Lens-Artists Photo Challenge: Shade and Shadow

Saturdays, holidays, easy afternoons
Lazy days, sunny days, nothing much to do.
Rainy days are better days for hangin’ out in-side
Grainy days and city ways make me want to hide
Someplace cool an’ green an’ shady.

Find yourself a piece of grassy ground,
Lay down close your eyes.
Find yourself and maybe lose yourself
While your free spirit flies.
— John Denver

It’s early June, and already there have been days of record high temperatures here in Oregon as well as other parts of the U.S. My adults kids live in apartments without air conditioning…who would have thought you’d need it in the northern part of the country? The fear of another summer of wildfires is palpable. We seek out shade and water while we live in the shadow of hubris-driven climate instability.

Light and shadow are opposite sides of the same coin.
We can illuminate our paths or darken our way.
It is a matter of choice.
— Maya Angelou

Thanks to Ann-Christine for hosting this week’s Lens Artists challenge. Stay cool and kind and be safe!

Lens-Artists Photo Challenge: Let’s Get Wild!

A wilderness, in contrast with those areas where man and his own works dominate the landscape, is hereby recognized as an area where the earth and its community of life are untrammeled by man, where man himself is a visitor who does not remain.” — The Wilderness Act of 1964

If future generations are to remember us with gratitude rather than contempt, we must leave them a glimpse of the world as it was in the beginning, not just after we got through with it.” – Lyndon Baynes Johnson, President who signed The Wilderness Act into law.

“…in Wildness is the preservation of the World. Every tree sends its fibers forth in search of the Wild. The cities import it at any price. Men plow and sail for it. From the forest and wilderness come the tonics and barks which brace mankind…I believe in the forest, and in the meadow, and in the night in which the corn grows. We require an infusion of hemlock, spruce or arbor vitae in our tea…” — Henry David Thoreau

“Idolatry always reduces to the worship of something ‘made with hands,’ something confined within the terms of human work and human comprehension. Thus, Solomon and Saint Paul both insisted on the largeness and the at-largeness of God, setting Him free, so to speak, from ideas about Him. He is not to be fenced in, under human control, like some domestic creature; He is the wildest being in existence. The presence of His spirit in us is our wildness, our oneness with the wilderness of Creation. That is why subduing the things of nature to human purposes is so dangerous and why it so often results in evil, in separation and desecration. It is why the poets of our tradition so often have given nature the role not only of mother or grandmother but of the highest earthly teacher and judge, a figure of mystery and great power.” — Wendell Berry

In 2014, I went to New Mexico to participate in a Wilderness 50 Conference celebrating the 50th anniversary of the signing of the Wilderness Act into law. I didn’t go as a delegate from any conservation organization or as an employee of any of the agencies associated with U.S. public lands. I went as a citizen eager to learn about how wild places are being protected in this country. I went to lectures, panel discussions, break-out seminars, film presentations and information kiosks. I went on a field trip to a nearby designated wilderness. And then I went home, east of the Mississippi River. I determined that I wanted to visit wilderness areas and work to protect land whatever way I could. I got a job at a land trust six months later.

The greatest tracts of wilderness land in the U. S. are west of the Mississippi, but there are a few in the Great Lakes region, in the North Woods, with dispersed campsites scattered around. I found a dispersed campsite across the road from the designated wilderness on the banks of Scott Lake. As I set up camp, I was greeted by two trumpeter swans on the lake, a raucous chorus of frogs and a host of mosquitoes. That night, there was a bit of rain. In the morning, a bald eagle perched high in a dead tree on the far side of the lake, illuminated by the rising eastern sun. Staring at him through my binoculars, I imagined him enjoying an aerial view like ones I’d seen in pictures of Alaska. Could I really be in the wilderness, finally? My rational brain convinced me of the disparities, but my romantic soul glowed. Even in Wisconsin, there can be solitude, common-union with nature, and a wild hope.

The inevitable down side of climbing the wilderness mountain is returning to ‘civilization’, re-entering the spaces that humans have altered and asking a million critical questions about our involvement. Was this action necessary? Was this change beneficial and for whom? How is this decision going to effect this environment, this habitat, this life? How do I take responsibility when my ignorance is so vast? How do I do my best to learn and choose and be aware? What do I do when I see individuals or systems causing destruction?
I learned the 4 pillars of Environmental Education while volunteering at a local Nature Center: Awareness, Appreciation, Attitude and Action. My experience in the wilderness took me on a journey past those milestones: being aware of the solitude, of the multitude of interconnected lives as well; being awed by the variety and majesty of all that I saw; feeling a deep desire to protect, to respect, and to serve Life; and finally, deciding to make changes and choices in my own life and lifestyle, to learn to embody the experience, not just as a vacation or a change from habit, but as a daily practice.

