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: 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: Spots and Dots

Philosophically, the universe has really never made things in ones. The Earth is special and everything else is different? No, we’ve got seven other planets. The sun? No, the sun is one of those dots in the night sky. The Milky Way? No, it’s one of a hundred billion galaxies. And the universe – maybe it’s countless other universes.
– Neil deGrasse Tyson

Ann-Christine’s challenge for this week revolves around two little words: Spots and Dots. She encourages a broad range of interpretations.

I found a wonderful waterfall only 40 minutes from my home. I plan to visit this spot frequently, in different seasons, to try to improve my skills at photographing falling water. Here’s my favorite shot from my first visit, last week.

I returned just yesterday under sunnier skies and found that my photos of the SPOT included DOTS as well. What causes these sun spots? Dust on the lens? No sun shade?

Sometimes extra spots and dots in a shot are intentional, like in this portrait of my daughter’s partner practicing his DJ skills.

Spots and dots occur in the natural world for all kinds of fascinating reasons involving physics, camouflage, or other factors.

It’s a big Universe out there, or Universes, full of astonishing spots and dotted with wonders beyond imagination. My knowledge of them is miniscule, but my delight grows each day as I connect the dots and fill in the empty spots.

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

Lens-Artists Photo Challenge: Geometry

“There is geometry in the humming of the strings, there is music in the spacing of the spheres.” Pythagoras

What is the shortest distance between two points? What is the shortest distance between two people? What is the angle of intersection when you are happy? And when you are lonely?

“He deals the cards to find the answer
The sacred geometry of chance
The hidden law of a probable outcome
The numbers lead a dance”

― Dominic Miller, “The Shape of My Heart”

How do you build something structurally sound to house kindness, joy, courage, love, resilience? In a Universe of fact and feeling, of truth and spirit, how do you dwell in the spaces outlined by a complexity of ideas?

Aldo Leopold Shack

Geometry was my favorite subject my freshman year of High School. I liked my teacher; I liked that this kind of math was narrative. I was brand new to the school and to the state. In my 14-year-old brain, I was trying to figure out so much about how the world worked and how I fit in it. I was confused by many things, but I could follow geometry step-by-step and prove something. By the end of Freshman year, I had gained confidence and made some friends. ‘Geometry’, to me, will always symbolize a description of complexity in the cosmos that seems ordered and friendly, mysterious and vast, but approachable.

Thank you to Patti for this Challenge theme!

Lens-Artists Photo Challenge: Special Moments

“It only takes a moment
To be loved
A whole life long”
― Jerry Herman (from Hello, Dolly!)

Since moving to Oregon from Wisconsin last summer, I have had numerous “Pinch me!” moments when I can’t believe the everyday beauty of this place. I live in a studio apartment over the garage of a big house in a forest in the foothills of the Coastal Range. Travelling into town, I pass orchards and wineries and tree farms. My mailbox is .6 miles away. The creek is a few hundred feet downhill. It is quiet, secluded, wild in places, ever-changing, and constantly stunning. 

“The moments of happiness –
We had the experience but missed the meaning,
And approach to the meaning
Restores the experience in a different form
Beyond any meaning
We can assign to happiness.
The past experience revived in the meaning
Is not the experience of one life only
But of many generations.”
― T. S. Eliot (from Cats)

I often find myself in a moment of profound awareness of the beauty of my surroundings here. I have dreamed of living near mountains ever since I was 10 years old and traveled from the flatlands of Chicago to Colorado to visit my cousins. I was so envious of the views from their home and their proximity to Rocky Mountain National Park. I lived in California for 15 years, but always in a heavily populated area. Here, the mountains are forested and human dwellings are few and far between. It’s peaceful. It’s slow. It’s quiet.

“Let the moment go
Don’t forget it for a moment though

Just remembering you’ve had an ‘and’
When you’re back to ‘or’
Makes the ‘or’ mean more
Than it did before
Now I understand
And it’s time to leave the woods”
― Stephen Sondheim (from Into the Woods)