Lens-Artists Photo Challenge: Here Comes the Sun

“Meaningless! Meaningless!” says the Teacher. “Utterly meaningless! Everything is meaningless.” What does man gain from all his labor at which he toils under the sun? Generations come and generations go, but the earth remains forever. The sun rises and the sun sets, and hurries back to where it rises. The wind blows to the south and turns to the north; round and round it goes, ever returning on its course. All streams flow into the sea, yet the sea is never full. To the place the streams come from, there they return again. All things are wearisome, more than one can say. The eye never has enough of seeing, nor the ear its fill of hearing. What has been will be again, what has been done will be done again; there is nothing new under the sun.
– Ecclesiastes 1:1-9

From 93 million miles away, the Sun’s light and heat affects each day of our lives. It comes to us as an ancient ray, a Source for all of life on this planet. I think of the ancient ways of life under the Sun, and I feel that I was closest to those ways last month on my backpacking trip to the Olympic National Park wilderness coastline. The trailhead is at the place where the Hoh River meets the Pacific Ocean. South of the river is Hoh tribal land.

“The Hoh River Indians are considered a band of the Quileutes but are recognized as a separate tribe. The Hoh Indian Reservation was established by an Executive Order in 1893. The Hoh Reservation consists of 443 acres located 28 miles south of Forks, and 80 miles north of Aberdeen. The Hoh Reservation has approximately one mile of beach front running east from the mouth of the Hoh River, and south to Ruby Beach.” – Hoh Tribe website: hohtribe-nsn.org

All over the beach lie the sun-bleached bones of the Ancients – cedar and fir trees, washed up by the tides in a jumble of giant driftwood. Among these bones you might also find the bones of less ancient giants: whales.

From our beach camp, we watched the Sun slide further and further down into the waves.

My small story of the next day includes the little detail that I slipped in the mud, fell with the weight of my whole body plus my pack on my outstretched left hand, and broke my wrist.

Being that we were in wilderness and had just come over the most difficult terrain, the quickest way to get to a hospital was simply to continue to trek the next two days up the coast. The tidal tipping points prohibited doing it at any faster pace. With tremendous assistance from my five hiking partners, we continued our journey and saw the Sun go down and come up on this beautiful coast two more times.

Even though there may be nothing new under the Sun, the unexpected can still happen. When my mind is reeling and my footing is uncertain, it’s good to feel the return of sunlight, the assurance of the day’s arc. It gives me the motivation to just keep going and see what will be. And I say, “It’s all right.”

Thanks to Amy for hosting this week’s Challenge. Do visit HER POST to see the Sun in many facets of its glory!

Lens-Artists Photo Challenge: Picking Favorites

“This exercise will really test your ability to be self-critical, as it has mine. Look into your archives and apply your most critical eye; play ‘judge’ and try to look dispassionately at your images. Pick out three (just three!) that stand out as particular favourites. Choose three from different genres please, but those genres are up to you: macro, wildlife, street, landscape, architecture. Anything goes, but each must be an image you are proud of.” — Toonsarah, Guest Host

You must understand, first of all, how difficult it is for me, the mother of four wonderful humans, to pick favorites. ‘Dispassionately’? You’re killing me! So, I will pick three favorites…AND three runners-up.

LANDSCAPE

Badlands National Park, South Dakota. After driving long hours over seemingly monotonous grassland, we reach this ancient valley and step out of the car onto Sage Creek Road. This is our first look at this fascinating park, and we are utterly gobsmacked! I like how this shot shows the scale and color of the landscape.

Seal Rock Beach, Oregon. My adult kids moved to Oregon, and I went out to visit. This moment of my daughter’s joyful exuberance captured my heart, and I moved out a year later. I love the light and reflection in this shot and the contrast in moods between the ocean and my daughter.

PORTRAIT

I am proud of this for several reasons. First, my son asked me to do his wedding photo shoot. I’d never done one before; I was terrified I’d fail him, but I didn’t. Second, it was a challenge to photograph outdoors and get good light that would balance their very different skin tones. I used fill-in flash, and that really helped. I love how my son is adoring his bride in this shot, and she just glows! I was really happy with my work that day, and so were they.

I just love this shot of my daughters hugging. I love the soft monochrome light and their bright smiles. It’s so cozy and sweet!

CLOSE-UP

Monarch butterfly caterpillars are very hard to find. They feed exclusively on milkweed plants. I searched the prairie at the George W. Mead Wildlife Area in Wisconsin and found one on the underside of a leaf. I rotated the frame to make the caterpillar right side up and more recognizable.

Gray treefrog, Fox Hill Nature Preserve, West Bend, Wisconsin. I took this photo while I was leading an event for the Cedar Lakes Conservation Foundation, a land trust I worked at for five years. I am proud of my work there and very fond of the kettle moraine habitats protected in that area.

