Wednesday, March 31, 2010

"Dead Wren"

"Dead Wren" from Pierce the Skin

When I open your little gothic wings
on my whitewashed chest of drawers,

I almost fear you, as if today were my funeral.
Moment by moment, enzymes digest
your life into a kind of coffin liqueur.
Two flies, like coroners, investigate your feathers.
My clock is your obelisk, though only this morning

you lunged into my room, extravagant as Nero,
then, not seeing yourself in the sunlit glass,
struck it. Night - what beams does it clear away?
The rain falls. The sky is pained. All that breathes suffers.
Yet the waters of affliction are purifying.
The wounded soldier heals. There is new wine and oil.
Here, take my handkerchief as your hearse.

Henri Cole

Monday, March 22, 2010

A Gardener's Gift

You would think, with the spectacular weather we had this weekend (cloudless skies and temperatures in the low 70s) that I'd have some wonderful images. But, no, just two mediocre ones.

First, the post title. The weather this weekend was the gardener's gift. I got my spring vegetables planted in my garden: spinach, lettuce, and two kinds of Swiss chard. (I started the "summer" vegetables last Sunday in a greenhouse.) Now, with rain today and cold temperatures forecast for the end of the week, the seeds are in place and on their own.

This Saturday, my wife and I walked six miles at Valley Forge National Historical Park. For those not familiar with Valley Forge, it obviously commemorates and hallows the ground where the Continental Army camped during the bitter winter of 1776, but it is also a recreation mecca for the Philadelphia area. And, understandably, it was packed with bicyclists (especially), joggers, and walkers this weekend. We chose a trail alongside the Schuylkill River, where I snapped the picture at the head of this post. The river had spilled out of its banks during the recent snowmelt and rain deluge; the floodplain was swept clear in many places, and buried in woody debris in others (as is visible in the foreground of the image above).

Along the walk, we encountered Virginia bluebells (Mertensia virginica) just emerging from the ground. In most places, the bluebells had to compete with the non-native lesser celandine (Ranunculus ficaria), as is apparent in the image below.
Sunday, I attended the memorial service for an acquaintance who had died of kidney cancer earlier this month. Afterward, with most of the day remaining, we took another long walk--this time at the natural area closest to home.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Five Days in Ohio

Deerlick Run, Bedford Reservation, Cleveland Metroparks

I spent five days in northeast Ohio from Saturday, March 6 through Wednesday, March10. I grew up in the Cleveland suburb of Garfield Heights, and my mother-in-law still lives there alone. Her mental health is deteriorating rapidly, and my wife and I had to make a semi-emergency trip to help her out. I may be back to Ohio on a fairly regular basis, or I may have to move her closer to us.

While I was there, I visited some of my old natural area haunts. On Saturday afternoon, soon after I arrived, I slipped out to the Bedford Reservation of the Cleveland Metroparks system to visit Deerlick Run and Bridal Veil Falls while there was still a deep blanket of snow on the ground.
Right up front, I have to confess that Deerlick Run is my favorite stream in the entire world. I'm sure that growing up within bicycling distance of the creek had a significant effect on my choice of a favorite stream, but there's no shaking the feeling. Deer Run, for a few hundred feet, runs over horizontal beds of shale creating a series of small falls alternating with shallow sheets of flat water. Then, as the creek approaches the lip of Tinkers Creek gorge, it breaks through the shale and tumbles over Bridal Veil Falls. The falls are fine, but it is really the intimate series of cascades and glissades above the big falls that captivate me. When I was young (and that means well into my college years), I used to spend hours playing in this part of the creek, wading in the water and sliding barefoot over the smooth shale slabs. Water quality in the creek has deteriorated a bit since I lived in northeast Ohio, but the stream's still pretty clean.
Deerlick Run, just above Bridal Veil Falls

Wooden stairway leading to the Bridal Veil Falls Overlook

Just below Bridal Veil Falls, Deerlick Run joins together with another stream of about equal size, and the conjoined streams empty shortly thereafter into Tinker's Creek, largest of the Cuyahoga River tributaries. Unfortunately, the second stream drains a heavily industrialized watershed and its water quality is poor. However, as the two streams approach their meeting point, they tumble over twin falls separated by only a thin point of land. It was too icy and dangerous to climb down into the gorge the day that I visited, but the opportunity to enjoy the twin falls head-on is a delight in summer.

