green” in the environment. You can also see where “yellowing” is happening with the foliage. I expect as the season wears on and transitions to another that this Green Bottle piece will subtly change over time.
Walking over the mound, I came across an area that was completely obscured by vines a few weeks a go. What I uncovered in place was a series of found flip flop sandals I had parked here until a better idea showed up. For now, I record the lightweight shoes and move on. It might be transformed into something different the next time I pass this way.
The cottonwood trees that flank part of this driftwood mound are much “yellower” than before. When I first came out here during the month of May, everything around me was verdant and dark green. After setting this piece up again for the second time, I turned and walked away and cleared my head by walking to the riverbank. I will periodically stop by here and maybe after a few months will be able to create a series of images documenting this site specific assemblage as it changes with the seasons. For now, I will check out if the fishermen are having any luck…at the Falls of the Ohio.
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Posted in Absurd, animals, art and environment, Art and Nature, Artist at Exit 0, creativity, environmental art, Falls of the Ohio, flip-flops, found materials, lost sandals, material culture, nature photography, Ohio River, Ohio River flooding, Originality, Photograpy, public art, recycled art, repurposed materials, sense of place, watershed, tagged Art, artist at exit 0, Asian carp, day lilies, Falls of the Ohio, Falls of the Ohio Interpretive Center, flooding along the Ohio River, mud flower, nature, photography, sense of place, snapping turtle, story telling on July 19, 2015|
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I’ve been to the river three times this month, but this is my first post for July! Where to begin? It’s been eventful in so many ways. First, the hard drive of my computer crashed which put me out of business for a few weeks. All the while this was being dealt with…the river has been high due to what seems like at times, monsoon-intensity rains. Not light, gentle rains, but strong storms that dump inches of rain at one time and are often accompanied by high winds. I suspect that this year’s June and July will be among the wettest combos recorded around here. There has been tragedy too. Five people lost their lives in a boating accident while watching the 4th of July fireworks display in front of downtown Louisville. The river was especially high and fast flowing when their pontoon boat struck a parked barge sending people into the water. It took several days to recover the bodies. We may think that we can manage the river through levies and dams, but nature often has other ideas. Where is all this water coming from and can be this be further evidence of the planet’s changing climate? When I see before and after pictures of what were former glaciers or images of huge ice shelves breaking off of Antarctica…that fresh water goes somewhere right? Seems there is a lot of moisture being drawn up into the atmosphere which then precipitates out over the land. Too bad it doesn’t seem to be going where it is needed the most.
For the moment, all my usual haunts at the Falls of the Ohio are under water. Usually during this time of year, the fossil beds are at their most extensively exposed. I love being able to walk over the fossil beds which makes me feel like I’m on another planet. Once the water recedes, there will be a newly rearranged landscape to explore along with its attendant material culture that gets left behind. This is how I obtain my art supplies.
This is a view along the Fixed Wier Dam and Upper Tainter Gates in the eastern section of the park. The water level had been higher and is in the process of going down a bit. I noticed fish activity and was surprised to see Asian carp congregating in the swirling, muddy water.
About midway down you can see a carp that is doing its own impression of a salmon going upstream. Let’s zoom in for a closer look.
Here are a few more details of fish jumping. I was surprised that my cellphone camera was able to catch this action. Some of the fish I observed were very large. I would estimate the largest ones I saw were plus 50 pounds.
And here is one more image catching a fish in mid air.
There are a couple of species of Asian carp and they are all highly invasive and non-native. To see these fish jumping to overcome obstacles on their way upriver shows how determined they can be. These fish feed on algae and other tiny water organisms. They out compete native species and are highly prolific. Extensive campaigns have been launched to control or eradicate these fish with limited results. The big fear is that they will make their way into the Great Lakes were they pose a huge issue for that fishery. In Western Kentucky, at Land Between the Lakes, a commercial fishery has been created to harvest these carp by netting them. Because they eat tiny micro organisms, they can not be taken by rod and reel unless you happen to snag one by accident. The goal is to create a commercial demand for its flesh and apparently they are a coveted food item in China. Although a demand for these carp may be created…they are also in our waters for good now. The fish I photographed are on their way to Cincinnati and points northward along the Ohio River and all its tributaries and streams that feed this great river. Carp were not the only creatures around on this day. Check out this guy!
