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Posts Tagged ‘willow trees’

bent over willow tree, July 2015, Falls of the Ohio

Last weekend I visited an old friend and was shocked by the state that I found it in.  In this case, my friend is a favorite Black Willow tree (Salix nigra) that grows within the Willow Habitat in the eastern section of the Falls of the Ohio State Park.  We have just come out of a particularly wet June and July that saw the area this tree grows in being mostly underwater.  Record amounts of rainfall have kept me on the very fringes of an encroaching Ohio River.  Of course, I rushed back into the park when opportunity presented itself and things looked like they were returning to “normal”.  Usually, lots of water is something that willow trees can appreciate.  In this case, however, the willow trees near the old railroad bridge were submerged twice this year  by the flood waters.  In addition, floating and semi-submerged logs batter the stationary trees when strong currents push against them.  Spreading willow roots do their best to maintain their hold upon the land.  To add injury to insult, receding river levels often strand their floating driftwood loads in what’s left of the branches and crowns of these willow trees.  The weight of this wood is a big burden which then further shapes the living willows.  This is what happened to my friend.  I found the formerly nice arc of its main branches and trunk now growing nearly horizontally with the ground.  I decided to put together this post of images of this particular tree to see if I could detect other changes over the years.

Black Willow, Falls of the Ohio, Nov. 2010

Looking through thousands of images, I found this shot from November of 2010.  Looks to be a cold morning.  I’m not certain when this particular tree caught my attention, but it must have been around this time.  I’m sure, however, that the processes that shape these trees were already at work.  I can imagine this willow growing straight and tall if circumstances were different.

Willow Tree, Falls of the Ohio, June 2011

The next image dates to early June of 2011.  This is the same tree with its long, narrow, and slightly saw-toothed edged leaves out in full.  Already you can see an impressive and exposed root mass anchoring this tree in position.

Willow tree, Falls of the Ohio, March 2012

Here’s an image from March of 2012 showing water encroaching upon our willow tree.  I wonder how large the root mass actually is that keeps this tree alive in what seems an unpromising place?

Willow tree at the Falls, 2012

A month later, April 2012, and the waters have returned to their seasonable pool and the tree is beginning to leaf out.  From the way the three main trunks of the tree are all leaning west…I suspect that the weight of deposited driftwood? helped “train” the tree to grow in this position.

Willow Tree, September 2012, Falls of the Ohio

September 2012 and the leaves are beginning to show hints of autumn yellow.  Soon the willow will drop all of its leaves which will eventually gather around the base of this tree.

Two shots of one of my favorite Falls projects.  For over ten years I had been collecting the hard, yellow foam cores of contemporary soft balls that wash into the park minus their leather coverings.  I decided to make a large necklace from my special river pearls that I named “La Belle Riviere” or The Beautiful River which was the name the French missionaries gave the Ohio River very early during its exploration.  I posed my “necklace” and photographed it in many different places and positions.  The images I made while it graced this willow tree were among the best.

Black Willow, Falls of the Ohio, June 2014

The following images are from 2014.  This one was taken in June.  And, the following two are from August of the same year.

Willow tree, Falls of the Ohio, Aug. 2014

Willow root ball, Falls of the Ohio, August 2014

Now for some winter images.  These more stark pictures were taken during February of 2015.  We had some decent snow falls this year.  I like getting a good variety of images showing the park during all the seasons.

Old willow in winter, Feb. 2015

willow tree in winter, Feb. 2015

That leads us to my most recent photographs.  For parts of June and a lot of July, this tree was submerged from view.  I never did get a good look at it with the driftwood that rafted onto it.

Willow tree leaning over badly, Falls of the Ohio, July 2015

Bent over willow tree, Falls of the Ohio, July 2015

The willow tree has bent completely over and is “resting” on some of its branches.  The tree is still in leaf, but turning more yellow, (perhaps due to all the stress it has endured?)  So far, this tree has been a survivor and I hope that it can somehow “bounce back” from this turn of events.  We shall see.  I will make a special attempt to record what happens to this tree from here on out.  I will close this post and the month of July with one last image of this remarkable willow tree.  Until next time…from the Falls of the Ohio.

