By: Keely Dunham
Cars fly down the sun-beaten asphalt road. Specks of trash sprinkle the uncut grass on either side of the street. We are headed to Sharon Woods, which is a gorgeous park affiliated with the Great Parks of Hamilton County. After Andrew, my soon-to-be geologist boyfriend and I park, we wait for our date with his nephews to begin.
The park is filled with children and families of all backgrounds; I can hear a birthday party under a shelter and I watch moms and dads sit on benches as their children climb across the monkey bars. The park is beautiful, not only aesthetically, but because it is a shared space where the urban citizen can meet face-to-face with nature and see what the outdoors has to teach.
I have hours of “creeking” under my belt from being a camp counselor, and nothing is more rewarding than watching children enjoy a sweet summer afternoon with their feet in the water while searching for a fossil. Chase and William arrive with their mom, Megan, and we walk together down a gravel path growing closer to the creek. The sunlight penetrates the forest and leaves a pattern on the ground. The sight of the creek gives life to the young boys.
This creek, along with many others in the Cincinnati area, is filled with the remains of life from the Ordovician period. The organisms that can be found are basal, like these three common types: brachiopods, crinoids, and bryozoan. Brachiopods are what are related to present day mollusks, like clams. Crinoids were beautiful floral-like creatures that filter fed and their stems found in rock can resemble a stack of tiny coins. The most abundant fossil type that can be found are bryozoan, which look like corals. If we went back in time to the Ordovician period in Ohio, we would be swimming around in a warm, shallow sea.
Every step I take is connecting the bottoms of my feet with four hundred sixty-five million-year-old animals. The animals are now trapped inside chunks of limestone, and they look like tiny sculptures crafted by nature. The bed of the creek is made with a blanket of slippery moss that glistens above water. The nature, both living and dead, found in a Cincinnati creek is rich, and it immerses people in a sense of awe.
Chase shouts, “Mom, can I add this to my rock collection?” It would almost be immoral to say no to a six-year-old who is intrigued by the natural world. Megan puts the broken bryozoan in her backpack.
I flip over a rock and find a rust colored circle, a water penny. I tell the two adventurers about the insect and how his presence is special in flowing water, as it indicates a clean environment. How amazing it is that there is a section of Earth that has everything you could want for losing yourself in the wonders of nature surrounded by urban areas? If you look deeper into the city, nature is there.