Walking along the edge of the flooding, I came across this large, Common Snapping Turtle that was bulldozing its way to the river. It emerged from underneath some high weeds and was unaware of me at first. As I came closer, it started to pull its head underneath its shell as much as it could while raising up on its legs to appear even more menacing and large. This big turtle did hiss and lunge for me a few times and after a couple snapshots…I left it alone. This turtle was large enough to remove a finger if that unfortunate person should offer it. Although it moved slowly for the most part, it did have the ability to strike quickly and its neck could reach out further than you may have anticipated! I have found dead snappers at the Falls before that were washed into here by flooding or were caught and killed by fisherman. This is the first live one I have seen here and it was a beauty! Being confined to the margins of the swollen river did have some benefits. I came across two remarkable flowers that I would like to present. Here is the first one I discovered on the Fourth of July.
This is the first of two Giant Mud Flowers (from the genus Siltana) that I have discovered at the Falls of the Ohio. They are large perennials that appear only when the conditions are just right. Apparently, all the flooding we have experienced along the river has proven ideal for this rare bloom. This flower sports large, fleshy “petals” that are organized around a central core that emerges first from the soil. No leaves are visible and much is unknown about this rare plant. It is believed that after blooming, the Mud Flower puts its remaining energies into producing a single, round seed about the size of a golf ball. Attempts to grow this plant under controlled conditions have thus far proven to be unsuccessful. Here is a different flower which may or may not be a related species?
This specimen was found during mid month in a different section of the park. On the surface, it compares well with the preceding example. Noticeably, the thick petals are of different colors and the central core is a different structure. Botanists may eventually determine that these two Giant Mud Flowers are related, but different species too. Much is needing to unlock the key to how this species survives and whether there are any pollinating agents involved at all? I am going to end today’s trip with one more flower photograph. This was taken in front of the still renovating Interpretive Center. There is a wonderful day lily garden here with many different varieties. The center is hoping to be back open to the public come this fall. I want to thank park director, Kelley Morgan for inviting me to talk during their volunteer appreciation dinner. I loved being in a room full of left brained people who must have thought where did this “odd duck” came from? Everyone was very nice and interested in what I do which admittedly, deviates from the norm! What I like is that however we view and use the park…we all have a passion for this very special place. Here’s hoping my next post will occur under dryer circumstances!
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Posted in Absurd, animals, art and environment, Art and Nature, art and the environment, Artist at Exit 0, assemblage art, collections, creativity, driftwood, environmental art, Falls of the Ohio, flip-flops, Found objects, Installation, lost and found, lost sandals, material culture, nature photography, photography, public art, recycled art, repurposed art, sense of place, Site specific art, tagged Art, art and the environment, artificial rainbow, artist at exit 0, Big Eyed Click Beetle, Falls of the Ohio, flotsam and jetsam, lost and found, nature, photography, plastic containers, rainbow colors, sense of place, tree stump, willow trees on June 18, 2015|
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Life in a bucket. I’ve seen this before and written about it in an older blog post. Regardless, whenever I encounter something like this I remain amazed at life’s ability to thrive in less than optimum circumstances. A little river mud in an old broken plastic bucket gets colonized by a few windblown grass seeds, add a little rainfall and sunshine and life does the rest. Well, some life can do this and some can’t. The future will be determined by the life that can adapt and be resilient in the face of adversity. Walking on the fossil beds at the Falls of the Ohio I wonder about our chances for success living on a planet that we have diminished to suit our own ends. I have no doubt that whatever the future holds, life will find a way. Whether or not that includes us remains to be seen.
