A late January day where the temperature soars to 55 should be filled with joy. It wasn’t. It was gray and wet, not pleasant to be at the millpond. More people had visited the park during the day so the ducks weren’t even glad to see me. They had gorged on snacks the visitors had brought them.
The ice on the pond had separated from the edge and lost several inches of thickness due to the rain. These two images show some of the debris embedded and around it. While not beautiful, I find it interesting to look at. There are seed pods from locust trees, oak leaves still well perserved, and various other parts of plants. I’ve mentioned how randomly placed things like these often look balanced, harmonious after I crop them. I especially like the contrast between perfect circle formed by a raindrop and the irregularly shaped notch in the ice where it landed (below).
Found on New Year’s Day, I didn’t share the writer’s joy and wish park visitors would keep their emotions to themselves instead of scribing it into public structures. At least the words are spelled correctly and written with a pen instead of thumbs on a keyboard.
A perfectly good golden delicious apple was thrown under the shoreline shrubs, a gift to pond critters. If the muskrats don’t find it before dark, a raccoon or opossum with enjoy it during the night. Both of those travel along the shore looking for their next meal once the park visitors leave. Objects like this intrigue me. Was it discarded from a student’s lunchbox because mom thinks he should have his daily fruit or did someone purposely purchase it as a wildlife offering?
Plastic bags end up in the Brighton millpond. They aren’t usually intentionally thrown in. The wind grabs them from nearby dumpsters and easily carries them away. If they hit water, that’s where they stay. Forever. Well, almost forever. This isn’t a screech to ban them. In fact, I think they’re the best option environmentally when you consider all options. Leaving politics aside, they are still an eyesore.
Yet they can have a mysterious quality as they sway back and forth below the surface of the pond while reflections of the sky ripple above them (top) or when one floats by with an air bubble trapped inside, I’m reminded of diaphanous jellyfish. Then I’ll see the Kroger logo, and my fantasy quickly dissipates.
There, four feet below the Brighton millpond dock, I discovered a ducky of unknown species resting in peace surrounded by duckweed. Human discards and droppings litter the park. Some surely have fascinating stories behind them while others are easily explained. Gravity, however, is undoubtedly the major cause of Debris du Jour and most of it is food related. Ice cream piled high at Dairy Queen finds its way to the ground while Styrofoam food containers, cardboard pizza boxes, and plastic utensils are swept into the pond by swift breezes. After food, children’s items are the most frequently found objects. Baby bottles fall off strollers. Shoes slip off feet. Toys fall out of tiny hands when a turtle or chipmunk grabs attention. Parents might not notice the loss or have the time, skills, or assistance to watch kids while they “fish” things out of the drink. This ducky might become a permanent resident of the pond like the Holly Hobbie doll that’s been floating in the lily pads all spring and summer.
A bowl of Holiday glitter shines in the window of a downtown Brighton shop on New Year’s Eve while a sparkling tiara awaits the return of its princess before tomorrow’s predicted wind storm sails it into the millpond and (eventually) into the Atlantic Ocean.
In The Snows of Kilimanjaro, Ernest Hemingway wrote:
Kilimanjaro is a snow-covered mountain 19,710 feet high, and is said to be the highest mountain in Africa. Its western summit is called the Masai ‘Ngaje Ngai’, the House of God. Close to the western summit there is the dried and frozen carcass of a leopard. No one has explained what the leopard was seeking at that altitude.
After the leaves fell from the trees, the secrets in the woods are revealed. The beachball rests within ten feet of a city street. There’s no telling how long it’s been waiting for its owner to recover it.
The blue translucent plastic bag is more ominous. Was it thrown from a passing car and happened to be caught on a tree limb or was it carefully hung there to be retrieved later? Located deeper into the woods than the beachball, walking up to it would entail crawling over and under branches. No thanks. It appears to contain a liquid or something that’s liquified. I don’t want to know. From a safe distance, it appears tinged with red. Better to let sleeping dogs, dead leopards, and blue plastic bags lie.
