Birds of prey

Ospreys have taken up residence at the Water Works in Cuyahoga Falls. The young ospreys are about ready to fledge. In the meantime, mama and papa osprey are busy hauling in food for the younins. A passing bicyclist was happy to point out the nest when he saw my handy-dandy camera this morning. With the Cuyahoga River and Water Works ponds nearby, there’s plenty of food for the raptors. Hope they keep coming back. Further up the trail, I heard but did not see a hawk near the river

Mama or papa osprey. How can you tell?

Mirror, mirror ...


Fracked up

So whose bright idea was it to dump waste water from a hydraulic fracturing well onto forested land?

Did it not occur to anyone that the salt content of that waste water would kill most if not all vegetation in the forest? Anybody? Nobody? Bueller?

A bit of background: Waste water from a hydraulic fracturing (“fracking”) natural gas well was spread “legally,” says the New York Times, in an area of the Monongahela National Forest in West Virginia. Two years later, more than half the trees are dead, as well as most other vegetation.  About 75,000 gallons were spread over an area less than a half-acre in size over the course of two days in June 2008.

And we’re surprised that it killed virtually everything there? I have a memo. It says that salty water will kill most non-marine plant life. I’ve seen it work.

Were there no biologists or botanists available to offer some advice (“Uh, don’t do that”) ? Apparently a soil scientist, The study’s author, Mary Beth Adams, was watching this. Apparently this was done in the name of science. Or something like that. Maybe it’s the headline that annoys me. It’s a “No sh!t, Sherlock” moment: “Fracking Water Killed Trees, Study Finds.”

But the salt water is not even the half of it.

“Although the exact composition of the fluids was not disclosed by the companies that manufactured them because they consider that information proprietary, her study noted, the main constituents appeared to be sodium and calcium chlorides because of their high concentrations on the surface soil.” So, um, we can tell you there’s a lot of salt in that water but we’re not going to tell you what else could be seeping into the drinking water supply because, well, it’s a secret.


We may not know exactly what’s going into those wells, here’s what’s coming out: Benzene. Methane gas contaminating drinking water. Chromium, arsenic and lead in numbers that exceed EPA limits. In some instances, people who live and farm with well water near fracking wells have reported overpowering petroleum odors in the water, or a slimy texture, and some house explosions have been blamed on methane gases leaking into homes.

The drillers deny and deflect. Their lobbyists and spin doctors tell a different tale. It’s clean, it’s safe. Don’t worry.

Of course the irony this is that natural gas is touted as “clean energy.” Until you see how it’s extracted from these enormous shale beds. Then, not so much.

Hydraulic fracturing has been around for 70 years or so. The techniques have changed a bit, the equipment and chemicals more sophisticated. But there are still too many unknowns. The chemical and gas leaching, the odors, the downstream threat. And yet it’s full steam ahead as Pennsylvania and neighboring states (including Ohio) greenlight these Marcellus shale wells.

Cuyahoga – a river, a song, a city

R.E.M. is releasing a special edition of its breakthrough album “Lifes Rich Pageant” on July 12 to mark the 25th anniversary of that album. R.E.M. had already achieved status as darlings of rock critics and college radio, but this album, with its radio-friendly hit “Fall on Me” and a solid set of tracks, including my favorite, “Cuyahoga,” propelled R.E.M. into the mainstream. “Document” followed, and then came a big fat contract with Warner Bros. and superstardom.

The song “Cuyahoga” really resonated with me in 1986, when I was a college senior (sort of) and aspiring writer/photographer (again, sort of).

I grew up in Columbus, some 100 miles south of the Cuyahoga, but I knew the river’s story. And I saw firsthand how Columbus and vicinity treated the Olentangy and Scioto rivers (note the Native names) like sewers. When “Lifes Rich Pageant” came out, I was taking a photography class. One of my projects was to go through a 24-hour day’s cycle and photograph it. One of my stops was along the Scioto River. That song kept ringing through my head as I took the photo, not an especially good one, and developed and glued it to a board. It’s a mournful song; at least that’s how it came across to me, lamenting the way these once-pristine waterways had become putrid industrial cesspools that ran brown with filth. Before Europeans came and settled in the Northwest Territory, Natives lived in the ancient forests of Ohio, with no boundaries to speak of except the rivers and lakes and mountains. The land and water were revered as sacred beings.

Michael Stipe later confessed to mispronouncing the name “Cuyahoga,” a word of indeterminate Indian tribal language that is supposed to translate to “Crooked River.” It was a heartfelt ode to the river and to the Natives who used to live near and live on the bounty of the river, and a plaintive mourning for the shabby way modern America had treated the river to that date. (“This is where we walked, this is where we swam.”)

The river has made a remarkable recovery since 1986. That recovery is even more remarkable when you consider that only 17 years prior, that same river had caught fire because it was so grotesquely polluted with industrial filth. More improvements are needed, such as rebuilding the sewer system so that heavy rains don’t dump raw sewage into the river. Blowing up the old dams helps oxygenate the water. Then let nature take its course. The Crooked River is returning to life.

