Lens-Artists Photo Challenge: Winter

White-Eyes

In winter
    all the singing is in
         the tops of the trees
             where the wind-bird
with its white eyes
    shoves and pushes
         among the branches.
             Like any of us
he wants to go to sleep,
    but he’s restless—
         he has an idea,
             and slowly it unfolds
from under his beating wings
    as long as he stays awake.
         But his big, round music, after all,
             is too breathy to last…

The cycle of seasons in the Lens-Artists Photo Challenge has come around to Winter. I have spent all my winters living in the northern hemisphere, the last nine of them being in Wisconsin. I have heard residents remark on how the winters have gotten milder in general, with less snow.  

I have, however, heard a new term since moving to Wisconsin that I don’t remember from my childhood: the polar vortex. There were two occasions in two different years that this term came up. What it meant to us was that temperatures hit -20 degrees Fahrenheit in the daytime, not factoring in wind chill. During that first polar vortex, my housemate was working as a Postal Service carrier. He was walking around delivering mail in those temperatures. He found it absolutely thrilling to be able to do it and revel in the superlative extremes of Nature.   

I marvel at the robust character of animals who over-winter in this climate – deer, cardinals, field mice, and all the rest who tough it out. I learned another term while volunteering at a local Nature Center. In the ‘sub-nivean zone’ beneath the snow, small rodents make trails to their burrows, accessing stores of food. Imagine all that activity going on under inches of frozen precipitation! Then imagine all the humans that complain about a dusting that makes their morning commute more inconvenient.

I appreciate the way Winter teaches me to accept what is and live in the moment. If it’s cold, it’s cold. You have to deal with it. Complaining and wishing do not make the Earth move closer to the Sun. Only Time can relieve you of Winter, so you might as well slow down and enjoy it.  

Our host for today’s challenge is Ann-Christine, who lives in Sweden. Her photo story shows that there are numerous ways to enjoy the beauty of Winter. 

Lens-Artists Photo Challenge: Autumn

In autumn, the trees start to sing once again
of the bittersweet mystery of change.
Is it beauty or pain
now attached to my soul?
Is it grief…or relief…or nostalgia?

In the scarlet and gold,
the blood red of life’s hold on my heart
and the warmth of its love
mingles memories and years
into afternoon tears
falling softly as leaves to the ground.
— Priscilla Galasso,from “The King’s Gift” ©1997

The Lens-Artists challenge subject for this week is the season of Autumn. It is my very favorite season for color; the muted tones of greens, golds, oranges, reds, and browns in all shades of light create a tapestry woven of beauty and pain so exquisite that it makes me weep. The poem above was my attempt to describe the feeling of Autumn as it washes over me each year. I have lived most of my life in the Midwest where the deciduous trees undergo a spectacular change in their life cycle every Fall. I will be moving to Oregon next week, and in a few months, I will get the chance to witness the season in quite a different way. I’m looking forward to photographing it!

Thank you, Patti, for hosting this week and sharing your beautiful Autumn photos. 

Lens-Artists Photo Challenge: Spring

The weekly Lens-Artists Photo Challenge is taking a tour of the seasons. Last week, it was Summer; today, it’s Spring.

Last week, I featured a song by John Denver. I became a huge fan of his at the age of 12, just two years after seeing a mountain for the first time. A few years later, I got into the Jazz Choir in High School and became a huge Ella Fitzgerald fan. I found a very fitting song for Spring 2020 in her repertoire. It’s called “Spring Can Really Hang You Up The Most”, by Tommy Wolf and Fran Landesman. 

“…Spring, this year has got me feeling
Like a horse t
hat never left the post.
I lie in my room staring up at the ceiling.
Spring can really hang you up the most…

Morning’s kiss wakes trees and flowers,
And to them I’d like to drink a toast.
I walk in the park j
ust to kill those lonely hours.
Spring can really hang you up the most…

All afternoon
Those birds twitter twit.
I know their tune –

This is love, this is it.
Heard it before,
And I know the score,
And I’ve decided that Spring is a bore.

Love seem sure around the New Year.
Now it’s April; Love is just a ghost.
Spring arrived on time,
But what became of you, dear?
Spring can really hang you up the most…”

This Spring was really tough for me for several reasons, only one of which was the Covid 19 pandemic. However, I am continually reminded in Nature that life goes on, changes become new horizons, and beauty and joy are renewed each day.

Thank you to Tina of Travels and Trifles, who hosted this week’s challenge by sharing some beautiful shots of her home island.

May the spirit of Spring bring us all hope in new life to come!

 

Lens-Artists Photo Challenge: Old and New

 

 

Newton B. Drury, National Park Service Director, 1940-1951:

“The American way of life consists of something that goes greatly beyond the mere obtaining of
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.”

This morning, the Lens Artists challenge is hosted by Amy, who asks us to share our interpretation of Old and New.

