Unearthed Ohio is active again, after some time off for questionable behavior. Unlike most blogs, where inactivity for an extended time portends doom, the extended hibernation here was deliberate. Much of my free time this past year was spent working with a designer and a developer to create a new version of my other website, then I had to import and convert the old content, then catch up, and, well, it was a monumental undertaking. I had to put Unearthed Ohio to the side—though I never stopped the actual photography. Now I can catch up a bit. With this blog entry, I present photographs from a trip I took in mid-February 2014, deep in the heart of the Polar Vortex. As I write this intro, however, I seem to be deep in the heart of Polar Vortex 2: Electric Boogaloo. Two very nasty winters in a row. The one advantage that a winter offers is winter landscapes and last year I took the opportunity of a recent snowfall to do some experimentation with snowy photography, which I present to you herewith.
In which our intrepid hero contemplates the passage of time…
For my 18th excursion across Ohio, I decided to head northwest, essentially in the direction of Findlay. Northwestern Ohio is heavily agricultural and relatively sparsely populated (until you get up to the Toledo area) and this excursion, conducted in mid-September, came at the tail end of Ohio’s agricultural season. Over recent months I had driven all around Ohio, but typically every week or two, which turned out to create an odd, strobe-like effect when it came to crops like corn. You’d go out one time, and see seedlings, then the next time young stalks and before you really had a chance to adjust, you were seeing corn in its full growth. The effect could be jarring, like seeing a child after an absence of a couple of years, missing the interim of wild growth. Watching in this fashion the 2013 crop come in created a sense of acceleration of time for me, like things were moving too quickly. Of course, we experience that in our own lives, too.
In which our intrepid hero unexpectedly encounters the American Dantooine…
Although I have had a lifelong interest in military history and, indeed, advanced degrees on the subject, military battlefields have never interested me much. I’ve been to a number of Civil War battlefields, for example. and my collective reaction has basically been “meh.” I think the reason is because old battlefields, by the very nature of the warfare of earlier eras, were typically places where there wasn’t much of anything. Given the linear nature of warfare at the time, a typical battlefield might feature defensible terrain near a strategic location—unless, as at Gettysburg, the battle was an encounter battle, in which case the location might not even be significant at all. Again, because of the nature of warfare at the time, the geography of the battlefields is also usually not that interesting. However, military structures can be quite interesting indeed. So when I unexpectedly came across an abandoned military base in northwestern Ohio, I was quite delighted.
In which our intrepid hero encounters a triumphantly twisted ruin…
There is something about things that are old, ungainly and decaying that fascinate me. I’ve always been that way. This is why I exult in the glorious truck-hulks that appear in the much underrated 1977 film Sorceror, for example, and one of the reasons I like movies that depict slums, ghettoes, or old buildings. These sorts of things have always resonated very deeply with me—this notion of things that once were strong or great but are so no longer.
Percy Bysshe Shelley had it dead-on with his sonnet “Ozymandias”:
I met a traveller from an antique land
Who said: Two vast and trunkless legs of stone
Stand in the desert. Near them, on the sand,
Half sunk, a shattered visage lies, whose frown,
And wrinkled lip, and sneer of cold command,
Tell that its sculptor well those passions read
Which yet survive, stamped on these lifeless things,
The hand that mocked them and the heart that fed:
And on the pedestal these words appear:
“My name is Ozymandias, king of kings:
Look on my works, ye Mighty, and despair!”
Nothing beside remains. Round the decay
Of that colossal wreck, boundless and bare
The lone and level sands stretch far away