The winter winds didn’t dislodge this remnant from a warm summer evening almost a year ago. It still hovers over the millpond and reminds fishermen to be careful with their casts as they stalk the lunker carp with cheese balls and wads of bread.
As tall weeds die back in the fall, the residue of past years appears again. A forgotten fire hydrant keeps dried milkweed pods company near the railroad tracks where it’s stood guard for more than 100 years. A thick coating of rust records decades of neglect.
I was unsuccessful finding information online about this particular model patented in 1884 by the Ludlow Value Company, Troy, NY, but I imagine its local history: In its early years, horses were probably tied to it. Soldiers arriving by train from World War I probably saw it standing here freshly painted. School children surely played leap frog over it a few times when this was a bustling part of the village.
It’s an interesting composition, don’t you think? It has a certain dynamic quality radiating away from the large splat. The sidewalk seam ties it all together. After selecting their treats at the nearby Dairy Queen, munchers head to the park. Seems like many of them cannot walk and eat at the same time. Perhaps there’s a quirk in the gravitational pull along the millpond’s path. I’ll show you more evidence of this phenomena within the week to bring home my point.
We’re tough on crime in Brighton. We hang our bobbers and we leave them on the gallows to let everyone know we mean business.
A power line above the boardwalk at the north end of the millpond is the final resting place for at least five bobbers and their tangles of broken fishing line. While none of mine are there, one of mine hangs from a tree branch on a nearby lake. There’s something about fishing that puts us in a trance. You can see the threat of low hanging limbs with bobbers and lures on them and STILL add one to the collection with just one careless cast. Wish the barn swallows that perch beside them knew how to untie the knotted lines.
It’s nothing, really. That’s why it intrigues me. Someone either found a chunk of the millpond’s railing or ripped it off and then discovered this place to insert it. Maybe he was just walking along with this piece of wood and suddenly thought, “I wonder if this will fit in that,” or perhaps he actively searched for a spot to place it. And it was left there for others to see in a “I was here” way. It was a way of altering the environment, to leave his mark like a graffiti artist does.
Yet maybe he gave his actions no thought at all. People do things mindlessly. While growing up, when my dad and I talked about why people do things, he’d say:
“Son, we live in an irrational world. If it were
rational, the men would ride sidesaddle.”
Online, a similar quote is now attributed to Rita Mae Brown, an American writer, but I’m sure it was said long before her career started. Rita and I are both Boomers so, unless she penned it in grade school, my dad didn’t read it in one of her books.
A toddling princess dropped her pink flip-flop into the millpond earlier this summer. It might take years for this incongruous addition to be reclaimed by the elements. I fully expect to find it again after next year’s spring thaw. If she’s a native Brightonian, maybe the princess will see it year after year as she grows up. It will slowly be bleached by UV rays and acquire pond-dwelling mosses, but it might float for decades. :-)
Hey, I’m not a professional photographer. On most days, I’m not even a very good one. This isn’t a great shot, and I’ve turned it 90 degrees to fit the blog’s format. Yet I like its interesting visual balance and composition. The composition breaks one of the cardinal rules: it’s essentially cut in half. I like breaking rules.
Several things within it create visual balance: the rusted barrel top takes up the entire right half. Its warm tones balance the cool ones that fill the left half. The dominant (and warm) curve that slices the halves is balanced by the straight diagonal (and cool) shadow line. Even though the barrel top fills half the image, it’s balanced by the almost-full circle of the other lid lying on the asphalt. Note everything in this image is roughly textured. That unifies the disparate elements. Another rule this composition breaks is that the eye is drawn to the crumpled light blue paper even though it’s awkwardly positioned and cropped along the bottom edge. While I wouldn’t frame this image, I think it has some merit mixed in with its flaws.
I like to go behind buildings to see the junk they leave unattended, big objects that don’t fit in their dumpsters. These things collect until the load is large enough to haul away. Here, a steel box has become a pedestal for a gasoline pump nozzle in the afternoon sun. The dull sheen of the aluminum sharply contrasts with the rusting scars of the painted surface, and a rust feast is in progress on the never-painted rectangle in the upper left. A few years ago, the aluminum nozzle would buy a hamburger if it was taken to a metal recycler. Not in this economy.
