Landscape has been shuffled and changed enormously by human intervention. The “nature” trails you have become accustomed to are likely areas that were once farms, once forests, once prairies. In Southeastern Ohio we like our relationship to nature- the Wayne National forest surrounds my little city of Nelsonville on all sides. I have seen pictures of this region in the beginning of the 20th century. The land was decimated and the hills were dotted with the stubble of tree stumps. It was not until the middle of the 20th century that there was a concerted effort to re- forest the region.
Localized rural and urban landscape cannot even pretend to have avoided the hand of man. The continual construction and destruction of the land causes a great deal of dismay to many, but I find the aesthetic of decay and renewal very interesting. I enjoy seeing the multitude of Appalachian shacks and outbuildings, some which have outlived their purpose leaning or falling. Old railroad tracks to nowhere and logging roads and crumbling asphalt that is melting into the earth after another highway has made the road irrelevant, become strokes, lines, and marks on the canvas of our own personal landscape.
This interest extends in microcosm to my own back yard. An old shed in the far back was knocked down more than 20 years ago leaving a small pad of cracked concrete. A rock sticking out of the ground revealed(after a great deal of digging) a hundred year old decorative pond. My wife and I leave our own scars on this patch of grass, like the skate ramp I rode for years half removed, leaving a bumpy dead area yet to be fully claimed by weeds, or the patch of earth where the swimming pool resided becoming a circular vegetable garden.
Each old broken sidewalk, cracked patio, and bare patch of earth carries a story. There was that period where we were constantly doing raku-kiln firings and pit-fired ceramics in our yard. I can still remember the bunches of students gathered around to see Ann scorch the earth with glowing pottery. There is still a cement pad near the pond where my wife and I, as a new couple, poured and screed our first concrete together. Stuck in the concrete is twisted copper wire that reads Ann+Aaron 2000.
These yard scars are only evident in linear time if you allow your roots to grow, but they are the very gratifying things that make my roots stronger. I now know that I love these messy little transitions, these hints of a life lived- even if it is just in my back yard.