Black Willow root mass, July 2015, Falls of the Ohio.

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Life in a Bucket II, Falls of the Ohio, June 2015

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.

Freshly gathered plastic jugs, Falls of the Ohio, June 2015

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.

Colorful castoff plastic containers, Falls of the Ohio, June 2015

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", detail, Falls of the Ohio, June 2015

"Big Jug Rainbow", Falls of the Ohio, June 2015

“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.

Back view of "Big Jug Rainbow", Falls of the Ohio, June 2015

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.

"Big Jug Rainbow" on location at the Falls of the Ohio, June 2015

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.

Eastern Eyed Click Beetle, Falls of the Ohio, June 2015

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.

"Stump Flower", Falls of the Ohio, June 2015

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”.

"Stump Flower", found flip flops, Falls of the Ohio, June 2015

"Stump Flower", detail, Falls of the Ohio, June 2015

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.

"Big Jug Rainbow" as seen from a distance, Falls of the Ohio, June 2015

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On the dry Indiana bank, Falls of the Ohio, Oct 2014

After my all day excursion to the Kentucky side of the fossil beds…my next visit to the park was a relatively short one.  I had a few hours to work with and decided to check out the riverbank on the Indiana side.  It has been very dry of late and I heard on the radio that farmers have begun revising their optimism about this year’s corn crop.  Once again, we have had a season that seems atypical in a few respects.  Most notably, our summer has been a cool one.  No temperatures in the high 90 or 100 degree range…that would be about 35 to 38 degrees on the Celsius scale.  Climatologists point to the cold Arctic air that came sweeping down from Canada during July as the reason our summer was not as hot.  People around here aren’t complaining about that, but after last year’s polar vortex winter… folks are wondering if that bodes well for this year’s fall and winter?

Cracked, drying mud, Falls of the Ohio, Oct. 2014

In addition to the coolness, it’s also been dry of late.  Seems that we haven’t had a significant rain storm to speak of in weeks and the river continues to recede.  New pools are formed stranding fish in them and many creatures take advantage of this bounty.  Walking along the cracked riverbank I find evidence of this.

Dead Longnose gar and decaying Bull gill, Falls of the Ohio, Oct. 2014

I soon came across dead fish left behind in the wake of weekend fishermen.  In this picture, an armored and toothy Longnose Gar (Lepisosteus osseus) lies side by side with an equally interesting fish that is rarely found here.  With its thick body, white caudil fins, and unique pectoral fins…I identify this smaller fish.  It’s more commonly called a Bull Gill, but science also recognizes it as (Taurus opercula).  I wonder if there are any other specimens hiding in the deeper pools around here?  To find out, I gather waste monofilament line found all along the riverbank along with a found lead-headed jig and before too long I have improvised a hand line for fishing.

Bull Gill on a hand line, Falls of the Ohio, Oct. 2014

Bull Gill on the line, Falls of the Ohio, Oct. 2014

After some trial and error, I succeeded in catching a Bull Gill by bumping my jig along the bottom of a wide, but shallow pool.  The fish was well hooked and after a short struggle I was able to bring him up for a better look.

Bull Gill in hand, Falls of the Ohio, October 2014

Captured Bull Gill facing left, Falls of the Ohio, Oct. 2014

I hurriedly take as many photographs as I can.  My intention is to release this fish back into the water after I document its presence here at the Falls of the Ohio.  As you can see, this fish contrasts greatly with the dead gar we saw earlier.  The gar is in fact a more ancient and primitive fish that relies on its hard armor for protection.  The gar is mostly a surface fish mimicking a floating piece of wood while it stealthily seeks out smaller fish to ambush.  The gar’s strategy has been so successful that it has changed little after millions of years.  The Bull Gill evolved much later and lacks prominent scales on its more compact body.  It too, however has evolved a unique method of feeding.

