Dayton Art Institute, Dayton OH


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By Rdikeman at the English language Wikipedia, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=2748112. I apologize that my phone’s camera was out of space to take pictures, but it let me just go and enjoy the artwork, while my frequent traveling companion and more Yvonne Rogers who took all the other pictures on this post. My links in this story will let you see the Dayton Art Institute’s own photos.

What comes to mind for me when I think of Dayton, Ohio?

To me it’s still good memories from late June when I had a good time there, looking at art from around the world at the museum, browsing furniture at an Ikea outlet on the outskirts, dancing at a friend’s wedding.

But I can’t ignore what’s happened. I procrastinated posting about that Ohio city until now. And now the first stories anyone sees about the city involve nine dead and 27 people injured.

Downtown Dayton

I will always see the city as more than just the disaster associated with it. Just like Gatlinburg is more than just the fires. Indeed, Yvonne can recall visiting France just before the death of Princess Diana and then seeing the places she’d seen as a tourist on TV.

What follows are my very few impressions of Dayton Ohio from a very short visit. I hope that it can remain a place synonymous with great art and great times, even now.

***

I’ve barely set foot in Dayton. I came up there earlier this summer for a very old friend’s wedding, which took place out in a Dayton suburb. And it was just a good time: conversation with people from across the country I didn’t know, catching up with said old friend, however briefly, dancing to silly pop songs like the “Cha Cha Slide,” “Old Town Road” and even, for the kids, “Mama Shark.” But all that’s too personal for what this blog usually covers.

Sculpture outside of Dayton Art Institute.

Yvonne and I had very little time to enjoy the city and settled, because we knew it was something we’d both like but wouldn’t take too long to explore, on the Dayton Art Institute. I had to stop for lunch and struggled to eat my leftover Cincinnati Chili without a fork on the Museum lawn, shoveling food into my mouth with the lid and still getting covered in cold cinnamon beef sauce.

Russell Means's portrait by Warhol

Then, we entered. And what a museum! The entrance lobby, above a formal European-looking staircase features Andy Warhol’s portrait of Russell Means along with other American portraits, by lesser known but still impressive artists.

Hearing that we could see Claude Monet and other impressionist works, we headed downstairs to the special exhibit area.

Yvonne is never one to rush past things though. And so we found ourselves in a different kind of exhibit first: Civil Rights leader Dorothy Height’s hats. It’s no longer on display, but it was one of the more unusual parts of our visit.

Dorothy Height’s hats

Civil Rights leader Dorothy Height's headgear

Height (1912-2010) was one of the organizers for the famous March on Washington and an adviser on Civil Rights to presidents Dwight D. Eisenhower and Lyndon B. Johnson. An exhibit about her might seem like more of something for a history exhibit than an art one, but Height, like many of the women of her time loved headgear, which is a form of great visual art in and of itself. The colorful and varied fashions on display were as much a triumph of design as the paintings we headed to visit next.

Impressionists

Waterloo Bridge by Monet

Monet’s Waterloo Bridge is a case of profane made sacred. The first time I looked at it, it made me think of a Turkish city of misty minarets, even if it is just an industrial city. The special exhibit featured Monet’s water lilies, where he applied the same technique more famously to a quieter scene. Works from other impressionists, like Degas, Pissaro and Renoir adorned the room’s other walls. Yvonne wanted to just stay here for hours and I could understand why.

Asian Art

Samurai armor

I, however, had an itch to keep exploring and headed through a series of Asian art exhibits, which varied in style, subject, country and century. Yvonne eventually joined me. I walked past allegorical Buddhist figures in amorous embrace, ornate snuff bottles owned by Chinese royalty, and my favorite: a large carving of two dragons looking at a pearl. An ornate suit of Japanese samurai armor that seemed too beautiful for battle greeted us later.

Ancient Americas

We then entered another room dedicated to art of long-ago South and Mesoamerican civilizations. While it was getting late, we could admire the artistry of people centuries ago, crafting small but detailed figures.

We ran out of time before we could see all of the collection. But I look forward to coming back.

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Red Eft at Frozen Head



Little red efts were crawling the wet forest floor at Frozen Head State Park yesterday. They’re poisonous to eat but generally won’t bite. They live on the land but they’ve just left the water and will return again.
They’re really just another phase of newts, a flashy youthful stage in which they roam the land.

As I point out in my book they never know their parents, not even as babies.

This was in contrast to me, at age 31, living on my own but still enjoying some time with my parents on a hike at Frozen Head, joined admittedly by 21 people and two other naturalists. Dad, a plant ecologist by degree entertained the crowd by naming and providing facts about the natural world around us, such as the eft and the iris shown below. While at the time our book describes, I wanted to break free of Dad, I realize now, just how good I have it hiking with a Dad who knows so much.

BORCE, Oak Ridge TN


Black Oak Ridge Conservation Easement is my hometown’s worst-named collection of trails, but the area has its charms in spite of the bland name. It’s worth exploring if you’re in Oak Ridge. New Years Day brought many different people there: individual cyclists, a family with a dog, a group of college aged men. Some spoke in other languages.

Many of the trails are old gravel roads now bike, foot and sometimes hunting paths but still sporting road signs, that look just like the road signs in parts of town with houses. These seemingly post-apocalyptic country roads lead nowhere, in a good way. They take visitors through forests of red cedars and other, often young, trees, alongside and over gurgling streams with no houses or even structures at all in site for the most part.

On New Year’s Day Yvonne and I passed an old, remote graveyard, the kind that would have filled my young mind with gleeful Halloweenish thoughts of ghosts dancing about away from living human eyes. Nowadays the most striking thing about those old graveyards to me is the saddeningly short lifespans of the people, sometimes children, buried there. I can thank Yvonne for pointing that out to me on another occasion, but now I can’t unsee it. We walked on rather than bothering ourselves with that.

