Posted on Feb, Wed, 2024 in Landscapes, Musings from Still Point, Uncategorized


“Stars” Squire Valleevue Farm

Last year I posted an image from the farm entitled, “Where Shadows Come to Die, ” in which I explained the derivation of the name and alluded to an earlier series of the same meadow taken in early spring on the same day several years earlier. This image (“Stars”) of dandelions is from that earlier series I entitled “Constellations.” As prominent as the dried dandelions appear, I would suggest the role of the distant barn is the critical element anchoring the image.

I come here each spring to find new wildflowers or meadow grasses or skies or things unanticipated.


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“And No Birds Sing”

Posted on Feb, Fri, 2024 in Landscapes, Musings from Still Point, Musings from Still Point

“And No Birds Sing”


An ancient pin oak, its heartwood now ossified and alabaster, leans in like a conductor as rows of trees like orchestra members strain for direction. One can almost hear the sylvan sounds of Grieg, lyrical notes of a breeze ascending. Peering into its woodland, this is a view of the northwestern corner of Schweitzer’s Marsh a little over a year ago, before the W&LE Railway opened a channel to drain the marsh, an action not undertaken in over 100 years. Here, above the northern bank, the forest floor is layered in autumn’s last leaves and the scent of damp earth and detritus lingers. Fluorescing lichen paints trees in luminous blues and greens in this remnant of a century old beech and oak forest. Some ancient pin oaks still stand, their bark sloughed through the seasons.

Just over a year later, this pristine wetland, Schweitzer Marsh, is lost, nothing more than withered sedge, rush and shallow pools splashed across vast mud flats that now have replaced acres of wildlife habitat, and destroyed an aesthetic of indescribable beauty and of sunrises that once set the marsh on fire.

And no birds sing.
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UPDATE “Death of a Wetland”

Posted on Jan, Tue, 2024 in Landscapes, Musings from Still Point, Musings from Still Point

“The Sun is but a Morning Star” H.D. Thoreau
Image No. 1

“The sedge has withered from the lake, and no birds sing.”  John Keats
Image No. 2


Image No.1

Each day the sun rises with reverence over Schweitzer Marsh, lifting silently above the horizon, quivering briefly in the morning air, pushing into day its elongated shadows trapped in their own reflections, piercing still water. Before ascending into view, morning twilight stirs life through the marsh. The piping notes of bald eagles, the sudden silence before the primal croak of the great blue heron’s flight into morning, the kingfisher’s waking rattle and always, always, the rising chorus of redwing blackbirds.  And yet beyond, geese and ducks, puddlers and divers sounding grace before the spreading sun.

Image No.2

Schweitzer Marsh, now in its death throes one year after the Wheeling & Lake Erie Railway excavated a channel and installed a new culvert in its west bank that has drained the marsh.  Since February, I have worked with a variety of agencies and organizations whose missions are dedicated to preserving wetlands. Included among them, the Ohio Department of Natural Resources, Tinker’s Creek Watershed Partners, Ohio EPA, Summit County Metroparks and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE).

Beginning in 2018, the Trump administration successfully dismantled and disemboweled the 1972 Clean Water Act as 100 environmental rules were officially reversed, revoked or otherwise rolled back during his administration. In May (2023), Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito (Sackett vs. EPA) effectively provided the eviscerating blow to an estimated 40% of U.S. wetlands, writing in his majority opinion that the Clean Water Act applies only to wetlands that share contiguous surface waters. Corporations and individuals may now drain formerly protected wetlands, profiting from their sale as commercial and residential properties. This highly consequential decision has flown beneath the radar ever since despite the profound effect it portends for habitat, migrating species and sustained wildlife. And lost in the ruling is any consideration for the egregious and grave destruction of nature’s aesthetic.

My own work with the agencies and park systems has yielded little beyond sympathetic and generally sincere expressions of support. The political and bureaucratic morass encumbering action relates to the ambiguity of jurisdiction and lack of enforcement authority between agencies. However, after sifting through the maze throughout the past year, it appears the ultimate arbiter with both jurisdiction and enforcement authority is the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.  By last summer, the Chief of Regulatory Monitoring and Enforcement (Buffalo District, includes Ohio) for the Corps, was persuaded to review the facts with his team in Buffalo to make a determination as to the W&LE’s culpability and possible action against the railroad.  1,000 concerned citizens locally and nationally have already signed a petition to “Save Schweitzer Marsh,” many of whom have written letters to the railroad expressing concern and outrage demanding remediation. And many have donated money in furtherance of this cause.  To that end, we have provided USACE as well as Ohio EPA a full accounting of the damage and its impact through an abundance of “before and after” images, videos, text and legal citations prohibiting the dredging and draining of the wetland by W&LE.

Pursuant to filing the requisite forms USACE requested, and providing pertinent and supporting resources, the Corps has yet to respond and/or acknowledge three separate requests for status updates since September 1.  This is disheartening for so many of us who followed the rules and protocol (to the limited extent any of the agencies could provide direction or that we could infer a process) and come to question the efficacy of these agencies and organizations, most funded through taxes.

Abundant thanks to all who are determined to preserve this extraordinary natural resource.  Perhaps in its demise we will take a small step forward by raising awareness ever so slightly among a public consumed by life’s quotidian demands.

