It is easy to think that in winter there is not much to find in nature, but the reality is that we really do not look very hard or in the right places. Interstate 64/ US 40, runs through the southern most part of Forest Park, cutting off a narrow strip of the park on its southern border with Oakland Avenue. Turtle Playground, created by the late, great, Bob Cassily in 1996, occupies a part of this strip, but to the west of it there is an equally large section of grass and trees also unconnected to the rest of the park, except by the Tamm Avenue bridge that crosses the highway.
I walked from the Clayton Road and Skinker Boulevard intersection, which lies three quarters of a mile from my home, through the woods on the north side of the highway, adjacent to the Clayton Road exit from I64. Yes, I did find traces of the homeless (on a previous visit to this area I found two park rangers investigating a tent left there), but that wasn’t really what I was looking for. If you had asked me just it was that I was seeking, I wouldn’t have had much of an answer. I simply look and see what there is to be seen.
I also listen, though right next to the interstate it is hard to hear anything of nature over the roar of the trucks and cars rushing past. I looked at the water that flows through the park (there has been a lot of it recently, and the ground was soft everywhere I set foot), finding small streams there by the highway, passing through culverts under the bicycle and running paths and then disappearing into another pipe next to the cars that are making so much noise.
The trees, their skeletons revealed by winter, stand starkly against the overcast sky. All the park seems asleep, dreaming of spring and its time of awakening. There are visitors in the Zoo, but not a lot of them. A lone cyclist races by and a while later, a runner. A trash can by a park bench is filled to the top and apparently not on any collections list. I walk through brambles to get to a tree that has a peculiar hollow trunk and wonder what animals might live there. I walk shakily across a small stream on a fallen tree, trying not to fall into the muck below. I look down a lot to see what I am about to step upon, but I don’t want to get so caught up in looking down that I fail to look up.
I pause to look up into one of the large trees as a large spot of bird splat below it suggests a large bird was in residence there, but there isn’t one up there that I can see, so slowly I move on. Today, I brought back a souvenir. I picked up a section of a fallen branch to take back to my studio (since I forgot to bring my macro lens with me), and photograph the lichens on it at a ratio of one to one (meaning the image is projected onto the sensor at exactly the size it is in life), and then, with a special macro lens, I enlarged it even further, including the edge of a one cent coin as a reference for size. Interesting, eh?