“In Praise of a Rising Sun” May 27, 200

Posted on May, Mon, 2024 in Landscapes, Musings from Still Point

“In Praise of a Rising Sun”

Shortly after 4:30 a.m., 15 years ago tomorrow morning, I arrived at Schweitzer marsh to “bear witness” to another sunrise. At the time I calculated I’d seen 200 or more sunrises and perhaps only a score of sunsets over the 60 years that I’d visited the marsh. Each was remarkable for its singular beauty and each has added immeasurably to my reverence for existence.

For all its dramatic color at the end of day the setting sun, our animating star, goes mostly unnoticed as it transits the sky; a quotidian fixture languishing above until its abrupt conclusion, sliding silently away, fire and birdsong disappearing with it into night. For me, the setting sun tinges of resignation, even the mystery of death, an epilogue to the long day … to life – possessing a secular sameness, almost an afterthought in contrast to the numinosity of the rising sun.

Looking east across the marsh, this indelible morning began in the dark of night as I picked my way along the west bank through buttonbush, rush and reed to its northern corner. The path, if not particularly worn, was well known to me as I’ve travelled it frequently, often in a soporific state I confess.   The water’s surface, mere feet beyond the bank, spread imperceptibly east, not yet visible. Shortly after 5:00 a.m. its surface or possibly its illusion appeared though it was not until hearing the “check, check” call of a red winged blackbird that I knew with certainty twilight had begun – the true magic when trees and brush and wildlife slowly take form. After another 30 minutes the Canada geese joined the red winged blackbirds and spring peepers as the marsh came to life beneath the colorless, opaque sky.

Beyond and above daybreak’s dissonant shrill, as the sun pierced the horizon, came the sublime, terrifying croak of a Great Blue Heron proclaiming itself in the new day. In that moment, the morning fire, an effulgent blaze of red and orange, terror and wonder, swept the landscape. Who has witnessed such moments and emerged unchanged?

So I leave you with one of my favorite images. After the sun rose that morning and the chorus of birds and peepers fell silent, a lone redwing blackbird perched atop a long dead pin oak, announced his existence and joy for the new day.

In many ways this is my elegy to Schweitzer Marsh, especially for those of you who have followed and assisted in preserving this small, remote wilderness. The Wheeling & Lake Erie railroad effectively drained the wetland over a year ago and can not be persuaded by law or through conservation to reverse their actions.

Autumn and spring migrations have ceased, the red winged blackbirds have moved on and only a small rivulet runs tortuously over fields of dead sedge. As John Keats lamented in his famous ballad, “La Belle Dame sans Merci,” just over 200 years ago, “The sedge has withered … and no birds sing.”

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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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