I am thrilled to meet another wilderness enthusiast through the Lens-Artists group and urge you to visit this week’s host at her blog, Rambling Ranger. Dianne has been a National Park ranger in both Alaska and Death Valley, California. She’s a fabulous photographer and writer…and I am now one of her followers!

Lens-Artists Photo Challenge: Cool Colors – Blue and Green

ADVICE FROM A SEA LION
Soak up some sun
Keep your whiskers clean
Let troubles roll off your back
Don’t flip out
Spend time at the beach
Have a playful spirit
Make a splash!

It is a negligence of the mind not to notice how at dusk heron comes to the pond and stands there in his death robes,
perfect servant of the system, hungry,
his eyes full of attention, his wings pure light…
– Mary Oliver

“There’s Rosemary for you, that’s for remembrance!
Pray you, love, remember.” (Ophelia, Hamlet)
– William Shakespeare

I can’t help wondering how many more years we will be able to view sea lions and great blue herons in places where humans predominate. We’re in the midst of a mass-extinction event called the Holocene or Anthropocene extinction. If the current rate of human disruption of the biosphere continues, one-half of Earth’s higher lifeforms will be extinct by 2100. Seventy percent of biologists polled in 1998 acknowledged this event. It is happening, humans are causing it, and it is ongoing. What is being done to educate the human community and dismantle the anthropocentrism, the human supremacy, that drives behaviors that contribute to the destruction of our planet? Oceans, grasslands, mountaintops, and a host of unique habitats have been plundered and colonized to suit the human appetite for consumption.

Environmentalists are in despair. You can read a million articles and books on the subject. In the last one I read, Eileen Crist says, “In the twenty-first century there will be a reckoning with how we’ve lived, what we’ve done to the planet and ourselves, and that reckoning will set in motion an awakening: a different way to go about things.” Rather than just feeling BLUE about being GREEN, I hope to inspire the humans I know humbly to consider their place in the Tree of Life. Back in the 1940s, Aldo Leopold said we should change the role of homo sapiens “from conqueror of the land-community to plain member and citizen of it.” That attitude, combined with our ability to solve problems, may finally lead us to restrict the damage that we inflict and bring our species back in balance and scale with the rest of the biotic community.

My thanks to Tina Schell, our host this week for the Photo Challenge. Visit her blog to see gorgeous photos of one of the United States’ unique habitats, Kiawah Island.

Lens-Artists Photo Challenge: Garden

Tom Paxton wrote the song “Whose Garden Was This?” for the first Earth Day in 1970. John Denver released an album that same year, named for the song, which he covered.

Whose garden was this? It must have been lovely
Did it have flowers? I’ve seen pictures of flowers
And I’d love to have smelled one

Tell me again, I need to know
The forests had trees, the meadows were green
The oceans were blue, and birds really flew
Can you swear that was true?

Whose river was this? You say it ran freely
Blue was its color, I’ve seen blue in some pictures
And I’d love to have been there

Tell me again, I need to know
The forests had trees, the meadows were green
The oceans were blue, and birds really flew
Can you swear that was true?

Those who imagine the Earth as a garden, as opposed to a wilderness, consider humans to be the primary architects of plant communities and responsible for their creation and maintenance. In this Anthropocene Era, human impact dominates the landscape, and the soil serves our needs – for food, for resources, for beauty, for creativity. It’s important to remember, though, that one of our needs is to have a healthy planet, one that will be resilient to our mistakes, our greed, our hubris. There is always a need for observation and humility, an imperative that we learn from autonomous ecosystems.

Whose garden was this? It must have been lovely
Did it have flowers? I’ve seen pictures of flowers
And I’d love to have smelled one..

Thank you to AMY for this week’s challenge theme, and Happy Mother’s Day tomorrow to all you blogging Moms (like me)!

Lens-Artists Photo Challenge #145: Getting to Know You

“To acquire knowledge, one must study;
but to acquire wisdom, one must observe.”
― Marilyn vos Savant

It is a great honor to be your host for this Lens-Artists Photo Challenge and to be part of a community of observers. Thank you for visiting my blog and getting to know me. I look forward to getting to know you, too!

The artist’s gaze, the photographer’s eye, when cast on a subject begins a relationship. That relationship can grow into a deep affection and a profound wisdom. It is that aspect of relating to your subject that I invite you to explore in this challenge.

