Switzer

Sunday, I discovered that the Switzer Building was being destroyed starting on the 14th; the first wrecking ball would fall at 10pm. This was my last chance to take pictures of the building I’ve come to be fond of.

As I was taking pictures, others would show up from time to time: to look at the building, to reminisce, and take pictures, themselves. A person I talked with on the Eads Bridge mentioned about visiting the riverfront and the licorice aroma that would gentle pervade the area. Another person I ran into at the base of the building talked about his family being here before the building was created, and how too many of these unique buildings are now gone.

With the images below, I’ve included links to other sites with more on the Switzer Building, and other buildings at risk in St. Louis. Many of these sites have pictures far superior to mine, so don’t judge my photos too harshly. I had hoped to find an image of the building when licorice was still being manufactured at the premises, but no luck.

First, though, a couple of photos of what the building was like before the storm damage that doomed it.

Switzer before damageSwitzer before damage

The rest of the photos were taken Sunday, May 13th.

Switzer SignSide of building
The Damaged sideFull view of damaged side
Through the window of the portion of the building that will be savedFront cast iron work
Building NumberSmile You Being Watch
Three quarter front view

Lady of the Lake

I went to the Mingo National Reserve this week–the last bit of bottomland left in the delta region of Missouri’s boot heel. It’s full of cypress swamps, marshes, a river and a lake, and is an important breeding ground for migratory birds. If the sounds I heard were any indication, the number of species that inhabit the grounds must be enormous.

I walked one trail and the songs were so loud and diverse that I found myself spinning about, trying to identify even a few of the birds I heard. No matter where I went, my movement always triggered a rustle in bushes, leaves, or water. What was both tantalizing and frustrating is that I would only catch a glimpse of whatever moved: a black and white hint of a woodpecker wings, the shadow of a eagle overhead, a heron peaking out at me from the trees. Never, quite seeing the whole.

As I drove the auto tour–a rough twenty mile road open four months of the year– biting and stinging insects would immediately come in through the open windows whenever I stopped, which was frequently. When I started back up again, the insects were just as quickly gone–not before leaving a souvenir, or two. I didn’t care, as it was a small price to pay to be surrounded by such mysteries.

I grew up in the Northwest, in a land full of white water rivers, huge open lakes, tall mountains, and vast fields. It is so unlike the small, secretive swamps and marshes unique to the south. There is no habitat that speaks to me more of being in the south than to walk in a cypress swamp, which is probably why I find them both compelling and disconcerting.

We rose from the depths of swamps such as these. They represent the last bit of ‘original life’, though the world’s rush to make them useful is destroying most of them and their important cousin, the rain forest. The problem with the Mississippi delta is it’s considered some of the richest farmland in the world. Deposits from the river overflowing its banks have built up a top soil that is literally feet deep in some places. However, with such richness is a price: the land is wet, boggy, swampy, and flooding is a natural part of the ecosystem.

Still, people persevered, and much of the original land where indians camped for over 12,000 years–to hunt and fish in the dense forests, the rich waters–is gone; replaced by neat hoed rows and small towns. Replaced until the Old ‘Sip reminds us, from time to time, that we don’t own the land on which we live.

cypress swamp

yellow bird

cypress swamp

white heron

dragonfly

butterfly

cypress swamp

lone duck on log

The Wasp

Paper wasps are quite common here in Missouri. Unlike other types of wasps, they’re not very aggressive, except around their nests. If you threaten a wasp’s nest, or agitate them in some way, they can sting and like other wasps, they can string repeatedly. Their stings are very painful (3 on the Schmidt Sting Pain index, or “Like spilling a beaker of Hydrochloric acid on a paper cut”), and if you’re allergic to stings, as I am, can be quite serious.

When the paper wasp started buzzing around behind the screens up in the corner of the french doors out to the deck, we didn’t think much of it. It wasn’t until we saw her starting her nest that we knew we had to get rid of it and quick. You can’t have a paper wasp nest next to a door; not if you want to use the door.

However, you can’t knock the nest down when they’re building it. The old, “Busy as a bee. Angry as a wasp” thing. The day before yesterday, when she took off to get more material, I quickly went out with the broom and knocked the nest down and as quickly ran back inside, shutting the door behind me. She returned with the material, long gray streamer behind her, and buzzed all over looking for the nest. For over an hour she flew around in front of the door and around the corner. Eventually she landed, and sat for a couple of hours where her nest was. When she made motions of starting to re-build, I pounded on the door to disturb her and eventually she took off.

Yesterday, she returned to the same corner and again, and sat there for a couple of hours. With today’s storm, she hasn’t been back.

When she was building her nest, I did grab a couple of careful photos using my telephoto lens. It wasn’t until I processed the photo today that I noticed her nest had one tiny egg in it.

wasp and nest

Brer Fox

I’ve only had the time for two fall photo shoots, though I hope to get out a little more in the next few weeks. I’ve included some photos from the Botanical Gardens in this post.

pumpkin91.jpg

When at Botanical this week I noticed out of the corner of my eye a small, orange animal running across the sidewalk. I thought it was a cat at first but when I looked over, it was a red fox, not five feet away. I later found out that she is the resident fox and that she recently had five new babies. I hope to return in a few weeks and gets some photos of fox kits.

Considering that Missouri Botanical Gardens is in the middle of the city, one wouldn’t necessarily expect to see fox. However, she’s encouraged because she makes a terrific, natural rabbit control officer.

Botanical Gardens Japanese Lake with colorful fall foliage

Seeing her reminded me of Brer Fox, which reminded me, again, of the Disney movie, Song of the South. Rumor has it that Disney may release the movie on DVD this November in honor of the 60th anniversary of the original release of the movie. Disney is still concerned about the reprecussions about black stereotypes in the movie, as well as the sugar-coating of the post-slavery south. However, I think the movie would provide a terrific point of discussion about the history of the south and the interaction and attitudes about and between blacks and whites, as compared to fictional representations of same. It is these latter day fictional representations that influenced the majority of us who did not live in the south.

Missouri Botanical Garden: Burning Bush

Seeing this movie when I was young, probably more than any other event, is what sparked my early interest in the south: the culture, the people, and the history. It may have presented a view that wasn’t real, but it was intriging to young eyes, nonethless. I would list it in my top five movies that have had the most impact on me (right up there with To Kill a Mockingbird, which just added to my interest in all things southern).

Spider Mum in Fall hues

Returning to the Botanical trip, when the fox appeared, I had already put away my camera. I kicked myself for having done so and missed a photo opportunity; however, I spent the entire time frozen with mouth open in surprised, so doubt I would have gotten much of a photo. Doesn’t lessen the moment not having ‘proof’ of the event.

pumpkin4.jpg