Wolf Creek Falls, Garfield Park Reservation, Cleveland Metroparks

The next morning (Sunday, March 7), I ventured out to the Garfield Park Reservation of the Metroparks to photograph Mill Creek Falls in the snow. The lighting wasn't the best, but I got a few good images of the falls.

Wolf Creek really is little more than an open sewer now. When I was growing up in the area, suburban development was eating up its watershed, and the developers' answer to an irritating stream was to encase it in a huge concrete culvert. Out of sight, out of mind. Each year, more and more of the stream disappeared underground. But the portion of the stream in the Garfield Park Reservation was never buried. Like Deerlick Run, Wolf Creek flows for a short distance over horizontal shale bedrock, which makes for a very scenic stretch of water, before the creek reaches the lip of the falls. From that point downstream, the creek is not interesting; its bed is filled with rocky rubble. When I was growing up, I used to wade Wolf Creek above the falls, too. With that in mind, I decided to cross the shallow creek in my L.L. Bean boots to get a different perspective from the other bank. Unfortunately, the high nutrient content of the water has encouraged luxuriant growth of diatoms on the streambed, and the rocks were really slippery. I went down, and thoroughly slimed (or diatomed) my pants, my jacket, and my hands. Yuck! And, the image wasn't even worth it!
We also took advantage of the fact that the refrigerated tobogganing chutes in the Mill Stream Run Reservation of the Cleveland Metroparks were operating for the last day of the season on Sunday, March 7. It was sunny, beautiful, and mild as we carried the toboggan up the wooden stairs to the top of the chutes. The long lines gave us plenty of time to build up our anticipation. I sat in the front, my 85-year-old mother-in-law sat in the middle, and my wife sat in the back. As the attendant opened the gate and we slid toward the brink, my reaction was, "Holy crap!" I'll tell you, flying down the chute at 45 miles per hour made me so much more appreciative of the bobsled and skeleton crews at the Olympics. It was a blast!
Toboggan Chutes, Mill Stream Run Reservation, Cleveland Metroparks

Monday, March 1, 2010

Sycamore Moon

Sunday night the moon was full and I captured this image of the moon shining through high, thin clouds and partially obscured by a limb of the 250-year-old sycamore tree growing behind our house. I used my pocket S10 Nikon set on Night Landscape mode to get the image. I took lots of others, but most were blurry. This image is not crystal clear, either, but I thought that it was interesting nonetheless.

Baltimore Booty

We made our nearly annual pilgrimage to Baltimore this weekend to the American Craft Council show at the Baltimore Convention Center. This show is the largest indoor craft show in America. Attending the show is like going to a gigantic craft museum. First, there were nearly a thousand craftsmen displaying their crafts--daunting in and of itself. Second, the work is always of the highest quality (and priced accordingly, as well).

We spent 6-1/2 hours enjoying the show and were very tired by the time we left. We bought four items, three of which are shown in the image below. They were a small glass vase, a mug decorated in a Great Blue Heron motif, a folk-artsy wooden wall hanging called "Wall Birds" that will be a gift for a friend, and a shearling wool hat (not pictured) for my wife.

I commented to my wife that I wish we were rich because I'd like to redecorate our house using some of the wonderful and beautiful hand-crafted furniture and decorative items on display. The truth is, though, that we've accumulated some wonderful pieces, and now we're actually in the de-acquisitive stage of our lives and don't really need anything else.