Bull Gill seen head on, Falls of the Ohio, Oct. 2014

Bull Gill supporting itself on its pectoral fins, Falls of the Ohio, Oct. 2014

The Bull Gill gets its name from its powerfully muscled head.  Just below and behind its gill covers, the unique pectoral fins have evolved so that this fish can support itself on the bottom of a swiftly moving stream or river.  I was able to demonstrate this with my specimen.  I placed my fish upon the rocks by the riverbank and it was able to support its body off the rocky surface using its strong and rigid fins.  In the water, the Bull Gill secures itself on the rocky bottom with its stiff pectoral fins and with its head facing upriver.  The Bull Gill is a predatory bottom feeder.  As prey fish swim by, the Bull Gill with a quick burst is able to capture its food and swallows them head first before returning to its spot on the river bottom.  I had this fish out of water for just a couple of minutes before releasing it safely back into the Ohio River.  I had to say that I enjoyed encountering a creature you don’t see every day.  It’s presence here is a good sign since the Bull Gill needs good quality water to thrive.   I gathered up my collecting bag and walking stick and decided to check out my stash of Styrofoam under the willows.

Up the riverbank and under the willows, Falls of the Ohio, Oct. 2014

The willow trees are up the riverbank and the leaves are beginning to yellow more noticeably.  Along the way you pass by a couple of courses of deposited driftwood.  I love the silvery color of this wood which is due to exposure to the sun and elements.  I had a great surprise in store for me once I ducked under the cover of the trees.  For many years I have known that White-tail Deer are present in the park because their tracks are all over the place.  These ghost deer are fairly close to a populated area and extremely wary of people.  They must move around the park in the middle of the night or really early in the morning to avoid detection.

The deers' resting place, Falls of the Ohio, Oct. 2014

deer tracks in the sand, Falls of the Ohio, Oct. 2014

As I moved near my spot, I spooked a doe and her late season fawn.  I could still make out the spotted pattern on the fawn.  They were bedded down near a large log that floated into the park last year.  I first saw the doe which rose and ran off upon sighting me.  The fawn then stood up and followed after its mom.  I was unable to take a photograph because this sequence happened in just seconds.  I then followed to see if a second glimpse was possible and I even doubled back to this spot should the deer attempt the same maneuver.  Unfortunately, I didn’t get another look at them, but since they are near my outdoor studio, I will be sure to check for them next time.

My stash of Styrofoam, Falls of the Ohio, Oct. 2014

It had been many weeks since I last visited my larder of river-gleaned materials.  I could tell that people had been through here, but there is obviously nothing of value.  I mean what could one do with water-tumbled polystyrene and sticks?  If the river doesn’t rise anytime soon, I will come back and make something from this odd deposit.  My next post, however, will come from the Kentucky side of the fossil beds.  After this adventure, I returned with my river-polished coal and explored a few more areas around Goose Island and the hydroelectric plant.  I think I made some compelling images that speak of a sense for place and I look forward to sharing them with you.

Fall color at the Falls of the Ohio, Oct. 2014

 

 

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Softball core river pearl from the Falls of the Ohio

It started with one.  I had been picking them up for years…odd, yellow ocher orbs that the river marooned in various sections of the Falls of the Ohio State Park.  Initially, I was intrigued by them because I knew they had to be something, but what?  Early on I formed this association in my mind that these balls were giant pearls and they were gifts to me from the beautiful river.  Made from a lightweight yet solid, hard foam, these balls weathered in very individualistic ways.  Many of them had acquired a nice patina from their river journey perhaps floating long distances for many years.  For a while, each time I would go on one of my excursions to the Falls of the Ohio, the river made sure that I would stumble upon one or more of these balls.  Into the collecting bag they would go.  Eventually, I found out what kind of balls they are and in case you haven’t guessed yet…here are a couple more images that will reveal what they originally looked like.  I’ll start with one of these balls in the process of transforming, followed by one that is more intact.