“This is where they walked, talked, hunted, danced and sang. Take a picture here. Take a souvenir. Cuyahoga.”

Cuyahoga Falls, taken from a pedestrian bridge near the gorge.

The photo above (and several others here) was made possible by the demolition of old industrial buildings along the river in Cuyahoga Falls. The restoration of a bridge at High Bridge Glens Park gave access to this part of the river, which had been hidden from view for years by the industrial buildings. A century before, this had been the site of an amusement park visited by William McKinley at one point.

In this “Unplugged” video, Stipe correctly pronounces the river (KIE-ya-HOE-ga). In the original recording he pronounced it “KOY-a-HOE-ga,” which I thought might have been closer to the original Native language. It sounds more lyrical. But I’m no linguist.

I believe this is actually Chippewa Creek in Brecksville, but it's certainly part of the Cuyahoga Valley.

At Brecksville Station. That's the Route 82 bridge in the background.

A fawn on the Bike and Hike Trail. The Cuyahoga River is just to the right of this frame. There is an abundance of deer and chipmunks all along these trails. I'm thinking a coyote or two would be a good thing. Food is plentiful.

The river occasionally floods.

A fork in the river. They didn't call this the crooked river for nothin'.

125 feet above the river. It just seems higher. Another of a multitude of crooks and bends along the Cuyahoga.

The mighty Cuyahoga.

Relatively clear water runs north of Peninsula.

Filthy geese. More food for the foxes and coyotes. Are you listening, Wile E. Coyote?

The water is still a little brown, but it's 10 times cleaner than before.

This heron got skittish when I stopped to take its picture.

This heron was too busy hunting to be bothered by me.

A moving river never freezes. In the background you can see an artificial dam. The rest of the way down is natural rock. Apparently the namesake Cuyahoga Falls were obscured by a concrete dam. That just seems unconscionable.

Check out that blue ice! It's refraction, I'm told. Same principal behind why the ocean looks blue.

This is not far from that 125-foot overlook. A lot closer to the river, of course. It runs clear here.

This dam used to be part of a mill, I believe. There were dams like these all along the Cuyahoga, which contributed to the decline of the water quality with stagnating pools of low-oxygen water. When they knocked out the Munroe Falls dam a few years ago, I noticed an almost immediate improvement. A year later I caught a smallmouth bass about a mile downstream.

From Songfacts

“Cuyahoga” is the name of the river in Northern Ohio that the city of Cleveland was built around. There were many tribes of Indians which used to live in the region (“This is where they walked, swam, hunted, danced and sang”), and they simply called the river the Crooked River due to its zig-zag nature and many U-shaped turns. “Cuyahoga” is an Indian word meaning “crooked.”
The lines, “This land is the land of ours, this river runs red over it,” “Underneath the river bed we burned the river down” and “Bury, burn the waste behind you” refer to how the once-pristine river became so polluted that it famously caught fire several times between 1929 and 1969. The last river fire in 1969 garnered much national attention, and helped expose the problems industrial waste was having on our environment. This helped spur the creation of the Clean Water Act as well as led to the formation of a new government agency, the Environment Protection Agency (EPA). (thanks, James – Cleveland, OH, for above 2)
R.E.M. lead singer Michael Stipe explained in the November 12, 2009 issue ofRolling Stone: “It’s an Indian word I mispronounce in the song. The Cuyahoga River in Ohio caught fire in 1969 because of pollution dumped into it. The song addresses environmental devastation and our history with Native Americans, which isn’t pleasant.”

Green. This was shot with a Nikon Coolpix L1, early generation digital point-and-shoot. I think the lens was a little smudged, making that soft-focus effect movie makers use to keep older actors and actresses looking younger. They use Vaseline on lenses. Sometimes the soft focus has interesting results. This might be one such example. It looks kind of misty.

Side note: The Cuyahoga River ends at Lake Erie in Cleveland, and Cleveland’s water intake, the “crib,” is only a couple of miles offshore from the mouth of the Cuyahoga. There is a very real and serious interest in making the water in the Cuyahoga safe for sustaining life. Entire cities depend on it. At long last, we’re beginning to recognize that.

Bambi on the bike path

Bambi wasn’t in imminent danger, but he needed to scoot out of the way before I got to the bottom of the hill. There was at least one other fawn scampering about with mama doe, I guess crossing from the river side of the Bike and Hike path between routes 59 and 91 in Silver Lake/Munroe Falls toward a woodsier section. Gangway!

The deer gave me that usual puzzled look, as if asking themselves, “What’s that dude doing? Is that a gun or food?” Wish I’d had the D-90 with me; it would have given me a nice close-up of Bambi on the bike path. This’ll have to do.

If Bambi thinks he can stop me from coming down this hill, he's got another think coming.

He thought better as I got closer.

With mama, safe and sound. Baby still has his spots.

Burial at sea

On Saturday, my family held a brief memorial service for my stepdad. Because he was a veteran, the Coast Guard provides a courtesy voyage to scatter ashes on Lake Erie. It was a bittersweet moment. There was laughter. There were tears.

