The Biggest Victory at Richfield Coliseum

July 25, 2010

Don’t it always seem to go

That you don’t know what you’ve got ’til it’s gone?

They paved paradise and put up a parking lot.

— Joni Mitchell, “Big Yellow Taxi”

The Coliseum in Richfield, Ohio

Twenty years ago, this arena sat at the intersection of two highways between Akron and Cleveland.   It was home to the Cleveland Cavaliers basketball team, and the site of musical events too numerous to recount.  In 1987, probably bedecked in ruffles and paste pearls, I saw Madonna perform there.

Cuyahoga River, photo by Kevin Payravi, Wikimedia Commons

As you can see, the arena was surrounded by acres and acres of parking lot.  It sat atop a rise over the Cuyahoga River valley and was visible for miles around.  Beyond the sea of asphalt, the Coliseum was bordered by the Cuyahoga Valley National Park.  Created in 1974 as the Cuyahoga Valley National Recreation Area, the CVNP encompasses waterfalls and forests, as well as preserving sections of the Ohio & Erie Canal towpath and historic farms.  The CVNP exists due to the tireless efforts of the citizens of northeastern Ohio, lead by Congressmen Ralph Regula and John Seiberling.  President Ford was reluctant to approve the legislation creating the park, but upon being shown a list of local supporters, reportedly said, “If I don’t sign this bill, my name will be mud in Ohio.”

Brandywine Falls, photo by Analogue Kid at Wikimedia Commons

In the early 1990s, the Gund family, who owned the basketball team, decided to build a new arena and placed it in downtown Cleveland.  This contributed significantly to the revitalization of the city, and was one of the first instances of a growing trend among professional sports organizations to relocate or improve their facilities in inner cities.  In 1994, the Cleveland Cavaliers played their last game at Richfield Coliseum, and that sounded the death knell for the arena.  Many were concerned about what would become of the site, with developers clamoring to acquire it for shopping centers, office buildings, and the like.  By 1998, sixty developers had approached the Gunds with offers to buy the property.  While the developers offered them more money, the Gunds chose to sell the site to the Trust for Public Land, and it was transferred to the National Park Service.
This week, I visited the former site of the Coliseum in Richfield, and took a picture.

Coliseum Grasslands, Richfield, Ohio

A visitor to the area would never guess that the concrete and glass behemoth pictured above stood here.  The meadow has never been mowed, and it’s filled with hundreds of grasses and other plants.  I went there to watch birds.  In particular, I was looking for this bird.  This is a Henslow’s Sparrow.

Henslow's Sparrow (Ammodramus henslowii)

The Sibley Field Guide to Birds of Eastern North America describes the bird as “uncommon, local, and declining.  Restricted to damp grassy meadows with old matted vegetation and a variety of weeds and other groundcover.  Solitary and very secretive; difficult to see except when singing … Song a dry, insect-like, feeble hiccup.”  Because it prefers this particular type of habitat, and such meadows are harder and harder to find, the population of Henslow’s Sparrows has been steadily dropping.

My friend and I arrived at the Coliseum grasslands around 7:00 PM, right after a sudden drenching rain.  We waded through waist-high grasses and wildflowers, listening intently for the sparrow’s song.  It didn’t take long to hear what Sibley called an insect-like hiccup, and persistent following the song led us to see a little juvenile, perched atop a stalk of grass.  We did find several other Henslow’s Sparrows that night, along with Bobolinks, the famously shy Sedge Wren, and many other birds.

I was filled with amazement that what is now home to an uncommon bird so finicky about its habitat, not two decades ago was a monument to Americans’ love for commercial spectacle on a grand scale and their ability to get there by automobile.  While I watch and worry about what will become of the Gulf, all covered in sludge, it was balm for the soul to see the tangible results of human intervention in our environment come to something so very, very, very good.  If you worry about our planet, if you fear for the loss of wild places, if you despair at human exploitation of our Mother Earth … think of the efforts of concerned citizens, the generosity of a wealthy family, and the dedication of a few public servants.  Think of an asphalt parking lot that is now a meadow in Ohio.  Think of the Henslow’s Sparrow, and reflect that sometimes the good guys win.

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Baby Steps

July 19, 2010

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about the State of the Planet, and the environmental impact of my actions.  Maybe it’s all the terrible news coming from the Gulf of Mexico.  Maybe it’s the fact that I’ve taken up a hobby — birdwatching, to be precise — that involves watching wildlife and being in nature.  Whatever the reason(s), it’s been on my mind, and I’ve been trying to be a little more conscious of what I am doing and eating and buying, among other things.

Sometimes it has seemed to me that environmentalists have urged concerned people to make changes in their lives that seem at best drastic and at worst, impossible.  Sell your car!  Live a carbon-neutral lifestyle!  Turn your whole family (including the dog) to veganism!  Get off the grid!

Well, gosh, I’d LOVE to, but where do I start?  And, if I do something short of that, am I still making a difference?