softball with covering coming off, Falls of the Ohio

softball in the river

My river pearls are the cores of contemporary softballs.  How did all these softballs end up in the river?  When I was a kid, a softball had a hard rubber ball in the interior which was surrounded by what seemed like miles of string wrapped tightly around the rubber ball.  A two piece leather cover was then sewn over this “string ball” which completed the softball and was now ready to be played with.  For those who might be unfamiliar with softball…it’s a game similar to baseball, but the ball is about twice as large as a standard baseball.  I collected these softball cores for years, but especially during the early phase of my Artist at Exit 0 Project.  After each river trip I would dutifully fill up boxes in my home’s basement with my found balls and then forget about them.  Over time, I started picking up lots of different objects and using them in various ways as materials for my sculptures or as offbeat collections of odd items I was creating.  I guess I always knew that I would return to these balls and make something interesting with them someday.  That day arrived last week.

softball cores in my backyard, Oct. 2013

I had no idea how many of these balls I had collected or passed up over the years?  This recent photo taken in my Louisville backyard shows about 110 out of the 160 balls I did save.  I decided to act on my river pearls idea by making an impractically large pearl necklace.  I carried all the balls I had to my friend Tom’s sculpture studio and used his drill press to drill a hole through each ball.  That was a bit more of a technical challenge than I had first conceptualized.  Most of these spheres are not perfectly round. In fact their imperfections (which I really like as evidence of wear by the river and elements) made each drilling a unique experience.  Eventually, I got the job done and laid out many of the balls on the concrete pad in my backyard.  Just as I was beginning to thread and knot braided nylon cord through the balls…the sky let loose a monstrous rain storm.  By day’s end, nearly seven inches or 17.5 centimeters of rain fell and flooded parts of my backyard and basement!  It was like being visited by the river in an interesting way.  I had initially “graded” each ball by condition and color to form transitions in this giant strand, but the water and now mud from my backyard changed the color of each ball.  I decided to make my first piece one hundred balls long.  There is a knot tied with the cord that keeps each ball from touching.  At my local hardware store I found a brass hook that I could use for a clasp to close my giant necklace.  All that was left to do was to return to the river…to the place that I found all of these balls and inspiration and find a way to give thanks for these many gifts.

river pearl necklace in plastic bucket, Oct. 2013

Loading the necklace into a large red plastic tub I carried my artwork down to the Ohio River.  One hundred balls became surprisingly heavy and I was concerned about twisting an ankle or tweaking my knee as I walked over the driftwood.  I came to a sunny place under the railroad bridge and laid the necklace out upon the sand for the first time.

weathered softball cores, Oct. 2013

Here’s a look as some of the weathering that occurred with a few of the balls.  And here is one of the first images of the necklace joined together.

one hundred ball necklace in the sand, Falls of the Ohio, Oct. 2013

This was okay for a trial run, but I had other images in mind.  I have always loved the willow trees in the park and I chose one of my favorite ones to “wear” my river pearl necklace.  Yes, it’s a hopelessly romantic gesture, but I felt like “celebrating” this tree in a special way.  Here are a few more images.

amazing willow tree wearing my river pearl necklace, October 2013

willow tree "wearing" my river pearl necklace, Falls of the Ohio, October 2013

detail of willow tree necklace, Oct. 2013

Moving closer to the river, I stopped by an old willow that was barely alive.  I draped my necklace over its old exposed roots and created a few more images.

Old willow roots and necklace, Oct. 2013

Once in a while, a park visitor would walk by and look in my direction and continue on as though I was engaged in a most ordinary activity!  If I had stumbled across this scene…I think curiosity would compel me to say something.  Next is another detail from my eccentric strand of pearls.

detail, slightly elevated river pearl necklace, Oct. 2013

With the river within sight, I lifted my bucket of balls and headed towards the fossil rocks.  It was a sunny, but windy day and my next idea was to put the necklace into the water.

"La Belle Riviere", softball core necklace, Falls of the Ohio, October 2013

I found a pool of water surrounded by Devonian inspired limestone that would prevent my necklace from being carried away by the current’s flow.  Still, the wind kept changing the configuration and blowing the balls against the rocks.