Mom with Dad's ashes. Natalie is curious.

Debbie and Griffin.

Cleveland Browns stadium. And the Rock Hall.

A sailboat passes between Eric and Matt.

It was a hazy day, so a clear photo of the city skyline was not in the cards.

Mom and John with Cleveland skyline in background.

Eric, Matt, Lindsey and Scott.

CeCe at the captain's seat!

Natalie maybe not liking the ride so much.

Griffin, Dave, Dabbie and Uncle Jim lurking in the background.

Lindsey emerges.

Yvonne, Derek, Mom.

Cecilia, your humble blogger, Derek, Mom.

Lindsey and DeAnne.

Yvonne, Jim, CeCe.

Derek does the honors.

Group hug.

Roses had a special meaning to Mom and Dad.

Here’s an earlier post about this approaching trip.
Cecilia led us in the Prayer of St. Francis of Assisi.

Lord, make me an instrument of Thy peace.

Where there is hatred, let me sow love;

Where there is injury, pardon;

Where there is doubt, faith;

Where there is despair, hope;

Where there is darkness, light;

Where there is sadness, joy.

O, Divine Master, grant that I may not so much seek

To be consoled, as to console;

Not so much to be understood as

To understand; not so much to be

Loved as to love;

For it is in giving that we receive;

It is in pardoning that we are pardoned;

It is in dying that we awaken to eternal life.

To everything there is a season …

It’s been a year and a half since my stepdad died. This Saturday, we will take a Coast Guard ship out on Lake Erie to scatter his ashes. A burial at sea.

At the time a year and a half ago, I posted a little thing I called My Two Dads. I don’t want to repeat that because, well, that would be redundant. And it seems kind of silly to plagiarize myself, although it wouldn’t really be plagiarizing.

It was fairly well received at the time, so mom asked me to write something for the occasion of scattering his ashes. And so now I’m waiting for that flash of inspiration. Come on, inspiration, I’m working on a deadline here.

Maybe this will help:

Ecclesiastes 3, King James version

1To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven:

2A time to be born, and a time to die; a time to plant, and a time to pluck up that which is planted;

3A time to kill, and a time to heal; a time to break down, and a time to build up;

4A time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance;

5A time to cast away stones, and a time to gather stones together; a time to embrace, and a time to refrain from embracing;

6A time to get, and a time to lose; a time to keep, and a time to cast away;

7A time to rend, and a time to sew; a time to keep silence, and a time to speak;

8A time to love, and a time to hate; a time of war, and a time of peace.

And now some music inspired by this passage. The Byrds were surprisingly true to the King James version. The King James Bible can be a little difficult to an untrained ear (including mine), but it certainly is more elegant than some more modern translations.

And, finally, something:

John W. ‘Bill’ Siegle

Dad joined the Navy at 17 so that he could sail the seas and see the world. In its infinite wisdom, the Navy sat him behind a typewriter. Today we are here to right that wrong and to finish that unfinished goal. Let’s give Dad a proper send-off to sea.

Dad – or Pops or Grampy – was a man of lots of action and few words. Paradoxically, he was a prolific reader and an avid crossword and jigsaw puzzler. He possessed a vocabulary that would be the envy of an English professor.

He had an enormous heart but needed a donated kidney to continue his good work for the better part of two decades. His heart finally gave out after years of working overtime.

He was born in Columbus, Ohio, and spent most of his life in Columbus. He lived in the Denver area for a period before returning to Columbus, but he often spoke fondly of Denver.

So he started a family, with a wife and three adopted kids. This was long before it was vogue to adopt babies from China or Mozambique. Apparently God had other plans for Dad: His first wife, Betty Siegle, died suddenly, leaving Dad with three kids. Call it divine intervention, luck, fate. In 1972 he took Janis and, yes, four more kids to feed and shelter (and fix their cars). Where he saw need, he stepped up to the plate.

He’d complain about the weather and the Buckeyes, but not much else.  And he had a soft spot in his heart for dogs.

Dad lived an exemplary life of hard work and steadfast loyalty to his family and friends. He had an extraordinary work ethic. He was honored with The Integrity Award and The Golden Wrench among other recognitions. He did not seek adulation or praise; he won it through his selfless service and humility. He was a great man. His was a quiet greatness, a greatness borne out of hard work and dedication. He led through example.

He was licensed as a master plumber and was a longtime member of Plumbers and Pipefitters Union Local 189, and he was skilled in many other trades as well.  He had a hand in building skyscrapers, high schools, neighborhood swimming pools and in restoring cars – engine and body. Hardly a week passed by that didn’t involve either a moonlight plumbing job or neighborhood project. He built things and he fixed things. He raised skyscrapers and families. He made the world a little bit better each time.

It was hard watching him in his last years, as age and a failing heart sapped his strength. That’s not the Pops I remember. I’d rather remember him as the strong man who bore enormous burdens and led an honorable life with grace and dignity: I remember a giant.