Iced Over

The weather over the past few weeks has given Schiller Park a different–and decidedly icier–look. It’s pretty, in a desolate, black-and-white photography kind of way, but difficult to enjoy without some serious risk.

The big snowfall that we experienced recently has not left us, and temperatures have for the most part stayed very cold. But, we’ve had a few days of sunshine since the big storm. The sunshine has melted some, but by no means all, of the accumulated snow, and overnight the frigid temperatures have caused the melted snow to refreeze. Repeat the process for a few days, and you’ll end up with a landscape that looks like what you see in these photos.

Most of the interior of the park is completely encased in a coating of ice that is now inches thick. When I walked by yesterday morning, on a cloudy day, the dim sunlight filtering through the overcast sky gave the ice a kind of evil, frosty gleam that screamed “winter.” Many of the pathways, like the entrance to the park at the end of Third Street, above, and the walk past the gardens to the Schiller statue, below, are fully ice-bound. Only the most foolhardy–or someone equipped with spiked footwear–would venture onto these bumpy, treacherous surfaces. I didn’t see anyone who was willing to risk a hip-busting fall.

As a result of the conditions, the park is a very peaceful, quiet place. The few pedestrians, like me, tend to stick to the cleared streets surrounding the park, figuring that walking among the parked cars and veering around the icy patches on the roads is a wiser course. Only the dog walkers venture into the interior, walking with tiny, penguin-like steps over the ice and urging their canine companions to be quick about their business so they can quickly return to less treacherous footing.

When Browns Colors Prevail

It’s a pretty time of year, in central Ohio, with the trees turning into a blaze of colors and lots of dry rustling leaves to shuffle through on the sidewalks. But it’s an especially grand time of year for Cleveland Browns fans like me, because we see a lot of orange and brown wherever we look. It’s as if the trees in Schiller Park are representing for Cleveland and coming out loud and proud as Browns Backers.

Speaking of the Browns, they’ve got a huge game today against the New England Patriots, with lots of playoff implications. Because nothing ever seems to go the Browns’ way, they’ll be playing without their star running back Nick Chubb, who has been ruled out of the game due to COVID protocols.

Once again, the Browns will have to overcome all kinds of obstacles. That’s why I’m glad to see the trees rooting for Cleveland right now. The Browns need all the help they can get!

Into Enemy Territory

German Village is one huge squirrel district, but Schiller Park is ground zero. There the trees and lawns are replete with those cute little rats with bushy tails, ever tantalizing to the dogs being walked around and through the park.

It’s interesting to watch Betty’s reaction to the park. Normally, she is a somewhat desultory fellow walker, taking a sniff here and there as we amble along. But as we approach and then enter the Schiller Park grounds, Betty’s whole attitude changes. Her posture stiffens, she goes nose to the ground for any olfactory clues, she scans the area with laser-like focus, and she is ever ready to charge after any squirrel in the vicinity. Nothing escapes her gaze. It’s as if every sensory organ has been switched on and dialed up and is vibrating to its maximum possible level.

Dogs like Betty in a squirrel-heavy area define the meaning of “alertness.”

Faith In Signs

People in German Village put a lot of faith in signs. You see them all over the place, in random spots, appealing for opposition to proposed development projects or asking for help in preserving a community initiative or staking out some other position for all to see.

This sign, which has appeared at the Third Street entrance to Schiller Park, is a good example of the phenomenon. Its goal is laudable: speeding, especially on Third Street, is a chronic problem in German Village. Of course, it’s entirely debatable whether speeders are going to notice a sign—even a bright yellow one—or be deterred by it. A policeman stationed at that spot with a radar gun would undoubtedly have more of an impact.

Still, I’m glad I live in a neighborhood where people believe in the power of signs. It shows that people are engaged and believe that an individual’s efforts can make a difference. I’d rather have neighbors who are paying attention and trying to effect change. It’s when the signs disappear that there is cause for concern, because it indicates that people either don’t care anymore, or they have given up hope that their efforts can make a difference.

Duck, Duck, Goose

The waterfowl were out in force at Schiller Park today. Even though it was a steamy day, most of the ducks and Canadian geese had forsaken the cool waters of the pond and ventured out onto the grass, looking for food and using their bills to tug away at potential sustenance.

It was interesting to see the ducks and geese out of the water, but you can’t let yourself get too carried away by the sight of our waddling water pals. When geese are about, you’ve really got to watch where you step.

