Lens-Artists Photo Challenge: Detail

Patti poses an interesting challenge this week: when the scope of a scene is visually overwhelming, choose to focus on a detail that hints at the grandeur of the whole.
For me, that sense of overwhelming wonder is always present when I am outside in Nature. I love the Earth. I work for a Conservation Foundation, and I am often dazzled by the beauty of the land while I am also stunned by the complexity of biological interactions and the enormity of the task of preserving ecosystems that are under constant threats of degradation. I believe that showing people the accessible beauty of the world around them can engender the kind of affection for Place that will motivate them to protect it, to safeguard it for the future.
Have you ever looked at a common plant up close? Or gazed into the intelligent eyes of an animal?  There are details all around you capable of blowing your mind with the immense and intricate magnificence of Life. I invite you to become a Lover of Life — a Biophile, if you will.

Lens-Artists Photo Challenge: I Choose Steve

I am the joy in change and movement. — Steve

The Lens-Artists photography group is celebrating their first anniversary. Hosts Tina, Amy, Patti, and Ann-Christine have invited us to choose our favorite photo subject. They chose Friendship, Connection, Imagination, and Discovery as the themes for their respective posts. I have chosen Steve, an undeniable person in my life who has taught me much about friendship, connection, imagination and discovery during the ten years we’ve known each other.

I really do grapple with the balance between these two elements of my consciousness, the thinker and the feeler, the heart and the head. The dance between the two is where good work is done. –Steve (forthelastwolverine.com)

Steve is the owner of Scholar and Poet Books, an online bookstore with listings on Amazon, eBay, A Libris, and ABE Books.

He is an English major, a philosopher, an anthropologist, an environmentalist, a musician, a conversationalist, a film fan, a student and teacher of spiritual psychology, a practitioner of Buddhism, a brother, a son, my housemate, and my friend.

He comes from Polish-German stock and thinks of himself as Slavic and moody.

There are three ideas that I make sure to spend time with every day. If pressed to reduce these ideas to a single word each, I might pick WILD, BEAUTY and ENOUGH. — Steve (forthelastwolverine.com)

I have photographed Steve over the last ten years from many different perspectives. In the span of that time, we’ve related as co-workers, trail buddies, string quartet members, lovers, exes, best friends, classmates, tent mates, housemates, and temporary step-parents to a fur baby named Pinkle.

We share so many memories. (Well, maybe not. My memory is much better than his.) And I have SO many photos. Several albums worth…that aren’t in albums yet. There could be a Steve’s Trail Shot Album, full of photos taken while we were out exploring somewhere. This would be the biggest album.

There could be an album’s worth of photos that might be called Black & White Author Headshots.

There could be a small album of Sleeping Steve…

And Couple Selfies…

And goofy Leftovers.

Here’s what I’ve learned: once you choose to let someone into your life, into your camera, there is so much to know about that person. That choice can have a lasting impact on you and your photo files. 

Choose wisely, friends. And choose friends wisely. I think Steve’s been an excellent choice as a photo subject…and a friend. 

Lens-Artists Photo Challenge: Serenity

“You cannot perceive beauty but with a serene mind.” — Henry David Thoreau

Six months ago, I began taking yoga classes at a local instructor’s farm. I’d only done one yoga class before in my life, so I was an apprehensive beginner. The instructor and most of the students in this group were of retirement age, however, so the pace was slow and stately. I started going once a week, then twice, as many times as classes were offered there. I began to realize my intention for serenity, a less fearful and anxious state of mind about my body and my future.

During the six months of class, I was also transitioning out of a relationship that I’d been in for the past 10 years. That relationship had begun eight months after I was widowed. My “Monkey Mind” thoughts were often on my insecurities: my aging, appearance, losses, desires, loneliness.  

In times of uncertainty, I find myself reverting to the role of the achiever. I begin to compare myself to others and try for perfection, just like I did as a student. I look for the A+ that will define and validate me. This is not a place to take refuge, however. It is a place of internal stress. Letting go of that role and allowing myself to see myself with acceptance and love brings me closer to serenity. I believe that serenity will manifest as good health and inner beauty. Yoga integrates the awareness of breath, movement, mind. Practicing with intention is transformative. Accepting change with serenity is a very beneficial skill for life, as life is always changing. 

My instructor put his farm up for sale last week. He and his wife have been there 40 years. I’m not sure how many more classes he will teach, but this morning, I purchased another ten. I intend to keep practicing. And I intend to make big changes in my life soon, too. Still, I believe I can find Serenity, when I am open to it, in every circumstance. That is the position of tadasana, mountain pose. Thank you, Tina, for inviting us to find Serenity. 

 

Lens-Artists Photo Challenge: Unique

Amy at The World Is A Book has traveled to many unique cultural sites around the world, and she challenges us to share something UNIQUE.

Funny thing is, there are a lot of unique things that seem pretty common. Like snowflakes. Each one is unique, but where I come from, they’re also common. People. Trees. Same thing. So…how about….

