Friday, April 9, 2010


NOTE: The following post is the follow up to "In Search of Home" , an earlier post about my search for a new home with it's own "little piece of the wild".

In my long standing tradition to time significant life changes with significant dates, I moved into my new home one year ago, on April 15th, Tax Day. In my mind, owning a new home and Tax Day go together, in a fiscal kind of way. It's about owning something significant and the government wanting you to pay for owning it. I could digress...

More importantly though, I've not only been in my own, new home, I've been romping around in my new "ecos", or home outside my home. I got what I wanted with an entirely new wild space to explore and study, and inspire a new body of work. Since day one, when I dove into this crazy little frontier on the outskirts of town, I've been so wrapped up in trying to photograph the local fauna of this little Ark, that I haven't taken the time to surface and reflect on my move. 

Welcome to what we'll call Schipper's Crossing. 

How did I get here?

To quote myself:

"Like a river winding it's way towards it's final destintaion, I was twisting and turning with constant compromise. The biggest compromise to emerge was the quality of habitat. Perhaps a slightly degraded piece of land, or perhaps an adjacent piece of property that wasn't exactly a designated preserve could satisfy my wilderness fix, while keeping the price of a house sufficiently down. This is the bend in the river when the nuclear power plant starts to become kind of charming and picturesque."

Before I moved in, I had a fairly serious "compromise" to weigh: the little manufactured home I was considering was adjacent to a wild space the city of Kalamazoo owns but also used portions of it two decades ago as a dumping ground, raising serious questions about contamination. What they were dumping was a medley of waste no one really wanted--for good reason--including dredgings from the Kalamazoo River and sludge from the city's waste processing facility. Yes, human waste.

The very thought could drive down housing prices. Well, this was twenty years ago and the Earth's capacity for remediation has composted the smell entirely away; quick growing trees and shrub have taken root and aside from the "un-natural" mound shape underneath these patches of habitat, one might not even recognize the human footprint. 

This is all true today because of a massive eruption of protest that emerged out of the Eastside and Eastwood neighborhoods demanding the city to stop dumping. The stink was SO bad, residents (some otherwise a-political) took to the streets and marched on Kalamazoo City Hall in the thousands, successfully bringin the whole operation to a halt - not without the added pressure of a lawsuit against the city.  This apparent loss for the city actually qualified Kalamazoo for new federal funds that paid for the present day sewage treatment facility on the Kalamazoo River between Patterson and Mosel. Things have since been relatively quiet, and, how do you say: un-stinky?

But, what you can't see or smell can still kill you. Was there contamination in them thar hills? I was on city water, piped in from afar, so I wasn't concerned about a contaminated well; but what about air-borne particulates, floating into my molecular world and giving rise to cancer? What if I were to hike around in that area and expose myself to higher levels of arsenic, PCB's, or whatever. I'm not a chemist or environmental scientist and really didn't know. Friends and family were vigorously waving red flags.

So, I took it upon myself to research the property at the local DEQ on D Avenue and couldn't find any serious warnings in previously classified folders. I also discovered the company that performed an environmental assessment on the property and ended up speaking with a guy who actually did the foot work on the case and he assured me that any of my future children wouldn't have an excess of ten toes. That guy turned out to be a new friend who's also a nature photographer: Steve Kimm.


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