I sit here, as a writer, as a citizen, as a mother, as a human, with so many heightened emotions and anxieties and questions. The snapshot of where we are in history in the year 2020 is extremely perplexing. At the same time, ancient realities endure. The sun comes up, plants grow, mountains stand. And we homo sapiens, perhaps uniquely on the Tree of Life, have the opportunity and the responsibility to make meaning of Old and New and “grow mentally and spiritually, as well as physically” in response to life as we see it.

I think that the National Parks present fitting illustrations of this endeavor to make meaning, to interpret, the realities around us. 

Wind Cave National Park (above) in South Dakota protects a vast area of caves and surface features that is stunning and mysterious. Imagine the relationship of ancient peoples to this powerful place. The Spirit breath coming from this opening in the Earth was understood to be creative and holy. Years of scientific exploration and analysis have not diminished that understanding. New interpretation does not erase the Old beliefs. Each drop of mineral-laden water inside still contributes to the process of creating formations of awe-inspiring beauty.

Dinosaur National Monument (above), on the border between Colorado and Utah, provides a very literal illustration of Old and New. The rock quarry containing “a dinosaur log jam”, as our guide described it, is now encased in a modern Visitor Center that protects and displays in situ more than 1,500 fossilized dinosaur bones from the late Jurassic period, about 150 million years ago. 

I am impressed by the way that the National Park Systems serves to respect and protect the Old and precious natural features of this country. Embracing that responsibility seems supremely wise to me. I am not impressed by Newness that disrespects and destroys ancient things, ways, and means.

And yes, I worked as an historic interpreter at a state museum, and I do have a personal preference for Old things over New.

When weighing the merits of Old and New concepts, I think that “respect and protect” is a good rule of thumb. Respect and protect LIFE, especially that life that is most vulnerable. This is an Old concept that deserves to be reNEWed – moment by moment. 

Lens-Artists Photo Challenge: Delicate Colors

Ann-Christine, our challenge host this week, is inspired by “the soft glory of spring nature in my part of the world”. She lives in Sweden, a country I’ve never visited but with which I feel a kind of kindred knowledge as a resident of a northern state – Wisconsin. After a long winter, there is nothing more repeatedly astonishing as the bursting forth of delicate spring color. The leaves here are growing larger each day but have that yellow brilliance that will soon mellow into a sturdier green. Now, they accent a blue sky with a light-filled tenderness that is truly inspiring.

Here in my front yard, the apple trees and crabapple trees have finally burst into blossom. Their colors are so delicate that the midday sun gives them a rather harsh brilliance.

They are much more ethereal in the mist of a spring rain.

In my photographs, I often get a thrill from a good pop of color. I get a much deeper sense of awe from the soft color that I sometimes catch without really knowing how.

I guess the trick to this kind of soft color outside is indirect sunlight and moist air. One of the shots in the gallery above was actually taken indoors. The fern was in a conservatory greenhouse exhibit.

It’s finally Spring, though, and what I really want to do is just get outdoors into the sun and put my feet up!

Wishing you all health, safety, and ease this weekend. 🙂 

Lens-Artists Photo Challenge: All Wet

“A normal lake is knowable. A Great Lake can hold all the mysteries of an ocean, and then some.”
― Dan Egan, The Death and Life of the Great Lakes

“A lake is the landscape’s most beautiful and expressive feature. It is earth’s eye; looking into which the beholder measures the depth of his own nature.” ― Henry David Thoreau

“A lake carries you into recesses of feeling otherwise impenetrable.” William Wordsworth

When Tina invited me to delve into my photo archives for a look at something All Wet, I immediately thought of Lake Michigan.

This truly Great Lake is an old friend. I have visited its shores while living in Illinois and Wisconsin and while vacationing in Michigan and Indiana. I have been to the northernmost shore and the southernmost. It always impresses me with its size.

Four generations of my family have submerged themselves in its waters. I knew it as a playground when I was a little girl. I worked in a museum on its shores half a century later and came to know more of its power and importance. 

I find it unfathomable in every sense because there’s so much to know and imagine about its history, its living presence, and its intricate and moody details. I will leave you with a gallery of images to peak your curiosity. 

 

Lens-Artists Photo Challenge: Morning

When you arise in the morning, think of what a precious privilege it is to be alive – to breathe, to think, to enjoy, to love.”  – Marcus Aurelius

Thank you, Ann-Christine, for such a positive invitation in this week’s Photo Challenge, and for sharing your sunshiny morning amid new growth.

I have to admit that I’m struggling these days, and this morning, I lay in my flannel sheets, sinking into the Memory Foam mattress and wondering what reason I might have to get up. The sun was shining, though, and temperatures that had been below freezing every morning for a week were promised to rise to about 50 degrees Fahrenheit by the end of the day.

Yesterday, I started doing a morning yoga routine with an online video. Last weekend, I had a hula hoop and a jump rope delivered to my house so that I could “play outside” like I used to when I was a kid. So, I started my day with a little exercise. I am normally a “morning person”. I like to get up and get going on some project and then slow down as the day progresses. I like big breakfasts. I like adventures. I like long views as I’m starting out. I love camping and waking up to the promise of an exciting day. 