On that jolly note I introduce my latest two projects! I got up fairly early in the morning and got a head start on the heat. By the early afternoon, I was whipped, exhausted, and wet from the humidity trapped in the local vegetation. Summer is officially upon us. It’s interesting how many conversations I’ve had this year with people similar in age to me who have remarked that as the years pass by their tolerance for the heat and humidity decreases. This was one of those days I could commiserate with them! As I was walking along the Falls landscape, I noticed an area that seemed to have a good supply of plastic containers and decided on the spot to do another petroleum rainbow piece. This is how I started out, literally beating the bushes for containers of different sizes, colors, and shapes. The material lying on the driftwood was easy to access, but in other places the vines were beginning to cover and camouflage what was under their urgent greenness.
I started out collecting various plastic jugs that originally held contents of one gallon or greater…hence “big jug”. I soon expanded that as the need for particular shades of colors became a priority. I would have liked to use more “orange”, but couldn’t find enough plastic containers in this area that day that were that color. Still, I managed a small sliver of “orange” to mark the transition from “red” to “yellow”.
“Big Jug Rainbow” is situated under a stressed willow tree that is bent over from the weight of lots of driftwood that was deposited in its canopy by flood waters. A nice verdant cave was formed and it felt like a good framing element for this piece. Here is what it looked like from the other side of the tree.
The willow trees in this habitat are twisted up and have lots of character. They remind me of the forms you find in bonsai trees, except their size is obviously much larger. In a past post, I’ve mentioned how this area’s beavers like to prune off small branches and eat the bark. This helps shape the trees. This year, I can see in dramatic fashion another element that contributes to the trees’ overall forms. The weight of the deposited wood bends the branches down and the willow continues to grow under this burden. The driftwood will remain in the tree until the river rises or the wind knocks the deposited logs down.
Bleaching, exposed driftwood atop a willow tree with my “Big Jug Rainbow” under its influence. Happy with this piece, I collected my bag and walking stick and headed further under the trees seeking shade and relief from the sun. Along the way, I was delighted to run into one of my favorite insects found at the Falls of the Ohio.
This is the Eastern Eyed Click Beetle or Big Eyed Click Beetle, (Alaus oculatus). This is one of the larger beetles you will find in our area and this is the largest of our click beetles. The biggest specimens are nearly two inches long or roughly 45mm in length. They have this wonderful, cryptic bird-dropping coloring. The eyespots on the pronatum or thorax are dramatic and large. The females lay their eggs in or near rotting wood (in abundance here) and I’m sure to come across these slow flyers at least a couple of times per season. Last year, I was startled when one landed on the back of my head and got tangled in my hair. It gave me a momentary fright to have some then unknown large insect crawling on my head. Fortunately, they don’t bite. The larvae on the other hand will eat other insects they encounter.
As has been my recent custom, as I walk along I collect any lost flip-flops that I find. At day’s end, I find a place to make something with the day’s finds. I came across this table-like tree stump that seemed like an invitation to do something with. I emptied the contents of my collecting bag and created “Stump Flower”.
The circular form in the center I believe is a sand toy? I found it laying nearby and thought it helped suggest a flower head. I think as I return to many of the places where I’ve made these flip-flop projects…I will re-gather them and perhaps recycle them into a more complex form. At day’s end, the walk back to my vehicle took a lot of effort. I did go by my “Big Jug Rainbow” piece and took one last image of it from some distance. You can barely see it through all the leafage, but it is there in all its artificial glory. That bottle of warm water I had stashed under the car seat sure tasted good! Thanks to everybody for stopping by…until next time from the Falls of the Ohio.
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Posted in Art, driftwood, ecosytem, flip-flops, Found objects, lost sandals, nature, Ohio River flooding, photography, plastic, sense of place, Styrofoam, tagged Absurd, absurd story, art and nature, art and the environment, artistatexit0, Beach combing, flood story, recycled art materials, Smurfs on April 16, 2015|
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It’s mid April and the television meteorologists have said it all. If the Kentuckiana area receives one more drop of rain…we will set an all time local record for precipitation during any April since records have been kept. With half a month to go and more rain in the forecast for this week…that record is a goner. As I write this…the river is still rising. I mentally contrast this to what is happening in California with their severe drought. I wonder if there are any billionaires out there that would like to invest in a pipeline that would send all this extra water to where it’s needed most? After all, isn’t water a much more precious commodity than crude oil? We don’t send exploratory satellites and space craft into the vast distances of the universe looking for petroleum. It’s water we seek because in a fundamental way we realize that water is the key to life.