Thanks for letting me show of some of my favorite images. I’m eager to see yours!

Earth Day 2022

“Earth teach me stillness, as the grasses are stilled with light…

Earth teach me suffering, as old stones suffer with memory…

Earth teach me caring, as parents who secure their young…

Earth teach me courage, as the tree which stands all alone…

Earth teach me limitation, as the ant which crawls on the ground..

Earth teach me freedom, as the eagle which soars in the sky…

Earth teach me resignation, as the leaves which die in the fall…

Earth teach me regeneration, as the seed which rises in the spring.

Earth teach me to forget myself, as melted snow forgets its life…

Earth teach me to remember kindness, as dry fields weep with rain.”

from the Ute people of North America, in “Singing the Living Tradition”

The international observance of Earth Day is for me the most important holiday on the calendar. I can’t imagine anything more important, or anything that makes as much a difference to everything that lives, as planet Earth. I am still working on how to make this day Holy. I want to marvel at, record, and lovingly share as many memories as I can. I want to be physically active outdoors. I want to help mitigate some of the damage that humans have done. And I want to invite, encourage, and implore everyone to join in the celebration and protection of our lives’ Host. We are all interconnected, living expressions of Earth-ness, alongside everything else on the home crust. What an amazing community to belong to!
This year, I’ve added a new page to my blog celebrating Oregon as my home Place. Please take a look! https://scillagrace.com/oregon-outdoors/

Lens-Artist Photo Challenge: A Day of My Week

A day of my week: Sunday. A day in the Wheel of the Year: October 31. Halloween. All Saints’ Eve. Samhain (saa-wn). Halfway between the autumn equinox and the winter solstice. The beginning of a darker, wetter time in Oregon. The last day the marsh trails are open at the William Finley Wildlife Refuge before the over-wintering birds are given the privacy they deserve. It was a gloriously sunny afternoon, and my family joined me for a walk along the marsh and past the historic buildings. Here’s a gallery of shots from today.

“Go, sit upon the lofty hill, And turn your eyes around,
Where waving woods and waters wild Do hymn an autumn sound.
The summer sun is faint on them— The summer flowers depart—
Sit still— as all transform’d to stone, Except your musing heart.”
— Elizabeth Barrett Browning

My days are often spent just musing on Nature, the seasons, and the activities of flora and fauna. I have a lot of time to sit still, since I’m unemployed/retired. Most days, I don’t bother to bring a camera with me wherever I am, but that doesn’t mean I don’t see beauty all around me. I hope that you can say the same about the ordinary days in your week. Thank you to Amy for hosting this week’s prompt. Please visit her site and join in. Click HERE to find out how.

Lens-Artists Photo Challenge: Looking Up/Looking Down…on Fungi

“A tree’s most important means of staying connected to other trees is a ‘wood wide web’ of soil fungi that connects vegetation in an intimate network that allows the sharing of an enormous
amount of information and goods.”
― Tim Flannery

This week’s photo challenge is hosted by guest Sofia Alves. Her prompt encourages us to Look Up and/or Look Down.
In my photo library, I find fungus and mushrooms in Nature at many levels, high in the trees and underfoot. I recently watched the documentary Fantastic Fungi and was absolutely blown away by the intricacy and importance of mycelial networks and the beauty of a mushroom’s growth over time. I absolutely recommend it for the photography and the ecological information.
Autumn is the perfect season for mushroom spotting. I invite you to take a look at the variety of color, shape, and size in the mushrooms I’ve showcased here, and then go out and see what’s growing in your neck of the woods!

Nature doth thus kindly heal every wound. By the mediation of a thousand little mosses and fungi, the most unsightly objects become radiant of beauty.” – Henry David Thoreau

Nature alone is antique, and the oldest art a mushroom.”
– Thomas Carlyle

“If a healthy soil is full of death, it is also full of life: worms, fungi, microorganisms of all kinds … Given only the health of the soil, nothing that dies is dead for very long.” – Wendell Berry

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: 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. 

Lens-Artists Photo Challenge: Taking a Break

I just came home from a walk along the Ice Age National Scenic Trail to check on the photo challenge theme for this week. Our host, Tina, encourages us to slow down and focus on rest and relaxation. Taking a Break” for me is also “Restoring My Sanity” by being out in nature.

Nothing restores me to a grounded pace as well as hiking in a natural area where the presence of people is the exception to the rule.

Look around. Breathe. Listen. Feel. Birdsong and running water do wonders for the soul. 

An outdoor walk helps me take a break from sitting down at a computer screen…something I spend far too many hours at every day.  And if my feet start to swell and feel hot, dipping them in a cool stream is the perfect antidote. 

And if walking tires you out, you know what to do…

Taking a break is quite natural, of course. (If you can’t tell, that’s a bat sleeping in a tree).

Thanks, Tina, for reminding us to take it easy. It’s a long road, and it’s not a race. 

 

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.