Friday, August 18, 2006

A Fond Farewell

Friday, August 18, 2006

We received the sad news this morning that our dear friend Ora Anderson had died earlier this week. Ora was 94 and had lived an amazingly rich and productive life. He was a newspaper reporter and publisher. He was an elected official on the state level here in Ohio. He was a founder of The Dairy Barn, southeastern Ohio's premier venue for Appalachian art. He was an accomplished woodsman, author, speaker, and carver of birds. His conservation efforts in Ohio were acknowledged by the naming of a state nature preserve in Ora's honor.

But most of all he was a gentle and lovely person.

Ora grew up on a hillside farm in Kentucky but moved to Ohio during the Great Depression, and to the Athens, Ohio area in the 1950s. During his early years in the state, as a young newspaper reporter, he wrote stories on the creation of the Wayne National Forest. In those days, most of southeastern and southern Ohio was so denuded of trees that it looked like a moonscape. In the award-winning documentary film "A Forest Returns" by Jean Andrews, Ora's memories and experiences of The Wayne's creation and the amazing recovery of the woodlands were the focal point. Imagine watching a landscape renew itself from degraded clear cut to deep, climax woods in your own lifetime. [You can see a video excerpt of Ora from the documentary by clicking on the "A Forest Returns" link above].

Over the years, Ora wrote many articles for Bird Watcher's Digest. Last winter, Jean Andrews approached BWD about compiling Ora's many essays and poems into a book. We loved the idea and proceeded to make arrangements with Ohio University Press to publish Ora's book, Out of the Woods: A Bird Watcher's Year. BWD's Managing Editor Deborah Griffith to the lead in selecting and editing the material. Julie Zickefoose donated her artwork. Jean kept all wheels moving on the project with the good folks at OU Press. It's going to be a delightful book to read and to savor.

The book will be published next spring. It's such a shame that Ora will not be here to enjoy its publication. However it will serve as a tribute to this fine man and his lifetime of living close to the Ohio landscape.

Here is one of Ora's poems which will appear in his forthcoming book.

Prayer is like the whisper of dry leaves
On the forest floor, accepting the passer by,
The dance of sun shadow,
The bird song in the towering oak.

Its answer is a sudden quickening of the heart,
A catch of breath
Exhaled like mist in the forest dawn.
The soaring hawk, riding a thermal,
Carries my plea skyward.
At my feet
The wind hurries the dry leaves homeward

Like letters borne by angels.

--Ora Anderson


A few days ago, Julie answered a knock at our front door. It was a man representing a logging company wanting to tell us that we could make good money for our standing timber. He told her he was logging on all of our neighbors' properties and we'd be foolish to let the good timber go to waste. Julie very politely told him no, we like our trees just the way they are. And besides, now that all the woods around us were being timbered, where will the tanagers and vireos and wood thrushes and worm-eating warblers go next spring to nest? We'll keep our place intact for them.

How ironic it is on this cool, early Autumn morning, to hear the whining chainsaws and roaring log haulers all around while our thoughts are on our dear friend, Ora. A man who loved these Ohio woods like no one else.


On August 18, 2006 at 2:50 PM Rondeau Ric said...

Bill you really scared me with that opening line “We received the sad news this morning that……” I thought you were talking about Chet. I was amazed at the impact that thought had on me. I hope Chet is getting better and will be home soon. I can imagine the mood at Indigo Hill.

Your friend sounds like he was an interesting person. We can never have enough people who understand the importance of our environment

I understand the nee for lumber, however, I don’t understand clear cutting ant the total destruction of a habitat. I find it morally offensive.

On August 18, 2006 at 3:37 PM Bill of the Birds said...

Hey Ric. Sorry about that.

Yes, Julie is in town now picking up Chet from the vet. He's not completely recovered from whatever mystery malady he's got, but he''s acting more like himself.

Will let JZ do the majority of the Chet updates on her blog.

Ora was a fine man and the world is diminished by his death.

On August 18, 2006 at 3:56 PM Stardustgirl said...

Ditto what Rondeau Ric said! I guess all of us Chet fans are a little jumpy. Thanks for mentioning he's on his way home... I've been blog-stalking for a Chet update.

How fine that your friend had a nature preserve named for him - that seems like a wonderful way to be remembered.

And hooray for turning down the logging people. We've lost our wooded areas around us to strip malls in the last 2 years, which may explain why we've recently seen birds in our backyard that we aren't normally lucky enough to see. We bribe them with food and lodging ;-)

On August 18, 2006 at 6:31 PM Anonymous said...

A lovely tribute to your friend, he lives on in places like yours that are safe from the timber harvest and welcoming to flora and fauna of all sorts.
Sorry to hear of the loss, I recall reading with pleasure his essays in BWD.
Caroline in SD

On August 18, 2006 at 7:35 PM Anonymous said...

I laughed when the interview ended with the idea of creating a national forest where there were no trees. A great way to get people to want to see the rest of the story.

"Imagine watching a landscape renew itself from degraded clear cut to deep, climax woods in your own lifetime."

Have you ever heard the story The Man Who Planted Trees? Set in France between the wars and after WW-II. Inspirational - but I was let down to learn it was fiction. Your description reminded me of it. I found a copy, but the link might not paste correctly.

On August 18, 2006 at 10:06 PM Anonymous said...

When I used to commute to Iowa State I made friends with a Cotton Wood tree that grew on the banks of the river. It was swept away in a spring flood and I miss it yet when I pass that way. I mourn the assault on trees when the power company goes through the streets in town and makes ugly on the trees lining the roads. Your friend was a fine person if he loved trees. And hurrah for Julie and the lumber company! Erin

On August 18, 2006 at 11:17 PM Rondeau Ric said...

I just checked Julies blog and am delighted Chet is home. I reread my post.
Lot of pselling errers there eh?

You real shook me dude.

Enjoy your weekend.

On August 19, 2006 at 12:17 AM Anonymous said...

"Ora was a fine man and the world is diminished by his death"

I looked through the USA Today, New York Times, WallStreet, Washington Post newspapers and several others and Ora's death wasn't listed, I watched all the network news and his death wasn't mentioned, and I listen to all the PBS news segments on the radio and Ora's death wasn't mentioned. What world are ya talking about??

On August 19, 2006 at 8:30 AM Julie Zickefoose said...

What on earth could you possibly mean by this comment, Anonymous? Either I'm misunderstanding you, or you are deeply and sadly dependent on major news networks to tell you what, and who, is important in life. My apologies if I've misunderstood you. But that is one intensely weird and cruel thing to write to someone who's lost a dear friend.

On August 19, 2006 at 11:05 AM Doc said...

I'm sorry to hear of the loss of your friend. The comment from anonymous was uncalled for. Unfortunately, there are too many cruel, thoughtless people out there.

Hooray to Julie for declining the offer from the logging company. We owned property in North Georgia and the property across from ours was clear cutted. It is such a destructive, ugly process. The loss of nesting sites and food sources for our feathered friends is obscene.

On March 7, 2009 at 12:03 PM G. Hartman said...

Ora will be sadly missed. I had the honor of meeting him while I was a student @ Ohio University in 2000 and 2001. He used to let my friends and I fish on the many ponds that surrounded his beautiful property. His bird carvings were some of the most beautiful carvings I have ever laid eyes on!! A true conservationist to the very core. The world is a lesser place without you my friend.