“We cultivate love when we allow our most vulnerable and powerful selves to be deeply seen and known, and when we honor the spiritual connection that grows from that offering with trust, respect, kindness and affection.” ― Brené Brown

I am a very visual person, as you might be also, and consider observation to be the first tool in my learning kit. To look carefully, curiously, enthusiastically, enduringly, and lovingly at something changes me. I begin to feel connected to that subject. I develop an affection that fuels further and deeper observation and understanding.

“Our ability to perceive quality in nature begins as in art with the pretty. It expands through successive stages of the beautiful to values as yet uncaptured by language. ” Aldo Leopold

My journey from Nature-observer to Nature-lover to Conservationist to Earth advocate is the story of how my eyes opened my spirit to a deeper wisdom about the world in which we all live. I celebrated International Earth Day on  April 22 with others around the globe who are deeply in love with our planet and concerned for her health and welfare. As I’ve gotten to know Earth better, I have grown in relationship to her and in my understanding of the factors impacting her. The photos I’ve chosen to illustrate the development of this relationship start with a monarch butterfly caterpillar on a milkweed plant in a restored prairie and progress to a field of coneflowers hosting a swallowtail butterfly and other pollinators. I took all of these pictures while I was working at a conservation foundation and learning about the interconnection between plants, animals, soils, landscapes, and the humans who cultivate, steward, and extract those resources.

My invitation to you is to present a “Getting To Know You” post showing your relationship with a subject you’ve photographed. The subject could be a Person, a Place, a Culture, an Object…anything that has captured your attention, won your affection and taught you a thing or two.

In your post, include a link to my original post and use the Lens-Artists tag so that everyone can find your post in the WP Reader.  We hope you join us and share what you know and love!

Next week, Patti will be hosting Lens-Artists Photo Challenge #146 on Saturday, May 1, so please be sure to visit her site and joint us then, too. Her theme will be “Focusing on the Details”. 

Thank you for spending a little time to get to know me and these butterflies in their natural habitat. I again want to thank the Lens-Artists hosts – Patti, Amy, Tina, and Ann-Christine – for inviting me to host this week’s challenge. It is an honor and a joy to be a Lens Artist!

Lens-Artists Photo Challenge: Pick a Park

“National parks are the best idea we ever had. Absolutely American, absolutely democratic, they reflect us at our best rather than our worst.” Wallace Stegner, 1983

For this week’s photo challenge, Ann-Christine invites us to pick our own theme. I am pleased to show my enthusiasm for the National Park system here in the United States and choose “Pick a Park” as my theme. I have visited many of them across the nation, from Acadia National Park in Maine when I was a preschooler to Pinnacles National Park in California, which was designated a National Park rather than a National Monument in January 2013, the year before I visited. I have also visited a number of other nationally preserved sites – monuments, shores, riverways, caves…but not battlefields. I have participated in citizen science finding fossils at Badlands National Park; gone spelunking at Mammoth Cave, Carlsbad Caverns, and Wind Cave; witnessed geothermal activity at Yellowstone and Hawaii Volcanoes; rode a horse through Bryce Canyon; sailed around the Apostle Islands; camped in the Canyon of the Ancients; picnicked at Capital Reefs; hiked around the Grand Canyon and the Rocky Mountains; and taken pictures at all those sites. And that’s just a small sampling of ways to interact with these astonishing Earth displays. Perhaps you may be planning a visit to one of our Parks yourself to do an activity I’ve never even tried!

“The American way of life consists of something that goes greatly beyond the mere obtaining of the necessities of existence. If it means anything, it means that America presents to its citizens an opportunity to grow mentally and spiritually, as well as physically. The National Park System and the work of the National Park Service constitute one of the Federal Government’s important contributions to that opportunity. Together they make it possible for all Americans–millions of them at first-hand–to enjoy unspoiled the great scenic places of the Nation…. The National Park System also provides, through areas that are significant in history and prehistory, a physical as well as spiritual linking of present-day Americans with the past of their country.”
Newton B. Drury, NPS Director, 1940-1951

Lens-Artists Photo Challenge: Communication

“Much unhappiness has come into the world because of bewilderment and things left unsaid.”
― Fyodor Dostoevsky

Author Terry Tempest Williams spoke at the Madison Public Library a couple of years ago. I eagerly listened to her tell stories of her creative process and her life as an environmental activist. As an advocate for Nature, she is a voice in the political arena, speaking and writing for a crucial entity that has no verbal communication of its own. Often her advocacy comes down to what she calls “Difficult Dinner Parties” where she engages with leaders of various types in discussions of how their actions and policies affect the environment. 

