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Ironweed Festival!

Sunday, August 14, 2016

The Ironweed Festival is spotty; it's not going on everywhere. That's because ironweed (in southeast Ohio, we have Tall Ironweed) only grows in masses in badly overgrazed pastures. It is distasteful to cattle, so they eat everything around it, and as a result the ironweed takes over, enjoying the fact that its competition has been chewed to the ground. The main Festival Grounds are waay down at the end of Dean's Fork, about 2.5 miles from where I park.

I don't mind the walk at all.

I've made this walk/run more this summer than in any season before. I found three pairs of breeding rose-breasted grosbeaks down here in early June, and I was hooked for the summer. It's been a pure joy to see the vegetation grow up and different flowers come into bloom, to hear the periodical cicada chorus finally silenced, and to welcome the swamp cicadas, with their swelling oscillation, as they take over for shrieking hordes of periodical visitors.  To make a bird list every time I go out; see it swell past 80 species in May and shrink to barely 35 these days; to look forward to the total surprises like blue herons and skunks, snappers and redtails and Hannah the Appaloosa. 

Truth is, I've gotten hooked on it, on the peace it seems I can sometimes find only here. Shila helped me figure out something about running, and why it keeps us sane in an upside-down world. 
If you're caught in turmoil, whether it be from overly demanding work, relationships, indecision, world events, or some nasty combination of all those things, and you can't see your way out of it, go for a run. 
If you think of what's bothering you as a beast that's snapping at you, what makes sense? 
To run away from it. When you run, you send your primitive brain the signal that you're fleeing the beast. You've taken care of the problem. You've gotten away. 

And your brain says, "Oh, good. OK. Whew! Good going! You're going to be fine now."
And at the end of the run, you feel better all over. You could call it an endorphin high, and you'd be right, but I think the feedback loop is something as I've described it. Running makes you feel better. It shuts up your primitive brain, which is always screaming, "Well, DO SOMETHING about this!! Get the hell out of here!"
We all know that sometimes there is no getting out of the particular mess we're in. There's just picking the best way through it, living our lives as well as we can under the circumstances.
I usually fit in four miles a day, 7 or more when I have the chance. It keeps me going.

It's the best. I get out and see all my friends. 

The combination of tiger swallowtail's sweetcorn yellow and tall ironweed's royal purple is a mighty fine one. 

I love to watch them diving deep into the flowers, thorax pumping, head dipping--there's so much butterfly behavior to watch. They aren't just decorations. They are goal-driven, methodical little beasts.

On this cloudy morning, a surprise awaited me at the Ironweed Festival's Main Grounds. 

Oh no. What fresh hell is this? 

It was actually worse than it looked from afar. 

A five-foot deep trench where there had been a culvert. 

It ran clear out into the Main Festival Grounds. Damn, damn, damn it. Why can't they leave Dean's Fork ALONE???

All right then. A  huge new culvert is going in, right by the black barn I love so much. Whyyyyy?  I don't know why an untraveled dirt road needs a yard-wide culvert, but there you go. They've been working on Dean's for several years now. It used to be impassable, with ruts two feet deep, but now I could drive the Subaru top to bottom. There are new culverts going in all over the place in our area. I have a sneaking suspicion this is because they're expecting greatly increased traffic from huge heavy trucks in the near future.  See previous post. It comes down to oil and gas development.

Chet and I pushed around the mess and entered the Festival Grounds. Exhale. Accept what is, move on.

 All is well there. The ironweed is coming on strong and tall. 

 I have to be careful that I don't lose Chetty in the ironweed. It's hard to keep him in sight, and with his deafness, I can't call him anymore. When he loses visual contact with me, he starts zigzagging, head high, searching. It touches my heart. I've got to dash after him and make sure he sees me, or he'll light out for home, thinking I've left him behind. He's gotten much better, isn't so quick to panic and take off now, just as I've gotten better at making sure I stay in his sight.

We have an understanding. We keep an eye on each other now.

From this angle, I couldn't see the culvert dig.

I knew that soon enough the pipes would be in place and the road would be replaced. It would never be as beautiful as it was, but that's change for you. 

Sometimes you have to cling to what remains all the harder.

A female indigo bunting with a nest nearby gave her "SPIT!" call over and over. 

On the way home I looked at leaves that had fallen early. This one looked like a weather map of Florida to me, when a tropical storm is attacking.

The leaves that fall in August have something wrong with them.  Red maples shed a lot, and some disease has the yellow buckeyes dropping all their leaves, which turned red in July. 

Black tupelo. Mmm. They can make a red like no other, even when they're sick.

Another red maple, all blotched and spotted. Fantastic.

I looked up, and Chet Baker was waiting, smiling fondly. You and your leaves.

So, for those who miss the Ironweed Festival, this is how it looks this year. With Whipple's version of The Big Dig going on, perhaps it's best that there not be a full-blown Festival in 2016. Maybe we'll wait until it's all smoothed over. 

Torn up as it is, Dean's still saves me. Please, may it never see pavement.


Since Chet no longer has his sense of hearing, what about his sense of smell? Can't he sniff you out and find you if he's lost? Or is that just a close-range kind of thing? Or maybe attach one of those things you can put on your keys if you tend to misplace them to his collar. You'd carry a little remote that you could press, his collar would beep, and voila: doggeh no longer misplaced.

Posted by Anonymous August 14, 2016 at 5:56 PM

It's been a rough summer here, leaves dropping earlier than usual, too. My flower beds looks like it is November and not August. Leaf mulching everywhere.

I love Vernonia. Should be blooming soon here in Texas. I'll keep my eye out. I wish I had some back roads to explore like you.

I like the explanation on why you should run. :)

Lovely photos, the colors of the butterfly & flowers are just stunning.

My old and deaf Border Collie walks around with her nose to the ground to find me while I'm chasing after her waving my hands to get her attention. Things work out eventually.

My husband has always maintained that runners are running away from something. I enjoyed Shila's and your description and will read it to him as it goes a little deeper. Nice post. I have always appreciated the color of ironweed. Just hadn't bothered to look up the name and retain it. One standing along the road always looked lonely to me, so I have fully appreciated your photos. Kim in PA

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