Saturday, February 21, 2009

Going Back

As we grow older, our collection of memories, stored as visual images, smells, emotions, and countless other visions that are too difficult to describe begin to blend and blur, forming an incredible goulash of goodness. Our experiences increase, and what we view as our defining moments in our lives begin to rise to overshadow that pot of goulash, eventually bubbling over and flaring up in a cloud of steam. This is our realization of what is really important in each of our lives. Although I've photographed and naturalized in far flung places like Australia, Borneo and across America, and seen more pristine natural areas in Ohio that puts me in company with only a handful of people, I don't think any of these experiences will equal the emotional rush that Megan and I hope to experience sometime, at Riverside Hospital in Columbus, within the next 14 days.

With that being said, I took the time this past Monday, president's day, and in fact my 30 birthday, and my own mother's 59th birthday, to explore one of my old haunts, Kenney Park in Columbus Ohio.

Perhaps what marks this park as an urban cooperative is a recently restored footbridge that spans an old stream channel on the floodplain of the Olentangy River. Columbus' parks systems are fairly unmanaged, and recently, the position of director of natural resources for the parks system was eliminated. This park relies on its users to provide maintenance and upkeep.
The main path through the park remains littered with trees from remnants of Hurricane Ike that ravaged central Ohio in September.

Although I do not know his name, one of our old neighbors re-planked and old bridge, carving and painting the names of the dogs that had frolicked along the banks of the Olentangy.

A walk across the bridge allowed me some familiar views.

Canada geese, now ever present along the Olentangy.

Mallard ducks, also ubiquitous.

The white barked sycamores, adapted to thrive in the floodplain.

The corky bark of the hackberry

The evergreen leaves of a Carex.

The seed head of wild rye (Elymus)

The former home of a woodpecker,

A Carolina chickadee,

And a white-throated sparrow, hiding amongst the mast of box-elder samaras.

Although Megan and I have only recently been removed from this park- a place that felt like an extension of our backyard, it feels like years have gone by. It is hard to believe that when our pregnancy began, our house sat only 100 feet away from the green corridor. When I walked into the woods this past Monday, I must admit, I looked at the weeds and my analytical botanical mind started to trash the place. However, I was quickly reminded why I enjoyed the place so much. There simply is nothing like having a little bit of nature, not matter how trounced upon and full of invasive species, that you feel a part of. We haven't found that connection yet at our new house, but as we live here, I'm going to slowly transform the backyard into a mecca for Ohio native plants where our future naturalist, if he or she chooses, can grow and explore.



  1. Soon we'll start nature hikes in our new neighborhood with a new baby along to check things out! We'll find new places that make us feel attached to nature. :-)

  2. I had to really look to see the white-throated sparrow. Good luck to you and Megan. Hope you're getting some rest now to tide you over later!

  3. You're right about that. There's nothing like the birth of your baby. I will never forget the feeling of dad and I together, along with God, creating this beautiful creature, you, staring at all the lights and us and blinking your long, long eyelashes at your birth, just 30 years ago this past week. So alert, and ready to take on the world! Yep, it will be the best thing in your life!

  4. For me, my best-loved places become akin to friends over time. I think that's what makes the difference. When I go back to Canada, I do my best to get to my old haunts, to visit my old friends.

  5. Tom . .happy birthday and can't wait to start seeing some of the new young naturalist baby photos that you capture!

  6. Tom, I logged on here to see if there might be some new news about baby Arbour! Your photos are stunning!! I know both you and Megan have to be so excited. My prayers are with you!

    Kathy Dwyer

  7. This is good writing and we all have places like that full of memories. You will take the baby there and enjoy passing on all this love of nature to another generation. How do you tell that is a Carolina Chickadee rather than a Black-capped? I keep asking various people that, but never get an answer or photos that will let me know which is which. Happy Birthday belatedly!