Swinus Americanus don’t migrate. They remain in Michigan throughout the year and the crap they leave on their trail will become more apparent at the end of winter when the snow reveals all of it. This beverage landed upright after being dropped from the boardwalk about 8 feet above it. Note that none of it splashed out because the 2″ of soft snow cushioned the impact.
I have a hunch this drink was being consumed by the Serial Symbologist I’ve previously mentioned. Notice how the straw provides us with a directional clue. It points directly to the historic cemetery at St. Paul’s Episcopal Church 100 yards away. The symbologist full message is surely, “The cemetery is nearby for those who consume vile green beverages that look radioactive.” Prove me wrong.
The previous blog entry showed an item that was intentionally left behind. I’m sure this one wasn’t. I photographed it exactly as found — beside the white line of a parking space behind the courthouse (next to the millpond). This clip-on comes complete with a handsome seal of the State of Michigan on the “Sheriff Dept” tie bar and a few coffee stains which probably violate uniform regulations. On the morning of September 20, 2009, somewhere in Livingston County, one of our finest deputies uttered, “Honey, have you seen my tie?”
Ah, the things I find on my walks. From time to time, I post them here with little regard for your sensitivity. I’m too old to be shocked but I’m often amused, occasionally repelled, and frequently intrigued. I wonder about, and then imagine, the stories behind them. With so little information, it gives me a wide berth in which to dream.
September 13th was an unlucky day for one of the PondPeople™. Following their disappointment, they carefully positioned the shiny new penny (dated 2009) that scratched their hopes on top of the worthless ticket on the park bench and walked away. It was an intentional act. Why?
You’ll never see an image like this at FruitoftheLoom.com! When my dad would see something like this, he’d look at me and say, “Evidence of Swinus Americanus,” and wink. I thought that was one of his clever original lines, but I typed it in Google today and found 78 references to it. The earliest I could find was in 1909, the year he was born.
I found these at about midnight within 4 feet of the millpond. In plain sight, not on some darkened path. It was on a Friday night in June. Not even a drunk teen would dare skinny dipping in the millpond because of the duck and goose droppings. I’m sure there’s a story. I’m content not knowing the details. Had I been thinking clearly, I should have encased this as a visual representation of 2009 and sent it to the Smithsonian.
Okay, we’ve lived through 2009. These images illustrate my opinion of it. The promised treats weren’t what we expected. I think the ice cream cone says it best as its contents melt and ooze past the goose droppings. But maybe the half-eaten sucker glued to a soggy cigarette butt is just as appropriate.
While private enterprise was assaulted by a bungling Congress and an aloof greenhorn president, the citizenry held on for dear life. It’s over. Let it go. There’s little to hang on the wall and admire about it. Whew.
It’s time I bring this matter to the public’s attention. In addition to discovering lost and abandoned items along the millpond walkway, I occasionally find cryptic messages. This is the first I’m revealing to the world. Some might scoff (but not my intelligent readers) and say they are merely breeze-tossed or sneaker-kicked debris from the natural world, but I feel they are deliberately left where passersby can find them.
Note the stylized, almond-shaped eye and careful placement of two spokes radiating from it. The one on the right points to a freshly-plucked green leaf with two evergreen needles crossed at its center. (See larger version.) The other spoke culminates at an almost invisible dried aspen leaf and parallel twiglet (a small twig in layman’s terms). Also note how the two twigs forming the eye relate to the sidewalk crack; one is perpendicular while the other veers on a perfect tangent. I’m open to your interpretations of what this is communicating.
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Douglas Peterson Brighton, Michigan Artist • Designer
Writer • Illustrator
You'll find information about the resident ducks, geese, swans, and critters who reside in the Brighton, Michigan mill pond. I slip in art and poetry, but the prime focus is my photos of wildlife and plants.
There are thousands of pictures and stories about nature at the Brighton, Michigan millpond. Use the links at the bottom of all pages to see "Older Entries" and "Newer Entries." Use the Search feature (top right corner of all pages) to find specific topics.