“Morning Twilight, Schweitzer Marsh”

Posted on Sep, Tue, 2023 in Musings from Still Point

“Morning Twilight, Schweitzer Marsh”

Too often lost on the tangible object, art’s greater value may inhere in the abstract and intrinsic – qualities that nurture, that bind humanity through nature and contemplation. Those that open to the mysteries of a marsh perhaps, to such as the dragonfly in its luminescent carapace hovering and darting, or the jarring croak of the Great Blue Heron, its primordial voice announcing its being, exploding into morning and as abruptly, the earnest silence that follows, echoing through early twilight.

I post this image taken nine years ago (August,) 2014, before the Wheeling & Lake Erie Railway’s unmindful drainage and destruction of this hallowed wetland began earlier this year, a place sacred to generations of wildlife and flora, a natural creation where William Wordsworth might well have experienced a “spot in time.”  Or, after the railway’s heresy upon the landscape, John Keats, in his time, might have remarked,

“The sedge is wither’d from the lake,
And no birds sing.”
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“Time Irresolute, Tummond’s Bog”

Posted on Sep, Tue, 2023 in Musings from Still Point

“Time Irresolute, Tummond’s Bog ”

“Others will see the islands large and small; …
A hundred years hence, or ever so many hundred years hence, others will see them …”  “Crossing Brooklyn Ferry” Walt Whitman

167 years after Walt Whitman published these prophetic lines, technology, capitalism and exigent political and religious ideologies now conspire to change at least one dimension of time’s long held notion; that some things are immutable, that some things transcend the temporal, that some things endure. How can the simple beauty of a wetland that has survived for 11,000 years fall to the whim of man in the course of a few years? Entropy comes to the natural world with surrealistic speed disguised in many colors but almost always motivated by profit and power.

This scene of mallards flushing over a beaver lodge is at once iconic and timeless but imminently precarious. Imagine a world devoid of these creatures and the everyday quotidian beauty of the landscape.

Kate and I were visiting Tummond’s bog, a little known wetland in Mantua, Ohio, when mallards exploded over a beaver lodge at the west end of the marsh. It was the same location and scene we might have experienced 11,000 years ago with the end of the Pleistocene era as Ohio’s last glacier receded leaving eskers and kames behind to delineate the wetland, effectively arresting it in time. Pin oaks, white oaks, beech and shagbark hickory trace the slopes to the water where rush and sedge frame nesting areas for waterfowl and supply material and food for beaver lodges – a remarkable ecosystem, symbiotic, self-sustaining yet fragile. The area was designated a National Natural Landmark in 1976 and a state nature preserve in 1990.
One can walk, as we did, along the top of the serpentine eskers that still shelter the bog. As this scene existed in the past, it remains today. Tomorrow is less sanguine.

Oscar Bruggman Sand & Gravel, a privately owned, local company, is strip mining the wetland’s contiguous boundaries, first removing surface vegetation (trees and brush), then topsoil and eventually the gravel to be sold. The mining impact to the hydrology, water chemistry, soil acidity, the underground aquifer, wildlife and myriad other critical components of this natural system presents an imminent existential crisis.

Perhaps it’s not of any real consequence. There are thousands of bogs of course and when they disappear few will be aware of the loss and few will care. My personal hope is we come to see this obscure little bog as a microcosm, a metaphor that somehow helps, ever so minutely, to affect public opinion and, perhaps as a long shot, to galvanize action to preserve its beauty and silent wonder.
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Posted on Sep, Wed, 2023 in Musings from Still Point

Lamentations buried for another year …

“Nature is painting for us, day after day, pictures of infinite beauty if only we have the eyes to see them.” John Ruskin

One of my favorite quotes, Ruskin’s proposition had taken hold on me long before I would ever see or hear it. Sitting in my mother’s lap, reading a 50’s edition of Peterson’s “Field Guide to Birds,” I would point to the illustrations and together we would try to imitate their calls. My mother, who really never considered herself a “birder,” instilled a fascination, nonetheless, through those readings and through the myriad small birds we observed at our feeder outside the kitchen window. In winter months she put out sunflower seeds and suet in a cross-hatched, small wire frame hung from the tall pussy willows near the window. It was goldfinches with their insatiable appetite for suet and seeds that caught my interest.  In early winter I recall they were dull green but by late March began to turn yellow – in our small rural town in northeast Ohio, goldfinches were as much the harbingers of spring as the return of robins.

Through the summer, before asters turned to fluff and seed, the goldfinch would explode from the high weeds, dip and climb, start and stall, and sing in flight their cadent song, “perchickory, per tee tee tee.” Threading fields of prickly weed, these acrobats, balanced on seed heads of cone flowers and teasel, joe-pye and aster. Tumbling orbs of color, kaleidoscopic shards of yellow and black, flickering and twisting out of hyssop and iron weed, their ravenous feeding sending pappus floating to earth to resurrect in spring.

November comes and still a goldfinch or two explode from thistle and weeds sounding a few piercing notes, then rattle and whisper their elegy – lamentations buried for another year.









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