One day last summer, I picked up a flyer at my local coffee shop exhorting people to adopt a vegetarian diet.  It provided amazing statistics about the environmental impact of eating meat.  And it suggested that even modest changes in one’s diet would help.  Meatless Monday is an international campaign that educates individuals about the beneficial impact of eating meatless just one day a week on both personal health and the well-being of the planet.

That got me thinking.  Maybe little changes would make a difference.   The idea of permanently swearing off bacon made me nervous, but if I could help by just reducing my meat consumption, I could definitely get behind that.

So I did, and as a result, I’ve become a most-of-the-time vegetarian.  I eat meat now and again, but I try to save it for special occasions or something really worthwhile.  From there, I started thinking about other little changes that I could make.  Instead of “living carbon-neutral” or “saving the planet,” I made this my motto and my goal:

While I am here, I want to tread more lightly upon the Earth.

Note that any change at all, however small, will advance this goal.  That allows you to feel good about every positive action you take.  And, of course, as I know from years of raising an autistic child, nothing effects positive change like creating opportunities for success.  Here are some of the small things that I am doing to tread more lightly upon the Earth

I am growing vegetables at home. There are many reasons I decided to do this. You can’t eat more locally than your own backyard.  I love the taste of real, homegrown tomatoes.  But mostly, I’d like to teach John and Sam that food does not come from grocery stores.

I quit buying paper towels. This may seem silly, but I realized that it was pretty crazy for me to be recycling junk mail and cardboard packaging, but to use and throw away so many paper towels.  I bought some microfiber cleaning cloths, and I also use handknitted dishcloths for many things.  If I’m cooking bacon or something else that needs to be drained (which doesn’t happen all that often), I use some of the million paper bags or napkins that I’m given at restaurants and stores.  At home and when packing lunches, we use cloth napkins, which adds a little graciousness to even a peanut butter sandwich!

I hang my clothes up to dry. For this change, I have Erika, my boss at the yarn store, to thank.  After the refrigerator, the clothes dryer is the second-most energy-consuming appliance in the home.  I have clothesline hung in the laundry room, and I’ve found that hanging wet clothes takes only a few extra minutes.  There is nothing like the smell of sheets that have dried in the sunshine!

I don’t buy bottled water. In fact, I’m trying to buy fewer things packaged in plastic in general, but bottled water was the very first thing to go.  Did you know that nearly eight out of ten plastic water bottles will end up in a landfill?  And most bottled water is not pristine liquid from an Alpine source or a tropical island, but rather plain old tap water?

These are just a few things I am doing — I generally don’t use air conditioning at home, and I am also trying to use public transportation when I can.  But the thing I like about these steps is that they are completely doable, practically painless ones.

Have you made any changes in your lifestyle as a result of your concern for the environment?  I want to know what they are!

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Books I’m reading now that are, more or less, on this topic: Diet for a Hot Planet by Anna Lappe (the daughter of Frances Moore Lappe, who wrote the groundbreaking Diet for a Small Planet) and The Kind Diet by Alicia Silverstone, which I picked up despite its being a celebrity diet book based on the enthusiastic endorsement of a very trusted friend.

And check out my friend Gretchen’s blog, (Sort of) Sustainable Summer, in which she documents her family’s efforts to eat locally in the Cleveland area this summer!


What’s Making Me Happy Now. (I Think. In Part.)

July 17, 2010

1. Craft fairs. I’ve been to two great ones recently, Bazaar Bizarre at the Larchmere Street Festival and the Cleveland Craft Coalition‘s show today at River Colors Studio/Blackbird Baking Company.   Many wonderful things were found and purchased at each, but  I will post merely a picture of the Hands and Notions Yarn I picked up at Bazaar Bizarre.  It didn’t have a name,* but it reminds me of the colors in a stalk of rhubarb.

* Variegated sock yarn without a colorway name? It's almost ... subversive.

Shannon said this yarn would make me cry.  It was all so pretty, I was nearly moved to tears by having to leave the rest behind.

2. Birds taking baths. There is something supercute about this to me.  Some sparrows were taking a bath in a puddle on my driveway just now, but I wasn’t quick enough with the camera.

3. Sock yarn in general. I have been knitting socks like crazy!  Suddenly, I love socks again!  And so, I had to buy some of Jeanne‘s yarn at her trunk show today.  Again, I could have come home with one of each, but I was the model of restraint.

Yosemite on top and Annie Oakley on the bottom! So much pretty!

Jeanne’s yarn is so beautiful online, but it is beyond gorgeous in person.  Out-of-towners, buy with impunity, you will not be disappointed.

4. Being employed.  Sort of. I both mean that I am sort of employed, and that I am sort of happy about it.  I  am working as a temp lawyer (yay, money!) doing electronic document review (boo, eyes that feel like they’re bleeding!) full-time (yay!) but possibly only through next week (boo!).  In general, though, my feeling about this job is grateful.

5. Knitting socks! Did I mention this already?  I heart socks!  Here’s a pair that I’ve been working on in Panda Cotton, which I also love.  The pattern is Kaiso, in the truly awesome book, Knitted Socks East and West.

Words fail me with regard to these lovely socks.

And I am gearing up for Shannon and Margaret‘s book/sock KAL next month.  Sweet!