Scooter Wars

The people of Columbus must really like riding scooters. Or, at least, that must be true of people hanging out in German Village. Schiller Park, in particular, is a magnet for scooters. Every morning on my walk around the park I see scooters at every point of the compass—some neatly arranged in appealing groups, like the ones above, some scattered willy-nilly, and some casually discarded and lying on their sides , like scooter litter.

By my count, there are at least four companies vying for the business of Cbus scooter users. And it must be a rule that scooter companies have four letters in their names—no more, no less—because that’s true of every Columbus competitor. We’ve got Bird, Link, Spin, and Lime.

What’s next? Sync, maybe? Given the ‘tude of the scooter riders, I’m surprised that Cool and Pose haven’t been used already.

Spring Snow At Schiller

Much as I hate the idea of snow on the ground on April 21–and more snow falling, even now–I have to admit that the snow gave a pretty new look to Schiller Park during my walk this morning. You could still see some of the color of the flowering trees beneath the layer of snow, and the heavy, wet snow on the leaves brought many of the limbs of the trees over the sidewalks down low, requiring you to duck and steer between low-hanging branches as you walked. And snow bombs, with clumps of snow being shaken off the trees and falling on we pedestrians below, were a constant hazard.

As I walked, I thought the park looked different in this snowfall than it does during the winter months. It took me a while to figure it out, until the bright green, grassy circles that surrounded every leafed-out tree clued me in. The canopies of leaves were shielding the grass from the snow and holding it above. Unlike their skeletal look after a winter snowfall, the trees looked full and bright, almost as if the snow were flowering buds. That thought almost made the falling snow and the cold tolerable.

Springtime At Schiller

During the week we were out in Arizona, spring arrived in central Ohio in a big way. Trees are beginning to leaf out, flowers are showing their colors, the grass is a bright green, the flowering trees are in their glory, and there is a gentle, floral scent of spring on the freshening breeze.

It is a beautiful time of year, and there is no better place to enjoy the delights of spring than Schiller Park. The garden club has been busy, and the grounds of the park look marvelous. This morning, conditions were perfect for a stroll through and around the park, with cool temperatures and bright sunshine. I wasn’t the only person who thought this was a good idea, either; the park was packed with people, and dogs, all enjoying a romp outside in the beautiful surroundings. We’ve all got spring fever, and a great park like Schiller is an ideal place to let the fever take hold.

Ducks On The Run

This is the time of year when the ducks in Schiller Park are out and about. Instead of hanging out at the pond, as they typically do, at this time of year they clearly feel a certain wanderlust and could be anywhere–crossing the street, emerging from underneath bushes, or strolling across the lawns.

It can be a bit unnerving as you walk in the pre-dawn darkness. You’ll suddenly detect movement near your feet in the gloom and feel a surge of adrenalin in response to the unknown, and the next thing you know there are a pair of ducks waddling past, murmuring in apparent indignation at your presence. With the DuckShock over, you breathe a sigh of relief and continue on your way.

The roaming ducks always seem to be in female and male pairs, which makes me think the wandering is intended to secure a little privacy, away from the rest of the flock at the pond, for some springtime mating. I always feel a little bad for interrupting the roving of my waterfowl chums–whatever they are doing.

The Champion Squirrel Chaser

I’ve written before about the dogs and squirrels at Schiller Park. The neighborhood dogs love to chase the squirrels, and the squirrels seem to enjoy taunting the dogs, which are never quite able to actually catch the squirrels.

With one notable exception: the little white dog above. This dog is the champion squirrel chaser at Schiller Park. She was made to chase squirrels in the same way Lamborghinis are designed to go from zero to 60 m.p.h. in ridiculously short amounts of time. The dog runs like the wind and takes corners and changes direction at top speed — tail wagging furiously all the while. The dog has energy to burn and never stops to take a breather. Squirrels expect the little white dog to be as slow and clumsy as other dogs, and are then surprised when she actually catches them and knocks them down. I’ve watched her send an astonished squirrel tumbling, and it is a sight to behold. (Fortunately, the squirrel was able to immediately regain its feet and dart up a nearby tree.)

Today the dog was at the park and I snapped the photo above — which is about the best picture you’re going to get, because the dog is basically a white furry blur at all times. I talked to her owner and asked if she could share what the dog eats, because I’d consider changing my diet to capture some of the never-ending energy that dog has. The woman laughed and said that the dog just loves to run and chase squirrels. “It’s her nature,” the woman explained.

It certainly is. Watching this little dog chase squirrels would be like watching Michelangelo paint the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel, or watching Ernest Hemingway write The Sun Also Rises. You can’t help but stop and appreciate an artist working in her true medium.

