Archives for July 2017

Wading Through Joy in Royal Heights

Across the street and a few houses down from mine, the owners of a typically ‘relaxed’ Cleveland Heights home have made their front yard into a child’s story-time playground of the imagination.   Grass and flowers have been replaced by a jumble of stones across which are assembled an ever-shifting ramble of scenarios, played out in miniature; toy cowboys and Indians, Storm Trooper and Super Hero action figure battles, tiny tea parties and idyllic farm scenes.

Little Green Men

Scout Pig.

These scenes change on a regular basis so on weekly walks around the neighborhood you are invited to stop and see what’s new.  Have the Storm Troopers encountered the cowboys?  Did the tea party get overrun by farm animals?  What new stories have been suggested by the Lego creatures now climbing the rocky cliffs or the green army men lying in wait for the sheep?

While these scenes change, one area of the yard has not – the serene Japanese pebble river that winds around and down from a green hillock in the middle of the yard, in the center of which a shark’s fin rises in mock menace, heading toward the sidewalk – and you. 

This is the most inventive and out-of-the-box front yard I have encountered on my walks around the “Royal Heights”* neighborhood, but not the only one where residents have taken a playful attitude to landscaping.  A row of painted sports balls (bowling, soccer, basketball) on broomsticks instead of flowers blooming below a front porch.  A delicate Victorian teacup and saucer on a small pedestal, nestled among a glorious spray of lavender just at the sidewalk edge of the driveway – a delight for the passerby, more than the home owner.

I could go on and perhaps will in future postings.  The point I want to make, however, is that there is something special about Cleveland Heights that invites creativity.  The City itself has a tag line; “Home to the Arts” which refers in part to the fact that so many of the people who support and deliver the arts to the community live here.  We abut University Circle where the Art Museum, Orchestra, Natural History Museum, Botanical Garden, Case Western University and nearby the Cleveland Clinic, are located.  So we are rich in artists, arts workers and educators as well as doctors and scientists – all people for whom imagination is key.

And it is clear that this attribute of imagination and its partner, a sense of play, have permeated the culture of the community.  Here, no one would bat an eye if you planted your whole front yard in wild flowers, or set out a bucket of sidewalk chalk and invited all passersby to leave a message or a draw a picture. (Actual examples I have encountered.)

I love this eclecticism.  It speaks of tolerance, inclusion, and a kind of shared joy that sustains me as I wade through the shared creativity and generosity of spirit spilling onto the sidewalk on my daily travels through my “Royal Heights.” (Named informally by the residents on Queenston, Kingston, Princeton and Canterbury Roads.)

A motley crew

Babes in the Weeds





RAVEN: Evermore Wild and Wonderful

Image resultIn the clean, well-appointed raptor center, home to birds of prey temporarily off-exhibit at the Cleveland Museum of Natural History, the newest resident took its first steps (hops and flaps, really) into its private apartment.

Sleek as satin, darker than deep space from beak to eye to claw, the raven never hesitated: two hops out of the large carrier which had been its transport, and up onto the head of its courier, the wife of the museum’s chief naturalist. (One could not help thinking of Poe’s ‘bust of Pallas.’) From there it accepted an offered wrist, raised high to support a full view of the room-sized, airy enclosure; its nonchalance like that of a potentate who knows all doors will open, and the path ahead will be strewn with jeweled rugs.

How I wanted it perched on my wrist – to have the privilege of acceptance by this wild, fierce and fearless being!

What is it that makes some of us yearn for and even seek after communion with the wild things of the world? And what makes some of us fear the wild to the point of desiring its extinction? Is it the ‘wild’ that remains in us, unconsciously needing release — or repression?

I think of these things as I spend long hours watching the animals in the Museum’s Perkins Wildlife Center – un-mindful of us and unselfconsciously just being who and what they are.

Fun Facts About Ravens.

  • They are among the smartest animals – as smart in their own way, as dolphins and chimpanzees.
  • They play.  Ravens make ‘toys’ – sticks, pine cones, found objects like golf balls – to play with one another , or just to amuse themselves.
  • They recognize specific people and other birds they like as well as those they don’t like and can remember them even after not seeing them for up to three years.
  • They often hide their food and, if another raven is watching, will pretend to hide it in one place then secretly hide it in another.
  • They are empathetic, often consoling one another over the loss of a mate.
  • They have been known to push rocks on people who were getting too close to their nests.
  • In Norse mythology, Odin had two ravens; Hugin (Thought) and Munin (Memory), who he sent out each day to return and report to him of the doings of the world.
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