Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Goodbye, Ohio

On the brink, Bridal Veil Falls 
Kali's mom (my mother-in-law) is developing dementia and can't live alone any longer.  A year ago, after a plumbing accident in her house which simply overwhelmed Mom, Kali's brother flew to northeastern Ohio to gather-up Mom and a few of her things to take back to San Diego with him.  She's been there ever since, and her house has sat empty.

Because Mom can't move back to northeastern Ohio, we're getting ready to sell her house.  Over the week preceding and including  Thanksgiving, Kali, her brother, and I gathered in the house to get things organized and sort through a lifetime of possessions and memories.  It was a physically and psychically challenging seven days we spent together.

On the last day we were together, we finished up our work in early afternoon and had a few hours before we had to take Kali's brother to the airport.  I suggested a walk at my favorite natural area, Bridal Veil Falls on Deerlick Run in the Bedford Reservation of the Cleveland Metroparks system.  Though it had rained in the morning, by late afternoon the wan autumn sun was shining.
I've posted images of the falls before.  When I was growing up, the falls and the tight gorge below them were my favorite summer hangout.  Back then, the Metroparks system had not yet built the elaborate boardwalk that now lets just about anyone who is ambulatory to view the falls.  Decades ago, I entered the stream above the falls and waded, slid and scrambled all the way down to Deerlick Run's confluence with Tinker's Creek.  A few hundred feet downstream of Bridal Veil Falls, Deerlick Run and another unnamed Tinker's Creek tributary each plunge over a shelf of resistant sandstone to create twin falls in an isolated hemlock-shaded glen, then course together with their waters conjoined.  It was a sacred place for me.
Bridal Veil Falls after morning rain
Northern half of Twin Falls on an unnamed tributary of Tinker's Creek
Because Kali, her brother and I were content to just explore the falls' environs and not take a long hike, we got off the formal trail (which, incidentally, is part of the state-looping Buckeye Trail) and wandered  through the woods along the lip of the gorge.  To my utter disappointment, I found that my sacred place has been desecrated--not terribly, but enough to cause me great sadness.  Many of the birches bore carvings in their bark, and a well-worn path traced the cliff edge.  The woodland understory was virtually non-existent, and all of the very few saplings and root-sprouts had been nibbled by deer.
Fungus-encrusted snag in the woods
There's a very good chance that this will have been my last visit to Bridal Veil Falls.  While my brother and his family and my sister and her family still live in northeastern Ohio, we are none of us particularly close and I have never returned to Ohio just to visit with my younger siblings.  (Nor have they ever come to visit me in 23 years, either.)
Hemlocks and sycamore
And it's not just Bridal Veil Falls; this may have been my last bittersweet visit to Ohio, too, since we have professionals dealing with the sale of the house and the transaction can probably be completed by attorneys via mail or email.  Though there are still tethers that can probably never be completely severed, I think it's time to move on.   


John Gray said...

I know it is a tough time for family, but its a kind of nice finding a little more about you all!
best wishes

packrat said...

You're a poet, Scott.

I'm a former Buckeye, too, and I haven't been back in a decade. As a kid I spent hours hiking around Mill Creek Park (now Mill Creek MetroParks), and that is the place where I essentially developed my love of nature.

Grizz………… said...

Scott…I'm sorry your (possibly) last visit to Ohio came about because of such a stressful and sad situation. But then, so many final visits are by necessity made amid similar circumstances. Live moves on, the world changes, even those special places in the wild or semi-wild which we once thought were immune to time's relentless hand.

Almost every place that was dear to me in my growing up, from dwellings to outdoor spots, is gone or desecrated in some manner that forever alters its connection to my past. I can't tell you how empty I sometimes feel…and it doesn't go away with time, either, because its loss is a loss of myself, my history, my identity.

I guess it's part of the human condition. We just have to get up each day, make the best of what we're given, do what's right and honorable, live in the moment…and keep moving forward. I know exactly how you feel, from the needs of the aging parent to clearing out the house. I hope you do get back to Ohio one of these days; but I also understand the urge to never look back.

Take care, my friend.

Scott said...

John: My very best friend, who now lives 1,000 miles from me, has told me repeatedly that he knows almost nothing about me despite our being best friends. Maybe I ought to open up more, like I started to do with this post. I want to try to find the right balance for the blog; if it becomes too personal, I'm afraid I'll lose my readers who are more interested in the natural world. I've given this a lot of thought over the years I've been posting.

Scott said...

Packrat: Many thanks for your kind comments. You had told me previously that you'd grown up around Youngstown. If I move West when I retire (like I hope to do), I wonder if the eastern deciduous forest will ever let me (fully) escape!

Gail said...

SCOTT - oh my, it is a complicated time. I feel your loss and wonder. I love the pictures of the Falls - and your memories are breath-taking. I will pray for you and yours during this time of transition.
Love Gail

Scott said...