“Silently the morning mist is lying on the water
Captive moonlight waiting for the dawn
Softly like a baby’s breath, a breeze begins to whisper
The sun is coming, quick you must be gone
Smiling like a superstar the morning comes in singing
The promise of another sunny day
And all the flowers open up to gather in the sunshine
I do believe that summer’s here to stay
Do you care what’s happening around you?
Do your senses know the changes when they come?
Can you see yourselves reflected in the season?
Can you understand the need to carry on?” ~ John Denver, “Summer” from Season Suite

In the present circumstances, it’s easy to feel stuck. I’m missing the trip I should be on right now. This morning, I was supposed to be waking up in a house with my four adult children, whom I haven’t seen for six months. My big plans are on hold. The cross-country move I’ve been planning for a year will have to be postponed for at least a month. 

However…the Universe is still unfolding, if not on my timeline, then on its own. New growth and new adventure will appear, new days will dawn, and I will rise up to meet them. 

That shadow on the rock is me taking a selfie with the rising sun behind me at Canyon of the Ancients National Monument.

Here’s to morning meditations with a new hike on the horizon! I believe I will have that experience again. Meanwhile, I will practice patience and gratitude. 

Lens-Artists Photo Challenge: A River Runs Through It

“May what I do flow from me like a river, no forcing and no holding back, the way it is with children.”
― Rainer Maria Rilke

The Wisconsin River runs through Rocky Arbor State Park

“Have you also learned that secret from the river; that there is no such thing as time?” That the river is everywhere at the same time, at the source and at the mouth, at the waterfall, at the ferry, at the current, in the ocean and in the mountains, everywhere and that the present only exists for it, not the shadow of the past nor the shadow of the future.”
― Hermann Hesse, Siddhartha

The Green River flows through the Dinosaur National Monument campground

“We must begin thinking like a river if we are to leave a legacy of beauty and life for future generations.”
― David Brower

Gunnison River, Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park, Colorado

“No man ever steps in the same river twice, for it’s not the same river and he’s not the same man.”
Heraclitus

Sturgeon River Gorge Wilderness, Michigan

For life and death are one, even as the river and the sea are one.” Khalil Gibran

The Green River, Kentucky

“Daddy, won’t you take me back to Muhlenberg County, down by the Green River, where Paradise lay. Well, I’m sorry, my son, but you’re too late in asking. Mr. Peabody’s coal train has hauled it away.”
― John Prine

Wyalusing State Park, where the Mississippi and the Wisconsin Rivers meet

What does Nature teach us when we stand beside a river, ever flowing, ever changing, where life and death coexist in a dynamic dance?
Pay attention. We are one with the river. We can accept its flow. We can steer toward the depths. We do not conquer it. 

Thank you, Amy, for inviting us to contemplate and visualize rivers. They are great teachers. 

Lens-Artists Photo Challenge: Chaos

Perhaps presciently, Ann-Christine chose the theme of CHAOS for this week’s Photo Challenge even before the pandemic was declared.  

What an interesting word – indeed, an interesting concept. I suspect that only human beings, with their big brains and their social biology, even experience chaos. I imagine chaos to be attributed to a situation that evokes a kind of fear, but on a more complex level than a fear for one’s basic survival. 

Social chaos, for example.

Probably most of us have experienced the confusing disorder of emotions and associations that might be described as social chaos. Where do I fit in? How do I connect? Do my feelings mesh with anyone else’s? These thoughts can be quite unsettling to me, but I don’t imagine spiders or starfish or blue jays dealing with that kind of survival anxiety.

Some humans believe that we have a superior gift for bringing order out of chaos. I look at homeowners blowing those untidy leaves off of their driveway in the fall, and I wonder if they imagine they are making the world more orderly while forgetting that our suburban consumption creates chaotic waste in much greater proportions.  

 

If chaos provokes a kind of fear or discomfort, then each of us probably has a different threshold of tolerance for it. And each of us can probably reset that threshold with a bit of work. How comfortable can you become with disorder, ambiguity, or uncertainty? I have to admit that I found parenting to be a great exercise in adaptation to chaos. There were plenty of times that I wasn’t in control of the situation, but I survived, and I certainly learned a lot…and I actually enjoyed it. 

There is plenty to learn in the present climate of global chaos in the human family. There are certainly many questions with unknown answers. There is confusion and ambiguity and anxiety about how we fit together, how we feel, and how we ought to act. And this is going on at a very high level of cognitive function. It is a situation that is created in our big brains. 

At the same time, in the world outside our big brains, Nature is functioning as usual. Organisms emerge, populations respond, life and death dance together in fascinating rhythm. I find this incredibly peaceful, a perfect antidote to chaos. Breathing in the assurance of Nature’s presence, I am strengthened for the work of being a human. It’s not easy work. We have a lot of responsibility. But the first responsibility is being aware of who we are as a species. May we be humble. May we be kind to every being on the Tree of Life.