The View From Above

I’ve written frequently about how much I enjoy Schiller Park, the great neighborhood park in German Village that has been around since the 1860s and reminds me of the kinds of older, established parks you see in places like New York and Philadelphia.

I’ve walked around and through Schiller so many times I didn’t think anything about the park could surprise me, but then I saw this great overhead image of the park posted on Facebook by VividColumbus. To orient those who use the park, that white square in the circle at the bottom center of the photo is the statue of Herr Schiller.

The photo really gives you a sense of the geometric elements of the design of the park and a different perspective on how the different parts of the park, and its many pathways, fit together. I particularly like the overhead view of formal gardens, walkways, and lines of trees that lead up to the Schiller statue. It makes me think that the designers of the gardens keep an overhead view in mind when they arrange their plantings.

I’ve said it before and I will say it again — I wish more city planners and urban renewal designs included parks as essential elements of their projects. Parks like Schiller Park make a huge contribution to their surrounding communities.

The Gingerbread House

There are lots of nice holiday light displays in German Village this year, but my favorite is the one at the little house within the footprint of Schiller Park. With its roofline limned in lights and the crossed, bright red candy canes in the windows, the house looks just like a gingerbread house when I walk by in the morning and the dark brick structure is framed by the brightening sky to the east. It’s a good example of how light displays don’t need to be elaborate to be effective in creating a festive holiday mood.

Overmasked

I noticed them doing some work around the Schiller statue on one of my recent walks around the park, and when I walked past the statue on Saturday I saw that Herr Schiller is now sporting an oversized mask. I suppose somebody in the Columbus Parks and Recreation Department decided we need yet another reminder of the need to wear masks — even though the statue is honoring social distancing dictates by staying more than six feet away from, and above, anyone walking by.

I’m sure whoever came up with the idea of masking the statue thought they were being pretty clever — even though masking up stuff has been done to death already. But the sight of the giant veiled statue provoked a pretty negative reaction from me. Must the authorities take every opportunity to hit us over the head with masks and other reminders of this ongoing pandemic? Can’t they leave at least some things alone, so we can get an occasional taste of the world as it was before “coronavirus” became a household word?

Trust me: we’re not going to forget that there’s a pandemic going on, even if there’s not a mask on every statue.

Broken Circle

Suspensions, the exhibition of sculptures by Jerzy Jotka Kedziora at Schiller Park, was supposed to end in March 2020 — about the time the coronavirus turned our little corner of the world upside down. Whether it is due to COVID-19 issues or because people like me just enjoy them, the exhibition has been extended and the hanging sculptures are still there to be appreciated.

The sculpture above has attracted a lot of attention from passersby who have noticed that the strap on the one ring is unattached and are worried the sculpture needs repair. But that’s actually the whole point of this piece, which is called Broken Circle. The Friends of Schiller Park, which sponsored this exhibition, received so many inquiries about the sculpture they put up a sign with the artist’s explanation of the piece: “With one wheel severed, the gymnast is able to maintain the hard-to-explain position. I want viewers to interact with my sculptures, even if it is simply the viewer’s fear that the sculpture may fall.”

I am struck by Kedziora’s notion of the gymnast being “able to maintain the hard-to-explain position.” That seems like a pretty apt description of what many people have done in trying to keep their lives, and their family’s lives, in order in the face of a pandemic and the other issues that have made 2020 such a surreal year. If you’re one of the Moms, Dads, helping out grandmothers or grandfathers, stay-at-home workers, remote schoolers, masked health care workers, or countless other people who have been able to “maintain the hard-to-explain position” in the face of a broken circle and innumerable daily challenges, I salute you. Like the gymnast, you’ve survived the impossible.

It’s interesting how changes in the world can affect your impression of art, and vice versa.

The Squirrel’s Favorite Holiday

I’m guessing that squirrels prefer Halloween and Thanksgiving over all other holidays. That’s because squirrels have a taste for pumpkin — especially older, softer pumpkin. Over the last few days, the little fellow shown in the photo above and his furry pals have been ravenously devouring the pumpkins that were placed at Schiller Park as decorations. I’m not sure if the squirrels gnaw through the shell to get at the pumpkin seeds, or whether they like the inner flesh, but this guy was stuffing himself to get ready for the winter in that inimitable, hyper-alert, squirrel-like way.

If you’ve got pumpkins and want to be environmentally sensitive about disposing of them, put them out in your back yard where your neighborhood squirrels can get at them. They’ll thank you, and take care of recycling.