This final rant but fading noise.

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“New Year Trepidation”

Posted on Jan, Mon, 2024 in Landscapes, Musings from Still Point, Uncategorized

“New Year Trepidation”

This is the new year view that greeted me Friday as I approached the woodland just beyond the dried banks at the north end of Schweitzer marsh. There are untold poems that reside within. One can imagine Robert Frost pronouncing it “dark and deep.” And as this old woodland sprawls atop glacial drift and a garrison of pin oak, beech and hawthorn fortify what remains of the marsh, a line from Keats comes to mind; “The sedge has withered from the lake, And no birds sing.”

One year after the Wheeling & Lake Erie Railway created a channel and added a new culvert, the wetland has been largely drained and transformed. Waterfowl and wildlife that have depended on the marsh for nesting and food and that animated the wetland for at least a century have disappeared and with them its spirit. Countless individuals who will see this post have written entreaties to the W&LE, signed and helped fund a national petition, and encouraged the Ohio EPA, Army Corps of Engineers, Summit County Parks and Tinker’s Creek Watershed Partners to bring to bear responsibility and a sense of stewardship to the Railway. The solutions are within easy reach and of little cost to the company but the W&LE refuses to correct its poor judgement – the product of corporate insouciance perhaps or simply inflated ego.

In a final attempt to save the marsh we asked the Army Corps of Engineers to begin an investigation last September based on the Railway’s failure to obtain permits to create the drainage canal. To date, the Corps has provided none of its findings as we continue to request status reports. As they become available or other information surfaces we will keep you all apprised.

My choice of title was not “Happy” New Year, as you no doubt have deduced from the content of this post. “Trepidation” strikes me as the operative word, not only for the tragedy of a wetland but for the overwhelming dread that has our Republic in its hold. Sadly, the notion of hope seems a bit quixotic if not quaint in this year of our retributor, 2024.

“Schweitzer Marsh, New Year 2024”

As a coda of sorts to the update on Schweitzer Marsh, the image below was taken the same day (Jan. 6) as the original post. I’ve rendered it in black and white, in part as a metaphor for the destruction of the wetland but also as a tribute to its enduring beauty, even in its transformation.

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“Mourning Crow”

Posted on Jan, Thu, 2024 in Uncategorized

“Mourning Crow”



“Here is the strict, abstract
light of winter. From a bare branch
a crow takes flight, rising
heavily, overcoming
the impossible…” Lawrence Raab



“To hatch a crow, a black rainbow
Bent in emptiness
over emptiness
But flying.” Ted Hughes

Late afternoon on a New Year’s Day, Squire Valleevue farm presented a moment of memory and mixed emotion as four crows arrived, three perching in an old cherry tree, the fourth (pictured below), being the larger member of the quartet, assumed dominion in a towering black willow, announcing his presence in a single burst and full staccato. It must have been a sufficient declaration of sovereignty as it sent his companions quietly into the north wind beyond the distant tree line.

He had arrived inauspiciously I thought, to greet me on a particularly lugubrious, bone-cold, day in January, perhaps an augury of dread before us and the fate of a country suddenly so dark and fragile.

As I contemplated the symbolism of the moment, cold and dark and unpropitious, I thought of these rapacious birds, the ones I had hunted as a young boy on a neighbor’s farm for 15 cent bounties. My early enmity towards crows, their destruction of crops and predation of songbirds has calcified over time.

The duality of good, evil and a variety of dichotomies ascribed to crows have been the subject and construct of many poets, two of whose opposing views are quoted here. Lawrence Raab, whose opening stanza of possibility, a poem of contemplative imagery and hope contrasts with that of English poet Ted Hughes who saved his darkest, most savage poetry for his canon, “Crow” following the suicide of his wife, Sylvia Plath and later, in similar fashion, his lover, Assia Wevill and their daughter.

And where does this bird fit and what must he imagine, each of us awaiting this year of retribution?

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“Ghosts of River Road”

Posted on Dec, Wed, 2023 in Landscapes, Musings from Still Point, Uncategorized

“Ghosts of River Road”

Inevitably, one morning late each year sycamores appear along the banks of the Chagrin River. Rising up the steep slopes bounding the river, deciduous trees of all manner crowd the hills for six months draping the landscape in a mantle of green, then briefly in October fire. All the while, sycamores wait silently unnoticed until winter’s first storm arrives in the night, its gusts and freezing rain borne on the edge of a cold front. Broad leaves of maple, white and red oak, mature beech and cherry, even sycamores are stripped in torrents of wind and rain, papering the forest floor in bronze and rust only to fade in brief days ahead.

As a child I recall the magic but also the melancholy of seasons past as we would drive along the river, observing the ghostly sycamores, their white trunks, sclerotic branches and fingers imploring us closer – only the marescent leaves of young beech and black willow, tenacious and withering through winter remained.

Humbly, just out of river’s reach, a trinity of sycamore have stood year after year silent and still, obeisant, tethered to shale bedrock. Today, diverse woodlands carpet the Chagrin Valley and native hemlock and white pine stipple and texture the eastern slope of the river.

This image captures the same copse of sycamore, just south of Gates Mills village on the banks of the Chagrin river, the same I’ve photographed and written about before; one of life’s touchstones as gracious time has spared us both into a seventh decade.

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