I mentioned that week-end before last my dad and I participated in a guided hike on the Ka-Ma-Ma Prairie, a portion of the Highlands Sanctuary properties being preserved in southern Ohio. Our leader, Larry Henry, was a delight, with an autobiography that serves as an example of life's unending twists and turns. I can't do justice to his story, having heard it just that once, but I can offer the highlights:
Unable to afford college, Larry completed a two-year forestry program and ultimately found himself working in state natural resources. He had a successful career under Republican administrations -- he noted to us that Republicans used to stand for conservation of natural resources -- and, ironically, found himself out of work with the election of a Democratic governor. For the next 21 years he and his wife nurtured their love of growing organisms by operating a bakery, but eventually the wild lands of the Arc of Appalachia in southern Ohio issued their call.
Today, the Henrys respond to the challenges posed by the current version of the Republican party by running Highlands Sanctuary and purchasing magnificent pieces of property to preserve them from further development. They are not a second too soon -- southwestern Ohio, where I grew up and never expected to see anything other than farm after farm, is one of the fastest growth areas in the nation. Now it's development after development. My brother, whom I love dearly, lives in such a development -- he lives on a tiny plat of land on one of countless rows of streets characterized by an endless series of brand-new colonials and double locks his doors in the daytime, on land where wheat used to grow and quail once called and where, prior to the advent of the midwestern farmer, wildflowers proliferated and birds nested.
Larry Henry, seen here holding up an ash tree at Ka-ma-ma, is an eloquent advocate for lands that need him. I'm including his wife's most recent online newsletter piece -- she, too, is a passionately articulate spokeperson for the preservation of wild lands:
There is something about spring that soothes our soul in its deepest realms. Spring is the promise that we counted on last winter, when we endured the long winter nights and freezing daytime winds. Those barren trees, once black icey sticks clattering against a gray sky, are today glowing green and living beings, filled with birdsongs and flowers. If we ever lose our wonder for the miracle of life and the renewal of spring, it will be the greatest of losses.I traveled to the Ohio River yesterday to visit the Ohio River Bluffs property that we talked about last time; to seek support from the nearby village of Manchester -- a historic town perched on the mighty artery of the Beautiful River. The river was most comely on Friday, shining in the sun as it flowed past on its long journey to the Mississippi. The black locust trees were outdoing themselves. Every tree was completely shrouded in dangling cream-colored flowers, softening the landscape and filling it with perfume. Manchester, as it turned out, was thrilled at the thought of possibly having a nature preserve on its outer permimeter and gave us a warm welcome, gracing us with a half-day tour of its historic homes and businesses. It is really a lovely place on the river. I think all of us should be visiting the River more often. It defines who we are as a people, it holds our history, it keeps us humble, and it is undoubtedly Ohio's greatest natural feature, debatably second only to Lake Erie to our north. If you missed the pictures of the Ohio River Bluffs that we sent out last time and hopefully a preserve-to-be, see www.highlandssanctuary.org/1bluffs/ohio.river.bluffs.htm If we can raise the modest funds to buy this property (only $50,000), this spectacular Ohio river wildlflower display will be saved forever.On Tuesday I spent the morning in Hozho Canyon Preserve on the Rocky Fork Creek. It was its usual green and vernal self. Hozho is an Indian word for the dependable energy that renews and gives life, and so it was on Tuesday! The boulders that have tumbled into the bottom of the canyon made the water white as it swirled and rushed by -- each rock covered with dangling salmon-pink columbines. A mother wood duck glided downstream, with TEN little fluff-balls bobbing behind her in a tight cluster -- just a few feet away from where I sat upon a bed of sand. As she approached the rapids, she hesitated, then shot through. The ten babies streamed behind her in perfect single file as the water took them for a short but wild shoot through the rapids. For all you emotionally-reserved folks, I apologize for being so warm and fuzzy, but I think this must have been the cutest thing I have ever seen in my entire life. To think these little babies had probably just jumped out of a 10-20 foot high nest cavity over the river is a feat worth pondering. Talk about feeling like you are leaping off the edge of a cliff! And then having to learn to swim on the first try -- all at the tender age of a few hours old!Last night two great blue herons flew high in the sky over my husband, Larry, and my heads. As we watched their slow wingbeats, I felt very deeply the idea-essence of 'stork' and all that storcks have meant to human beings over the milennia. Thank heavens Ohio still has its storks, even if they grace our treetops instead of our roofs. Suddenly one of the herons tipped its wings and dropped rapidly in altitude, like a hawk in a dive, then righted itself before it swooped above the canopy of trees. Its mate froze still in the air, an unmoving shadow in the sky. Then it too tilted its wings to catch the wind, and soared away on a tailwind. Larry and I were flabbergasted. We had never seen such raptor-like flight behavior from these normally heavy-flying herons, who are ususally identified by their slow steady wingbeats and their directional steady flight.
Highlands Nature Sanctuary E-magazine, May 14, 20057629 Cave Rd., Bainbridge, OH 45612937-365-1600 www.highlandssanctuary.org