Tarot and Natural History in the Exurban Wilds By Matt [...]
The cicadas have been winding down. Chitinous, black bodies crunch underfoot on my driveway every time I step out the front door.
I became obsessed with wildflowers last spring. One April morning I had been slumped on my couch with my laptop, and suddenly panicked as if I was on a plane falling out of the sky.
It was the kind of morning I would never spend outside: 46-degrees Fahrenheit, rain running down the bare trees and pooling up on the muddy ground. Nothing looked alive.
In an undisclosed parking lot somewhere on the southern shore of Lake Erie, the weak December sun fizzled out like a match dropped in the snow.
Off in the far northwestern corner of Ohio near the town of Hicksville, I sat on an aluminum ladder lashed to a tree in the predawn gloom freezing my ass off.
Our pilgrimage began on a freakishly warm day in early November. A south wind calmed the lake as David Wilson and I crossed the four-mile stretch from the Marblehead Peninsula to Kelleys Island.
Thunderheads had been building, scudding across the northern plains for weeks, dumping rain into basements, swelling the rivers. Over eight and a half inches of rain fell in the month of June, the third wettest in Cleveland’s history.
On a hot, wet morning in May, I jumped into a pickup truck with Brett Rodstrom, VP of Eastern Field Operations for the Western Reserve Land Conservancy, and headed out to look for Eastern Massasauga rattlesnakes.
About twenty miles east of downtown Cleveland, there is a stand of forest with trees older than the U.S. government.
On a cold wet night, practically still winter, wood frogs are improbably crawling out onto the dark road. These frogs are about two-inches long with tan bodies and dark robber’s masks.
It lurked in a dark corner of the Cleveland Metroparks’ Rocky River Nature Center, past the taxidermy turkeys and the fish tanks full of pedestrian minnows. The Dunkleosteus.