If Walls Could Talk ~ haibun

If Walls Could Talk

Eyes that listen will know a story. The wind whistling past limestone walls on an Ozark bluff, through holes that once wore windows. Soot aging with the stone that wears it. A cellar beneath ruins blanketed with snow. That wind again. Or are those voices from the past, a gaiety that would be silenced by flames that leave the chill of death, even on a summer’s day? Once the snow melts, there will be a rebirth, the forest green again. And voices. Tourists gazing at those bare stone walls and listening for any sign of life.

stark and desolate
the only sign of rebirth
early budding trees
turkey vultures fly above
stone walls that speak to no one

The “castle” at Ha Ha Tonka was built in the early 1900s and succumbed to fire in 1942. The estate is now a Missouri State Park that features 3700 acres of forest that include caves, sinkholes and bluffs overlooking the Lake of the Ozarks. Stone for a water tower, carriage house, and the mansion was quarried on the property. More than 100 yards from the home, the water tower was the only undamaged structure, but it was gutted in the 1970s by a fire started by vandals. (click on images to see larger view in new tab)

With this poet’s choice of listen and silence as prompt words, this is a response to
Colleen’s 2019 Weekly #Tanka Tuesday #Poetry Challenge #126,
“Poet’s Choice of Words.”

Fall Color, Finally

Fall Color, Finally
(clicking any photo will open a larger image in a new tab)

In late October or early November, I make a point of going to Ha Ha Tonka State Park, sixty miles south of my home in mid-Missouri. I’m seldom disappointed by the fall colors the landscape has to offer. I made the trip on Monday, with temperatures in the sixties and partially cloudy (wispy) skies.

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The patches of red that are visible are dogwood.

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There may be few maples in our area, but they draw my camera like a magnet.

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This view is one that I never fail to photograph. It’s the outflow from a natural spring found at the base of one of the bluffs. The water (56,000,000 gallons, daily) can have an amazing blue hue on a cloudless day.

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I spent several hours walking 4.5 miles of trails within the park, with an elevation change of a couple hundred feet, from the Castle down to the water, and then up again along the bluffs.

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This tree, now bare, sits on the ledge visible in the photo above it.

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The area has numerous karst formations, including this natural bridge.

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Designed to be a home, later a hotel, The Castle at Ha Ha Tonka is bare stone walls, the result of a devastating fire in 1942.

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A great photo of The Castle in its prime can be seen here.
Meanwhile, within five miles of my home, this bluff always offers a spectacular autumn view.

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And in my back yard, this hickory.

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Sadly, the colors don’t stay forever. This is the same tree, three days later, after rain and a couple of cool nights. I’m sure the other trees are soon to follow. Oh well, there’s always next year.

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Ha Ha Tonka fall photos from the last two years can be found here and here.

Ken G

Mid-MO Autumn 2017

Mid-MO Autumn 2017

I probably complain too much about the autumn colors in Missouri. Maple this. Maple that. Where are the maples? What can I say? Western New York spoiled me with its colorful autumns. Even so, I’ve managed to get some pretty nice photos here. In fact, one of my favorites, a local bluff, is a 30 inch canvas print on the wall of my wife’s office.

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…of course, the sunset didn’t hurt this shot at all (October 2014)

I went to that bluff yesterday to try a different angle – actually another exposed rock face in that series of bluffs. This was not expected to be a colorful autumn, so I was surprised to find some nice, if not as brilliant, colors.

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Another place I’ve place I’ve relied on for nice outdoor photos is Ha Ha Tonka State Park. The park is located at the end of one of the many arms of Lake of the Ozarks. It has many karst formations, including a natural bridge. The gem that seems to draw the most visitors is The Castle, which sits high atop a bluff, above the lake. A wealthy Kansas City businessman starting building his 60 room “European-style castle” in 1905, only to die a year later in one of the state’s first auto accidents. His sons finished it – less elaborately – in 1922. Later, it was leased out as a hotel, and sparks from a chimney burned it to a shell, also gutting a large carriage house. A stone water tower, 1000 feet away, survived, but was gutted when burned by vandals in 1976. The land has been a state park since 1978.

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The ruins of the castle and water tower, as well as the many trails at Ha Ha Tonka, offer great photo opportunities.  On Wednesday, I spent 3 1/2 hours hiking 4 miles from bluff-top to lake and back while taking photos. While other years have offered better fall colors, I got some nice photos, and I had a beautiful day for hiking – sunny and 50 degrees.

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…and, of course, back to the maples

It was a day well spent.

Ken G.

Watercolor Autumn

Yesterday was a nearly perfect day for a hike at Ha Ha Tonka State Park, in Missouri. I say “nearly perfect” because the temperature was 82 degrees. But then, there was a nice breeze, and I stayed in the shade most of the time. It’s usually been a good place to get some nice photos of fall colors, but not this year. Pale yellow and brown were the only colors showing through the green. At least the water offered some interesting views.