Lens-Artists Photo Challenge: Along Back Country Roads

Roads go ever ever on
Under cloud and under star
Yet feet that wandering have gone
Turn at last to home afar.

― J.R.R. Tolkien

Far off the major highways, in deep woods and high mountain forests, lie some of my favorite back country roads.

Paved roads in remote places in the American West lead to canyons and deserts where the human population is minimal and natural landscapes stand out.

Sometimes a back country road is a little more than your vehicle can handle. Use caution!

My very favorite back country road is the gravel lane where my mailbox stands. I’m grateful to have a home far from the heavy thoroughfares where noise and stress oppress the environment.

Thank you to the Lens-Artists guest hosts this week, Wandering Dawgs, for inviting us to share our back road adventures. Happy travelling, all, and safe home again!

Lens-Artists Photo Challenge: Wonder-filled World

I love that Amy chose Louis Armstrong’s “What A Wonderful World” for this week’s challenge theme! That was the key quote I chose as my response to the “Happiness Is…” challenge that Lens-Artists posted back in December of 2018. Here’s the link to that post: https://scillagrace.com/2018/12/01/lens-artists-photo-challenge-happiness-is/

Of course, there are always new opportunities to wonder at this wide, beautiful world!

Yesterday, I hiked for the first time in the Cascades of central Oregon. Snow-capped mountain peaks and colorful wildflowers graced every scenic view. It was truly spectacular!

Iron Mountain has a volcanic plug or lava neck at its top – that’s the rocky protrusion just to the left of the peak. It was formed when lava in a vent hardened. As we climbed up to the top of that formation, we could see the porous features of the lava itself and the rust-colored iron in it. It made me wonder at how this was once an active volcano, as were the other peaks in the Cascade chain on this Pacific ring of fire.

Fire, snow, sunshine, trees…this is a world filled with wonders that shape the future and tell the past. We have so much to enjoy and so much to learn!

Photo credit: Wendy Fekkers

Lens-Artists Photo Challenge: From Large to Small

White … is not a mere absence of color; it is a shining and affirmative thing, as fierce as red, as definite as black…. God paints in many colors; but He never paints so gorgeously, I had almost said so gaudily,
as when He paints in white.
— Gilbert Keith Chesterton, British author, 1874–1936

For this challenge, Patti asks us to “pick a color and select several photos that feature that color.  Start with a photo of a big subject in that color (for example, a wall) and move all the way down to a small subject in that same color (for example, an earring).”

The Sun is 109 times bigger than the Earth, and its mass is 330,000 times greater. The Sun’s light allows us to see everything we do see, from the largest things on the planet to the smallest. It illuminates water in the form of vapor, liquid, and solids which cover 71% of the Earth’s surface and float in the atmosphere. It’s not surprising to see white in a skyscape or a seascape or as snow on the landscape.

Of course, sunlight and water come together in every living thing on Earth, and many of these smaller things are white as well, like birch trees, caterpillars, and snail shells.

Finally, a single snowflake, delicate, unique and perfect, is a very small example of the cosmic marriage of light and water in bridal white.

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: 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: Focus on the Details

I want to thank the Lens-Artists team – Patti, Amy, Tina, and Ann-Christine – for giving me the opportunity to host last week’s challenge. I thoroughly enjoyed Getting to Know (those of) You who participated and learning so much about things, places, people, and cultures that I never knew before.

This week, Patti is challenging us to Focus on the Details. A few days ago, I went out to wander in the sunshine down at the creek just down the hill. On the way, I found a wild iris.

In a few moments, I noticed another detail about this flower.

Down by the creek, sipping water from the rocks, I found several little butterflies with bright lilac wings. When they landed, they folded their wings together, hiding the bright color. They were no bigger than my thumbnail. When I look at my photo, I also notice that their antennae are striped. Nature’s details never cease to amaze me!

On my way back up the driveway, I stopped to look closely at the treetops. In this case, the top of this Douglas fir was only about four feet off the ground. It may grow to be 250 feet tall one day, with a diameter of 5-6 feet, if it’s allowed to stand for a couple of hundred years.

Details and complexity in Nature and in Life are often overwhelming and incomprehensible. When I slow down to fully appreciate them, I feel humbled and awestruck. I marvel that we are all composed of the same material, the star stuff that fills the galaxies. What a privilege to look, to open our eyes and our hearts to the fine craft of our planet and to see ourselves there, too.

“Look deep into nature, and then
you will understand everything better.”
Albert Einstein

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: Taking Flight

“If I had wings no one would ask me should I fly
The bird sings, no one asks why.
I can see in myself wings as I feel them
If you see something else, keep your thoughts to yourself,
I’ll fly free then.”

This song immediately popped into mind at the thought of this week’s challenge theme. I sang it at Girl Scout camp in the 1970s and just now learned its origin. It was a Peter, Paul & Mary release written by Rev. Gary Davis. It brings back to mind my youthful yearning to discover my identity and live authentically.
Flight it’s about doing what you were made to do, lifting off and reaching the heights, soaring, gliding, traveling and lighting down with a changed perspective from your experience.
Of course, it takes a long time to build up to Flight.

The pursuit of flight begins with the pursuit of basic needs. Imagine a caterpillar’s day, relentlessly munching on a single food source. Or a baby bird, all mouth and little patience, straining its spindly neck toward its parents. So many roadblocks can prohibit flight long before wings even appear: insufficient food, aggressive predators, absent care-givers, catastrophic accidents. It’s a miracle any living being ever takes off at all!

“Once you have tasted flight, you will forever walk the earth with your eyes turned skyward, for there you have been, and there you will always long to return.” ― Leonardo da Vinci

“How can you ask if I’m happy going my way?
You might as well ask a child at play!
There’s no need to discuss or understand me
I won’t ask of myself to become something else
I’ll just be me!”

Thank you, Tina, for encouraging us to Take Flight and inviting us to join you in this Photo Challenge!

Lens-Artists Photo Challenge: Colorful April

“April this year, not otherwise
Than April of a year ago
Is full of whispers, full of sighs,
Dazzling mud and dingy snow;
Hepaticas that pleased you so
Are here again, and butterflies.”
― Edna St. Vincent Millay

This morning in April, here in Oregon, there is frost on the ground, but the sun is shining brightly. I’ve spotted daffodils and tulips and crocuses and forsythia and trillium and trout lily and Western blue flag iris in bloom already this month. The predominant color around here, though, is Spring Green. Fescue fields cover vast expanses of farmland nearby, where Icelandic sheep, domestic sheep, horses, goats, and donkeys graze.

On the first day of April, the trails around the marsh at Finley Wildlife Refuge open for the season. They are closed during the winter to protect the migrating birds who are resting and nesting. The skies are full of long skeins of flocks from November through March. When I ventured over there a few days ago, I noticed a small population of ducks and geese, and one heron. I had only my Samsung Galaxy phone with me, but I took a few photos nevertheless.

“Spring is made of solid, fourteen-karat gratitude, the reward for the long wait. Every religious tradition from the northern hemisphere honors some form of April hallelujah, for this is the season of exquisite redemption, a slam-bang return to joy after a season of cold second thoughts.” ― Barbara Kingsolver

I have to add my gratitude for the gifts of flowers that I have received this month as well, displayed on my dining room table. (again, taken with my phone) They certainly illustrate a return to joy in my life!

Thank you to Amy at The World Is A Book for inviting us to share the theme of her beautifully colorful post. May we all experience that April “hallelujah” and new joy in our lives!

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