Grizz: You are, as always, completely correct and insightful. Life does move on, and the world changes our special places. There is great personal loss in all this.

Some changes in the world are for the better: better sanitation, better health care, longer life expectancy, more ease and comfort. But, it seems that the changes in the natural world are overwhelming negative, and it's all pretty discouraging for people who have invested so much of their lives and identities in the natural world.

When I was growing up, there was an expansive mature oak woodland just down the street from my house. A small stream ran through the woods, and tumbled over a falls where I used to cling to grapevines and swing, Tarzan-like, over the ravine below the falls (much to my father's consternation when I showed him what I had been doing one day). Well, the property was privately owned and one day, the forest was leveled, the stream disappeared in a pipe and they replaced the ecosystem with a f'ing landfill! How's that for devastating? They paved paradise and put up a dump.

Scott said...

Gail: Thank you for your kind,understanding words and thoughts. Of course, dealing with my mother-in-law's situation is a challenge and will be for a while, but at least it's somewhat predictable and can be managed. The psychic and emotional damage to my natural world and my memories--so out of my control--weighs heavily just now.

Carolyn H said...

Scott: I hope that someday you are able to return in happier times. I see the landscape all around me changing, too, and in my opinion none of that change is for the better. A big part of the reason I started Roundtop Ruminations was to document the life I was able to live there, as I suspect the area will be far different and that kind of life gone before too long.

The Musical Gardener said...

Scott, I doubt you will lose readership by writing from your heart. Most readers are looking for a topic, and a writer they can identify with, and not necessarily in that order.

Grizz………… said...


I've struggled with the nature/personal history aspects of the blog, myself—and I'm finally coming to think the latter is the more important and interesting to readers. As you know, I've written a syndicated nature/outdoor column for years…but I never could quite bring myself to making it a strictly nature piece. Frankly, the pure facts of a bird or wildflower or walk in the woods, a textbook sort of listing, aren't very interesting to me, as a reader; I can get than from a field guide or a few minutes on the Internet. I'd far rather read those details woven into a personal narrative. Tell me what it means to you, how it fits into your life at the moment; give it ground in your daily routine, thoughts, feelings.

Over the years I've come to learn you can tell any sort of personal story through the context and background of an outdoor piece. I spent days sitting by my 94 year old mother's bedside during her final stay in a hospital, and wove it all into an outdoor column. I wrote of my father's strokes. My own illnesses. Raising my daughter as a single father. Searching and finally finding the near-lost grave of my great-great-great-great-great grandfather. Burying my old dog. Anything and everything can be used if you do it right. You can still keep the outdoor slant, but you can enrich it so much by putting yourself in there.

You might—and rightly—point out that I don't do as much of this in my own blog. This is not by design, but rather by slowly changing in ways I never meant in order to please readers, allowing it to turn into more of a oure nature format than I originally intended. And I don't think it has pleased readers, frankly. I think they liked many of my earliest posts because I put more of me in there…and so I intend to re-aim my scribblings.

Look, anyone can write a oure nature post; only you can write a Scott nature post.

Anyway, that's my take on the matter… :-D

Scott said...

Grizz (2): Thanks for your follow-up comment. If you scroll up through the comments, you'll see that "The Musical Gardener" concurs with you (as do I).

jeannette said...

It's emotionally challenging when parents cannot live on their own anymore. Take care!

Your last and first pics are my favorites -such a beautiful area!

Scott said...

Jeannette: Thank you for your "review" of my images. The natural area there has really gotten under my skin. I'm always reluctant to take my wife with me to a natural area I especially like because it often doesn't impress her as much as it does me, but she has fallen for Deerlick Creek, too. At one time, I wanted to have my ashes spread there, but now I'm reconsidering because of the vandalism around the site. It's still in the running, though.

And, yes, it is emotionally challenging dealing with my declining mother-in-law, but at least my retired brother-in-law, with whom she is living now, is retired and can devote more time to her than my wife or I can.

packrat said...

Having read through all these comments, it occurs to me to ask you, Scott, and your readers if you've ever read anything by Joseph Wood Krutch? He is one who successfully mixed nature writing and personal history/observation.

Scott said...

Packrat: I've never read any of Krutch's writings, though I've heard his name repeatedly. "The Outermost House," maybe? I'll check him our.

Scott said...

Packrat: My bad; Henry Beston wrote "The Outermost House." Krutch's "The Desert Year," published in 1954, won the Burroughs Medal that year. I'll check it out over the holidays; thanks for the tip.

I had/have a dream that I'll read all of the Burroughs Medal recipients before I die. Maybe I'll get there; I've already read a few, sort of by chance, during the course of my life, and I've made a point to read a few others just because they've been given the award. There are probably worse lists to try to read.