"La Belle Riviere", softball core necklace, Falls of the Ohio, October 2013

I used a beaver-chewed willow stick I found on the bank to guide my necklace into shape between photos.  The necklace which I now had named “La Belle Riviere” was the name originally given by French missionaries upon encountering the Ohio River for the first time.

"La Belle Riviere", softball core necklace, October 2013

It seems appropriate that the river which played a large part in bringing these balls to this shore…would continue to influence how this piece would be perceived.

detail, of "La Belle Riviere", Oct. 2013

I enjoyed how the gourd-colored balls harmonized with the surrounding riverine landscape.  I felt some sense of accomplishment in creating this piece and being able to return it to the Falls environment to create this site specific work.  It was also a fitting ten-year anniversary artwork since “La Belle Riviere” began with that first found ball a decade a go.  I will see how well it holds its own in a gallery environment since I want to include this piece in a two person show I’m participating in this January.  After these river photos…I loaded the necklace back into its container and began the slow walk back to my car.  While making this work, I did have one admirer that found the work irresistible and I will end this post with its image.  So long…from the Falls of the Ohio.

Butterfly with detail of softball core necklace, Oct. 2013

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Since my last visit to the Falls of the Ohio State Park the willow fuzz has peaked.  Cottony drifts have gathered in places that offer some protection from even the slightest breeze.  The way the light shines on this gossamer surface is magical!  Before venturing into today’s avian adventure…a personal blogging milestone announcement as this is officially post number 300!  I hear the champagne corks popping already.  I had little in the way of expectations when I started this Riverblog, but I have been happy with this medium for describing my project.  In the beginning, I wasn’t sure if blogging would hold my interest, but it has.  I have also enjoyed the wide community that is out there and I thank everyone that has stopped by or left a comment.  As regular visitors know…I’m a big bird watching fan and I enjoy the many challenges that this hobby presents me.  A once in a lifetime experience can begin with a quick flash of the wings that may last just seconds.  It causes me to be acutely present in the moment.  Venturing down to the river I see the resident flock of Black Vultures has returned for another season.  I photographed this wary pair looking for dead fish or anything else edible.

The foreground in this image is willow fluff covering the sand.  I find the two vulture species that hang out at the Falls to be really interesting birds and I have posted on them many times before.  There are more furtive species out here as well and I had the good luck to stumble upon a small mixed flock of warbler species.  Among this group were several Magnolia Warblers and I have a few images of them.  I love their coloring with their black streaks on their bright yellow breasts.  Magnolia Warbler is a misnomer since they don’t seem to favor that tree in my experience.  I found these warblers to be very tolerant of my presence and I was able to follow them as they moved from one willow tree to another in their search for small insects.

Warblers are tiny always on the go creatures and their many species are a highlight of the spring migration.  Many of the warbler species I see are passing through our area to points mostly north of here.  I came across another seldom seen bird that I hope you will enjoy.  It’s called the Brown-winged Robin and it too is traveling through the heartland.  I have a series of this bird too beginning with a specimen I found wading through the willow fuzz.  Is this pre-nesting behavior?

Here are a few more shots of this rare bird in the environment at the Falls of the Ohio.  The brown wings are diagnostic as is the bright red beak.

There are many more bird species both real and imagined that I look forward to presenting in future posts!  I hope to continue to share with you the great variety of life that I find in this relatively small place as it reveals itself to me.  One other announcement for folks in my immediate area.  I will be presenting my project at the Pecha Kucha event at the Bernheim Arboretum and Research Forest in Clermont, Kentucky the evening of June 5.  This will be an outdoor event and coincides with the transit of Venus occurring on that night.  Essentially, this slide show presentation form I believe began in architectural circles and speakers have 20 slides at 20 seconds a piece to present a topic.  It goes by fast so you need to be pithy which can be a challenge! If you are interested in more information just click on my Bernheim Arboretum and Research Forest link in my blogroll.  I hope to see some of you out there and thanks again to all who have checked out the Artist at Exit 0 Riverblog over the years!  Now for more willow fuzz!

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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.

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