Notes From The Field

A walk in nature is good for your physical health but it’s equally important for your mental health. I especially like walking alone when I can allow the stream of my consciousness to flow at will.

Yesterday morning took me to my favorite local bike path. It starts in a state park, hugging the shore of a lake before veering off into a nearby town. It’s about six miles round trip.

I walked four but my mind wandered a million miles off path.

It was 73 degrees with a swift breeze that rustled the leaves and created waves across the lake. The path was sun dappled through the canopy in places while it positively beat down in others where no trees provide shelter. It made me sad to think of all the people who live in places with no trees.

Can you truly be happy without the magnificence of nature nearby? My friend Johnna lives in Wyoming and often sounds emotional when talking about how green Ohio is and how rare it is to see trees in the high plains where she has made her home.

That made me think about Johnna, how I miss my friend and how we need to get busy planning our fall western adventure. If I intend to visit all fifty states in this lifetime, I also need to get busy with those plans. There’s a huge swath of this country that I have not seen.

This reminded me of a recent conversation with a man who claimed to be an avid international traveler but who doesn’t believe there’s anything worth seeing in the United States. Maybe he would like to see Yellowstone but the rest is a boring waste.

I didn’t even have a response to that. Our nation is huge, the geography varied and the people who make it home have created magnificent places worthy of our time and attention. This is probably where I began humming “America the Beautiful” and reliving my first desert sunrise.

Most of all, I felt sorry for him. What a boring life it would be to find your own country passé and dull. Maybe I’m easily entertained but I have walked this same bike path for twenty years and continue to find wonderful changes in nature each day. I’m grateful for these small gifts.

This person clearly is not part of my tribe.

It was here that I found myself somewhere between summer and fall. It was only August 1 but cool in the shade and the locusts were noisily buzzing as leaves of all varieties swirled and drifted lazily in the breeze.

I couldn’t help but wonder what our fall will look like. It’s been a little lackluster the last few years as the high temperatures have caused the leaves to just dry up and fall before they can even change colors.

A world without fall seems unimaginable to me. What a glorious season where a bright blue sky provides a vibrant backdrop for the brilliant reds, yellows, oranges and browns along the hills. A light jacket will suffice and a cute scarf and hat will pull together any outfit. Accessories make the season, after all.

Cider and donuts will give you a sugar high and bonfire smoke drifts through the air most nights. It’s my favorite season and one that’s far too brief.

There’s a downed tree in the edge of the lake where you will often see a number of turtles sunning themselves. There were none yesterday but I recalled a story from earlier this week. It was about some boys who have devoted their summer to helping turtles cross a busy road. If you’re like me, your faith in humanity could use a little boost. This tale of kids volunteering to help these small creatures that can offer no payment in return is just what I needed. Click here to read it now.

Sadly, sometime in the last few days someone defaced my favorite rock at the park. Yes, I have a favorite rock and now it is covered in idiotic graffiti.

There were two family reunions underway by the time I left. A handful of people were cooking out, gliding along the lake in boats and standing along the shore with their fishing poles. There were shockingly few people on the bike path and I was glad for the solace.

I helped my parents prepare for a family reunion on Saturday. I am what they call an empath, meaning that I recognize people’s emotions better than most and have a bad habit of absorbing them as well. This makes many situations, particularly crowded ones, anxiety inducing.

So I needed this walk to help me recharge. By the time I got back to the car my mind felt much calmer and I was pleased that I had prioritized my own wellness with this walk.

We all need to do that sometimes. We deserve the break. After all, if we don’t make time to be healthy, we’ll be forced to make time to be sick later.

The Ruins At Ariel Foundation Park

Most communities have some kind of park with a playground and picnic area. Most communities do not have anything like Ariel-Foundation Park in Mount Vernon, Ohio. The 250 acre park is the site of the former Pittsburgh Plate Glass Works No. 11 and celebrates that heritage in the most imaginative way.

There are green spaces, a traditional playground, a bike path, picnic areas and all the traditional park stuff you might expect.

It’s what you don’t expect, the celebration of the land’s industrial heritage, that makes this park truly remarkable.

The factory closed in 1979 and what remains is now referred to as “The Ruins.” What was once a million square foot factory complex is now marked by old walls, a couple of remaining buildings and steel used to create art. There are four stair and elevator towers along side a series of steel pieces that resemble an industrial style Stonehenge.

The 280 foot brick smokestack has been repurposed into the Rastin Observation Tower and is the tallest structure in Knox County.

A bike path winds through the park and signage explains the story behind what you see today.

The plant was built by a gent called Jacob Coxey, a businessman and politician. He built this plant using girders salvaged from the 1893 Chicago World’s Fair. Some of those same girders were salvaged again and used as art installations throughout the park today.

There’s a River of Glass made with smooth turquoise colored glass from the plant.

There are three former gravel quarry lakes with islands and plenty of good fishing. There are places for your events as well. I was especially taken with the old carpenter shop turned event space.

Among other things, I didn’t make it to the Clock House Museum or the labyrinth that day but this provides a reason to go back!

Perfect parks with their shiny benches and playgrounds are great but this place feels like a completely different kind of playground- one where adults are free to roam and play too! The imagination and hard work that went into this place is inspiring and my only regret is that I don’t live closer. I would be out there all the time!

If you want to know more, click here to visit their website. If you’re planning to go, 10 Pittsburgh Ave., Mt Vernon will get you there.

Normalcy At Lake Alma

An after work walk at Lake Alma was an excellent ending to yesterday. Here are a few images from my journey before the sun slipped away.

A seat with a view.

A great bridge.

Lake Alma’s Official Bird – the Canada Goose.

My favorite bridge.

It wasn’t crowded but there were a number of people out soaking up the sun on this unseasonably warm December day. There were children playing, dog walkers, a runner and even a guy on a bicycle.

It all felt spectacularly normal and I was grateful for this day.