In today’s political climate, there could be many reasons why hosting a “Difficult Dinner Party” might be advantageous for coming to understand a different point of view from friends, colleagues, even loved ones. Unfortunately, due to the threat of coronavirus, getting together for dinner isn’t an option in many cases.

Consequently, communication in a convivial setting has been hampered. To me, that’s a sad thing. I think it’s a morale-buster. Maybe it’s not the biggest problem we face in these difficult times, but I sure do miss a good dinner party — the preparation, the anticipation, the conversation, the communication of shared food, shared words, shared ideas, shared affection.

“Anything that’s human is mentionable, and anything that is mentionable can be more manageable. When we can talk about our feelings, they become less overwhelming, less upsetting, and less scary. The people we trust with that important talk can help us know that we are not alone.”
― Fred Rogers

How many different cultures have a ritual of gathering together at table to confer? Conference tables still occupy the high-rise offices of the most sophisticated enterprises. Maybe they only serve water and coffee, but the origin seems the same to me. 

“Communication is truth; communication is happiness. To share is our duty; to go down boldly and bring to light those hidden thoughts which are the most diseased; to conceal nothing; to pretend nothing; if we are ignorant to say so; if we love our friends to let them know it.”
― Virginia Woolf

Here’s hoping that around the globe, we will be able to return to conversation around the table, that we will create safe and hospitable places and times to communicate directly and honestly, that we will come together to build bonds of understanding and friendship.

Thanks to our guest host for this week’s challenge theme, a horse named Biasini. I’m sure you’ll want to follow the link to learn more about that!

Lens-Artists Photo Challenge: Future

Ann-Christine challenges us this week with a beautiful collection of double-exposure photos and quotes about the Future.

What a peculiar responsibility we have, as presumably the only species on Earth with the capacity to think about the Future. And as the dominant species, our actions create an impact that will be felt for a long, long time.

Knowing this, how do we choose to live? How do we spend our time? What do we use, and what do we throw away? What do we create? And how will we, individually, impact the Future?

Looking in my photo archives, I can easily see a few things I’ve done that will influence some part of the Future.

I have planted trees, both on the suburban property I used to own and on public properties as a member of a larger community. 

I’ve worked for the past 5 years for a conservation organization, a land trust that buys land to save it from development and plants trees and prairies for wildlife habitat.

But probably the biggest impact I will have on the Future is through my four children, who are now adults. Their choices are no doubt influenced in part by the values we talked about as they matured. Most likely, they will use, create, vote, dispose, and act long after I have ceased to do any of those things. The legacy I will have through them is not mine to predict but theirs to fashion.

I am very proud of them, and feel confident that their choices will be intended for good and not for harm.

Lens-Artists Photo Challenge: WILD!

Tina posts a Wild challenge featuring the wildlife of Africa. My response features the designated Wilderness lands of America. 

“Wilderness is not a luxury, but a necessity of the human spirit.”Edward Abbey 

Sage Creek Wilderness, Badlands National Park, South Dakota

“A wilderness, in contrast with those areas where man and his works dominate the landscape, is hereby recognized as an area where the earth and its community of life are untrammeled by man, where man himself is a visitor who does not remain.”definition of Wilderness from the Wilderness Act of 1964

Black Canyon of the Gunnison Wilderness, Colorado

“In order to assure that an increasing population, accompanied by expanding settlement and growing mechanization, does not occupy and modify all areas within the United States and its possessions, leaving no lands designated for preservation and protection in their natural condition, it is hereby declared to be the policy of the Congress to secure for the American people of present and future generations the benefits of an enduring resource of wilderness. For this purpose there is hereby established a National Wilderness Preservation System to be composed of federally owned areas designated by Congress as “wilderness areas”, and these shall be administered for the use and enjoyment of the American people in such manner as will leave them unimpaired for future use and enjoyment as wilderness, and so as to provide for the protection of these areas, the preservation of their wilderness character, and for the gathering and dissemination of information regarding their use and enjoyment as wilderness; and no Federal lands shall be designated as “wilderness areas” except as provided for in this Act or by a subsequent Act.”from the statement of policy in the Wilderness Act of 1964 

Sturgeon River Gorge Wilderness, Upper Peninsula Michigan

“There is just one hope for repulsing the tyrannical ambition of civilization to conquer every inch on the whole earth. That hope is the organization of spirited people who will fight for the freedom and preservation of the wilderness.” — Bob Marshall, Founder of The Wilderness Society