The following adventure happened last weekend which was warm and beautiful, but with an ever-rising river. The large driftwood mound under the railroad bridge I documented in my last post has broken apart and floated away along with my absurd March Madness figure. Perhaps when the river returns to its usual water levels, I may run into him once again? For now, I am exploring a section of the Ohio River Greenway which is near the Interpretive Center’s entrance and has a nice view of Louisville’s skyline. The riverbank does not lack for junk and before long I’ve photographed and collected a full bag of possibilities for future use. It was while I was absorbed in my own head space that I bumped into a most unusual character that was engaged in what looked to be some type of ritual at the water’s edge.
What I first thought was singing turned out to be chanting and it was coming from this exotic guy. I’m sure I must have had the strangest expression on my face! Despite my presence, this blue-helmeted figure with some kind of mandala on his chest was practically knee-deep in muddy water and lining up found flip-flops on a beached log. A perfectly normal activity don’t you agree? I’m assuming he gathered these sandals from all the other flotsam and jetsam that has washed into here? That part I can understand because I have an ongoing collection of the same footwear that I hope to make into something grand and profound some day.
I remained quiet, stayed observant, and took these photographs. I saw the blue helmeted man face west and chant. He later did the same thing looking towards all the cardinal directions. On occasion, he would carefully pick up a sandal and whisper to it before placing it back upon the water-logged trunk of a limb-less tree. For emphasis, he would also do this little hop dance step in the muddy water. I waited for him to finish before interrupting him with a few questions of my own.
Finally, I had my chance to speak and the mysterious figure looked my way. I was surprised that I could understand what he was saying. First, he thanked me for respecting his custom by not interrupting his ceremony. He also said that it is very important that the flow of energy continue unabated if the ritual was to take hold. Filled with questions, I asked his name and what was he doing? Patiently, he explained that he was the Shoe Shaman of the Big Blue Nation, a holy man and offered as proof the ill-fitting helmet on his head which was the official crest of his high office. I didn’t say anything, but thought the Shoe Shaman’s head-gear bore an uncanny resemblance to a Smurf’s head. I wondered if that was in fact the Big Blue Nation he was referring to? If that indeed was the case…well, it did make some sense in a surreal sort of way. There are many cultures that have legends about “little people”. I asked what he was doing with the sandals and he said that working with footwear was his specialty. Each shoe, in this case, each lost sandal…has a direct connection to the soul of its former owner and is holy to them. The weight of each person is impressed into the sole’s foam and is as individual as a fingerprint. In his culture, they have a saying that you can’t fully understand someone until you stand in their shoes. I said we have a similar saying. The Shoe Shaman said that his goal is to affect the river’s empathy and not to further enrage it for taking the water and environment for granted. My new friend was attempting to appease the flood waters by asking the river to forgive our carelessness and to accept the sacrifice that had been prepared for it on this altar of wood. The shaman assured me that only in this way would the river agree to return to its normal banks and not seek out our kind that had been hurtful towards it.
I’ll admit that the idea of a revenge seeking river stunned me some, however, history is full of epic floods. In our arrogance, we forget how at Nature’s mercies we really are. My curiosity sated…it was time to move on. I left the shaman at that interstitial zone between water and land. Slogging through the mud, I paused briefly sitting on a dry log and thought about what I had witnessed as I also picked the mud off the bottom of my shoes. I am hoping that he was successful in intervening on our behalf and only time will tell. For my part, I will never forget the scene and will pledge to do my part to be respectful towards creation by celebrating it and in doing so…hope to save myself and those dearest to me. I don’t ever want one of our soles to go missing and find itself on a log floating somewhere along the Ohio River. Until the river retreats…
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