Cemeteries in Oak Ridge are usually a sign of what Oak Ridge replaced. The US government built Oak Ridge to enrich uranium for the bombs that dropped on Japan during World War II. It left the graves from old communities though, even if the old communities have become the city of Oak Ridge in some places and grown up into forests elsewhere, many accessible to the public through trail systems, like BORCE, Haw Ridge and others.

Decades later, the Department of Energy, the modern-day descendant of those World War II gave BORCE land it owned to the public as a way of compensating for water pollution and decreased fishing opportunities elsewhere.

You can visit BORCE’s charming, gravel woodland paths without ever once thinking about things like war, pollution, or death at all though. They offer a quick chance to escape and explore.

The BORCE route had other, subtle signs of a hidden probably pre-World War II past, like this very reflective greenish pool, possibly an old quarry site, probably the most beautiful feature we saw. I plan to return to these trails, hopefully some time soon and do more research.

Daddy’s Creek Tennessee with Daddy


As summer is refusing to surrender to autumn here in East Tennessee, the Cumberlands are exploding with flowers.

My Dad Larry Pounds and the co-author “Wildly Strolling Along” along with me recently led a group of wildflower lovers to two unique habitats near each other. Both were part of Catoosa Wildlife Management area.

First was a meadow area with a short access road on which we walked. We would stop every few minutes and Dad would get down, examine, give Latin names, sometimes certain, sometimes speculating, surrounded by others who seem drawn like bees to them.

Next we drove down to a “cobblebar,” along Daddy’s Creek, a which is not a place for booze and homemade desserts but rather a rocky area along the banks of a stream. It too had flowers, some growing out of big outcrops.

A pool not too far from the trail entrance is also good for swimming. I was the only one of our party who jumped in, possibly because everyone else was identifying more ferns and flowers. Which far too often, I can’t do.

But I am me. My Dad is himself. Not everyone can name every flower. But maybe you can at least enjoy them.

The Basin Cascade Trail


“This pothole is perhaps the most remarkable of its kind in New England,”

-Henry David Thoreau in one of his less memorable sentences, describing quite a memorable place.

Thoreau’s always this overwhelming presence for all of us who write about nature. Especially the ones of us, like me, who aren’t him.

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Although my beard tends to look equally silly when it grows out.

Thanks to Thoreau, a nature writer can’t confess to watching Marvel movies, or enjoying the cheesy ooze of a Taco Bell burrito, or admit that the song in his head he hikes to isn’t his own different drummer but a Justin Bieber EDM track.

We’re supposed to pretend we’re above it all, even if we’re really aren’t.

It is with this in mind that I confess I spent much of my time on the Basin Trail trying to “suck the marrow” to use Thoreau’s creepy phrase from Walden, out of the place in the most un-Thoreau way possible: by trying to see what it would look like captured on my phone, obsessing over the shots I could get, I had to force myself away from that thing and just enjoy the scenery for myself a few times. At least none of them were selfies. I hate my own face in photos, mostly.

But odds are you want to read about the trail itself, not about people with stupid-looking facial hair. And thankfully my pictures will probably help you see some of its highlights. It’s just 1.6 miles round trip, although it does involve climbing a hill. But the most famous part’s down at the bottom.

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The basin itself, what my New England Grammy calls “Where the Old Man of the Mountain washes his Feet” comes near the beginning of the walk, and while it’s not big as far as rock or water formations go, it’s charm comes from how melting glacers and whirring sand and rocks shaped the rock into a smooth curving surface.

“A luxurious bath fit for the ablutions of a goddess,” is how another 19th century writer, Samuel Eastman described it. A rail stops any visiting goddesses from actually jumping in though.

While less noted in signs, the whole area around the basin does have some shallower pools to play around in. The real highlight for me though was further up the trail, and harder to really show in photos.

While the trail stays in the shade, it has plenty of places to get out and be on a long slab of rock with a flowing stream down it, reaching down the mountainside. The water sprays out over rocks and smoothly glides through channels. Families come out here to picnic and splash about and rightly so. Pictures don’t really do it justice though. Which is why I kept trying. The sheer size of the smooth rock, like a wide river itself is what we enjoyed exploring, sliding down its rocks, climbing along streams, hiding in little rock formations. And that size is exactly what these pictures can’t show.

The shaded path has its charms too though, particularly chipmunks.

Kinsman falls was near the end of our rooty path and unlike my guidebook “AMC’s Best Day Hikes in the White Mountains” would indicate, the route to it was indeed marked.

There are waterfalls that make you feel like just a tiny drop. Then there are intimate fountains like Kinsman Falls that aren’t roaring so much as quiet escapes with deep, clear pools below. And Kinsman Falls was indeed an escape for us. Unlike the rest of the Basin Cascade Trail we were alone there.

Stinson Lake, New Hampshire


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White birch trees, like palm trees in a beach scene, frame and accent its blue water and distant green tree-covered mountains which surround it. Sailboats, speed boats, skiers kayaks and ducks go by but the clear water still feels relaxing. It’s what Yvonne calls “the temperature you like your beer” but if you swim for long enough if feels fine and its perfect after a hot hike at any of the nearby trails.

Stinson Lake looks and feels good and relaxing whether on a cloudy day, by evening light, underneath the thousands of visible stars from the dock or on a sunny day from the water watching dragonflies and damselflies flying above its surface.

What it lacks is public access. Private rentals and vacation homes crowd its surface. But at least I’m lucky my family owns one of them soon to be able to rent. And I’m happy to return year after year.