MUSEUMS! I was raised up loving museums. My parents were members of some of the best in the land — the Field Museum of Natural History in Chicago, for instance. When I was 10, they signed me up for classes at the Art Institute of Chicago. Five years ago, I worked part time at two different museums in Wisconsin: Discovery World and Old World Wisconsin. Then, I began to work for a land trust in Washington County. The President of the Board of Directors runs a private fire service museum called The Venerable Fire Collection.

Working at a museum is a very stimulating job. Initially, there’s the excitement of learning as much as you can about the subject of the museum. Then there is the thrill of sharing those discoveries with the public – young and old and everyone in between. Some days are downright exhausting. You spend hours on your feet, responding to a stream of visitors with questions. Other days, the visitors stay away in droves. You pace the same space over and over again, looking at the same artifacts. Still, you pinch yourself and calculate how lucky you are to be able to spend a whole day in a museum AND get PAID for it!

Eventually, I grew so attached to those places that on my off day, I would visit with my camera. Here are some of my favorite shots from the Wisconsin museums I mentioned. Can you guess which photo was taken at which museum? 

I look forward to discovering many more museums in my lifetime. 

My Favorite Fathers

These are still my favorite fathers, and always will be. I did comment on a FB page today that Aldo Leopold was another fine example of Fatherhood – his 5 children all became Environmental Scientists. However, I didn’t know him personally.

scillagrace

The obvious blog subject of the day here in the U.S. of A. is Father’s Day.  I have two stellar examples of fathers prominent in my thoughts and conspicuously absent in the flesh.  My husband, the father of my four children, died in 2008.  My father, who had 5 children, died in 2010.  What they have in common is that they both felt woefully disappointed by their own fathers (at one time) and were determined to do better.  I’m glad to say that my husband had the chance to improve his relationship with his dad over the years, whereas my father did not.  They both had an internal sense of the kind of father they wanted to be, and were clear in their values.  They were incredibly dependable, stable providers of basic things, although in slightly different mixtures.  My husband was far more of a “warm fuzzy”, emotional Teddy Bear. …

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Lens-Artists Photo Challenge: Trees

Ann-Christine and I share a love of trees. I’m glad for her challenge subject today.

Much of the wisdom of the natural world is about how to sustain life in harmony with others. It turns out that Trees are no exception. They share a unique kind of communication via threads of fungi and operate as a living community. That discovery changes the way I see forests and individual trees completely. 

“A tree can be only as strong as the forest that surrounds it.”
Peter Wohlleben, The Hidden Life of Trees: What They Feel, How They Communicate

“It appears that nutrient exchange and helping neighbors in times of need is the rule, and this leads to the conclusion that forests are superorganisms with interconnections much like ant colonies.”
Peter Wohlleben, The Hidden Life of Trees: What They Feel, How They Communicate – Discoveries from a Secret World

“We have learned that mother trees recognize and talk with their kin, shaping future generations. In addition, injured trees pass their legacies on to their neighbors, affecting gene regulation, defense chemistry, and resilience in the forest community.”
Peter Wohlleben, The Hidden Life of Trees: What They Feel, How They Communicate—Discoveries from A Secret World

“If a tree falls in the forest there are other trees listening.”
Peter Wohlleben, The Hidden Life of Trees: What They Feel, How They Communicate – Discoveries from a Secret World

I feel now more than ever how important it is to conserve larger tracts of land containing whole forests, especially mature growth forests. It’s not enough to plant a tree in the yard. Trees are the lungs of the planet, breathing the oxygen that we all depend on into our world. 

“An organism that is too greedy and takes too much without giving anything in return destroys what it needs for life.”
Peter Wohlleben, The Hidden Life of Trees: What They Feel, How They Communicate – Discoveries from a Secret World

Have you thanked a forest today?

Lens-Artists Challenge: Favorite Things

Patti challenges us this morning with a request to see our Favorite Things. Here’s a glimpse of me enjoying my favorite thing — 

Yesterday, I was volunteering at the Riveredge Nature Center in a classroom of 5th Graders learning about Pond Interactions. 

“Who can define ‘interaction’? The way two things engage with each other – excellent! Now, who knows what we call things that are living or were once living? Good – ‘biotic’ is the right word. What do we call something that was never alive? ‘Abiotic’ – that’s probably not a very familiar word. What do you see here that’s ‘abiotic’? The eyeglasses on my face is a good example. And how do I engage with them? I carry them around on my ears and they help me see. Exactly.” 

My favorite things are not things. They are biotic and abiotic energies. Living beings and non-living elements like water, air, warmth, and rock.

In my highest tier of living Favorites would be the family that I helped create. My late husband, who kissed me for the first time exactly 41 years ago today, and the four children that we loved into being.

And because I have four children, I am not practiced at playing favorites and picking out specific individuals for special affection. So I have to say that also in that highest tier is My Favorite Planet – Earth. The whole thing. My favorite part of Earth is that interaction of biotic and abiotic energy that has not been dominated by human technology. Things like water vapor and trees…

…and rock and air and plants…

…and wild animals in their natural habitat.

When I think of the abundance of interactions going on all around, of Life on Planet Earth, how can I judge that anything is out of favor? My preference can’t magnify or diminish any of it. All I can do is reflect on how much I appreciate being part of it, being here to witness and to marvel.

Maybe that’s my favorite thing of all – being alive.