“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 this month, 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.”
Read More

“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 will 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 beauty and silent wonder.
Read More


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.









Read More

“Drawing Nigh, Summer’s End”

Posted on Aug, Tue, 2023 in Landscapes, Musings from Still Point

“Drawing Nigh, Summer’s End”

August breaks with torpid grace across the dunes of northern Michigan as Big Sable lighthouse lends distant perspective. Here, striated above Lake Michigan, morning light recedes into wisps of melancholic blue.

August, when asters bloom in random clusters and alders clump and shimmer almost unnoticed amid the undulating sweep of reed and marram, here live the grasses that color and cowl these dunes and texture the landscape. The change in hues, all but imperceptible by late August, subtly signal the end to summer is nigh.

Light breezes and shadows, discernibly longer by late afternoon, bring with them nostalgia, one’s yearning for fixity and a reluctance to accept the abiding change in seasons. An early provocation perhaps and reminder of summer’s mortality, the landscape resisting the slow, inexorable drift of dunes through time, reluctantly, implacably into the next season.


Read More

“Death of a Wetland”

Posted on Apr, Sat, 2023 in Musings from Still Point, Musings from Still Point

Geoff Baker
2583 Kingston Rd.
Cleveland Hts., OH 44118 

March 2, 2023 

Mr. Alec Jarvis
Executive Vice President & Chief Legal Officer
Wheeling and Lake Erie Railway Company
100 First Street
Brewster, OH 44613 

Subject: Potential Wetland and Environmental Catastrophe
                Tinker’s Creek State Nature Preserve
                 Site: “Old Mill Rd” Aurora, Ohio 

Dear Mr. Jarvis, 

By way of introduction, my name is Geoff Baker and I am a private citizen who resides in Cleveland Hts., Ohio. I am writing with regard to what is the recent, ongoing, and presumably unintended destruction of a wetland by W&LE. Your company recently replaced or perhaps contracted to replace a culvert beneath a section of track that bisects an area of Summit and Portage counties known broadly as the Tinker’s Creek State Nature Preserve. The railway runs on a north/south line through Aurora, Ohio where the tracks establish the western boundary of the marsh (wetland) as they proceed north of the Old Mill Road crossing. The property I have referenced is a natural wetland acquired in the late 60’s from a Mr. Schweitzer, an Aurora resident, and is now owned and managed by the Summit County Metroparks. Sitting on the border of Summit and Portage County, the marsh extends east of the tracks perhaps a half mile and also connects with hundreds of acres of wetlands that are located on the south side of Old Mill Road. 

The damage to which I have alluded began a couple of months ago when crews replaced a culvert and enlarged a drainage basin about 100 yards north of the Old Mill Road crossing. The new culvert, which by appearances is significantly larger than the one it replaced, runs under the tracks from the east side of the marsh to the west where it drains into Tinker’s Creek. During the course of replacing the culvert, critical brush and vegetation that previously had served to restrict the flow of water were removed, further exacerbating the damage. The consequence has been to drain the wetland leaving in its place only root vegetation (waterlilies, rush, etc.) that previously existed below the waterline, thereby exposing sand and silt and creating a virtual mud flat with shallow puddles ranging from 6”-8”. By comparison, the depth of water had averaged three to four feet throughout the 70 years I’ve lived in this area. Also of note, the water has never posed a threat to the bed of the tracks which is significantly elevated above the wetlands. 

This is a particularly important wetland that dates back centuries and is one of northeast Ohio’s premier wildlife and waterfowl migration and nesting areas. My familiarity with the wetland began as a child in the early 50’s when the area served as a duck hunting preserve owned by the Schweitzer’s. I know the property intimately having hunted and trapped there as a boy until the late 60’s. Since then, it has been the subject of my landscape photography that has been exhibited in various museums and galleries around the country. 

The marsh (wetland) hosts spring and fall waterfowl migrations and provides a nesting haven for wood duck, mallards, pintail ducks and Canada geese. Other species that rely on its sanctuary include blue and green wing teal, redhead, ringneck, and bufflehead ducks as well as great blue herons, trumpeter swans, kingfishers, red-tailed hawks and abundant other wildlife that depend on an extant wetland for survival. Bald eagles continue to occupy their nest at the east end of the marsh due to an eminently successful restoration initiative that captured the attention of national environmentalists. And though the eagles have flourished for over three decades, the loss of habitat will present a significant challenge to their survival. 

Finally, I must confess with some embarrassment that this appeal is unprecedented for I have never assumed the role of an activist, environmental or otherwise. In a corporate life much of my career was spent as a senior executive with Republic Steel where I was cognizant and supportive of our role to steward the environment, though I never did so as a “cheerleader” – a regret in retrospect for one who has been a lifelong beneficiary of other activists and who still finds refuge in this beautiful marsh. 

Recently, I have engaged the interest and goodwill of the Summit County Metroparks, Ohio Department of Natural Resources, the Tinker’s Creek Watershed Partners; and have spoken or met with their senior leadership, all of whom recognize the urgency and are prepared to advocate for its immediate remediation. However, before I contact the Army Corps of Engineers and Ohio EPA regarding enforcement options, I wanted to advise you of the situation directly in the hope you can address the problem before the migration is fully underway by the end of March. The solution may be as simple as adding a gate or some other flow restriction to the culvert to control the level of the marsh. 

I will send this by conventional mail tomorrow but wanted to bring it to your attention before another day elapsed. I have attached images illustrating the marsh as it appears pursuant to the installation of the new culvert as well as images as it has appeared throughout my lifetime and perhaps millennia. In light of the urgency and broader public relations and commercial implications I have included Messrs. Parsons, Chastek and Rottman. Thank you for your immediate attention and consideration. 

Very truly yours,

Geoff Baker 


CC: Larry R. Parsons, Chief Executive Officer
        Jonathan Chastek, President

BEFORE  W&LE DESTRUCTION                                                        Pastel Spring










AFTER                                                                                                              “The sedge is wither’d from the lake,
And no birds sing.” John Keats











Read More

“Starlings, Murmurations and Memories”

Posted on Mar, Fri, 2023 in Musings from Still Point

“Starlings: Murmurations and Memories”
Chattering the daily dirge, starlings, brown black, in kirie-cut coats perch in a weeping birch, iridescent breasts ticked green and blue, shirttails tucked beneath dark wings await the hawk, invisible before the sun, the swift descent, death’s shadow before the keening cry, before the pierced heart, before the requiem.

Memories beat in a thousand breasts, black souls exploding merge in manic union, coalesce in form and murmuration. And as quickly dissolve, peeling off to ordered roosts where memories never fade.
Read More

Pin It on Pinterest