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-Artists Photo Challenge: Colorful Expressions

“Nature always wears the colors of the spirit.”
Ralph Waldo Emerson

“I think it pisses God off if you walk by the color purple in a field somewhere and don’t notice it.”
― Alice Walker

“Everything is blooming most recklessly; if it were voices instead of colors, there would be an unbelievable shrieking into the heart of the night.” ― Rainer Maria Rilke

“Let me, O let me bathe my soul in colours; let me swallow the sunset and drink the rainbow.”
― Khalil Gibran

“Nature in her green, tranquil woods heals and soothes all afflictions.” ― John Muir

Anne Sandler has chosen “Colorful Expressions” for the theme of this week’s photo challenge. Please visit her post HERE to learn how color enhances photographs and see her wonderful examples. As the global community celebrates Earth Day this week, I hope you’ll feel a gratitude and affection for our planet that compels you to protect and defend her with your best efforts.

Lens-Artists Photo Challenge: Bokeh

Sofia, our host for this challenge, writes: “The term bokeh was first used to distinguish normal motion blur from the blur obtained when things are out of focus. It literally means blur in Japanese. The Nikon website, after a more complex and technical explanation reduces it to simply this: ‘bokeh is the pleasing or aesthetic quality of out-of-focus blur in a photograph’.” The picture above is of a very young fern, its leaves all rolled up. The soft focus background draws attention to the inward curl, like tiny arms hugging its own precious new life.

I like how the background blur in this closeup of a dewdrop on some beard lichen reminds me of neuron pathways in the brain. (I do wish the drop were in sharper focus, though.) The bokeh background feels very Zen-like to me. It’s what happens when you are calmly mindful of the thing right in front of you, while the background fades into a peaceful blur. Here’s a gallery of my nature close-ups with bokeh backgrounds:

Please visit Sofia’s post, HERE, for more on this technique and instructions for participating in the challenge.

Lens-Artists Photo Challenge: They Say It’s Your Birthday…

…It’s my birthday, too!

In my family, we have clusters of birthdays in August and in late March/early April. It provides the opportunity to get several households together at one time for a joint party. I love it when we’re all crowded into the kitchen, cooking together, sipping something, laughing, and singing. We tend to break into song for no particular reason. We also love to dance, and we happen to have a music producer/DJ in the family, so dance parties with a house bass beat add to the celebration. I’ve been taking photos of birthdays for more than 30 years now. The difference is that my kids don’t want to have their faces in these photos anymore. Still, I have enough material to offer a gallery of birthday ambience and celebration. I hope you enjoy it!

Here’s a birthday photo I didn’t take. It’s my third birthday, and I’m at my grandmother’s beach cottage on Lake Michigan. At that age, the most important part of the day was that I got to eat chocolate cake! (Some things haven’t changed much…)

Our host for this photo challenge party is Johnbo. Visit his site HERE.

Lens-Artists Photo Challenge: Earth Story

Once, a very, very long time ago, before there was a “United States of America”…

Dinosaur National Monument, Utah
Badlands National Park, South Dakota
Canyonlands National Park, Utah

…the Earth went through some dramatic changes. Gradually, new life emerged. Large animals, different from the dinosaurs, roamed the vast grasslands of the continent.

Badlands National Park, Sage Creek Wilderness
Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming

Not only did Earth sustain these large herds of ungulates, she also supported enormous trees in extensive networks of forest.

Big Basin Redwoods State Park, California

Eventually, however, a new species evolved, and in the blink of an eye by Earth’s time, this one dominated the canyons, the grasslands, and the forests and used up or destroyed much of the Earth’s abundance.

Milwaukee, Wisconsin

Somehow, it finally dawned on this species that they were causing great harm to the Earth. Many of them dedicated their large brains to the resolution of this grave problem.

Adopt-A-Tree planting, Cedar Lakes Conservation Foundation, Wisconsin

It’s difficult to know what will happen in the next chapter of Earth’s story, but every member of every species on Earth is playing a part. Consider your part. Act wisely and with compassion for Her.

Thank you to Amy for issuing this photo challenge and for sharing her beautiful illustrations of Earth’s story. Click HERE to see her post.

Lens-Artists Photo Challenge: Curves

“Beauty: it curves, curves are beauty.”
― James Joyce

“Curves are so emotional.” ― Piet Mondrian

“My live is one long curve, full of turning points.”
― Pierre Trudeau

The shape of a curve – elegant, delicate, graceful – is so very pleasing to my eye. In calligraphy, cursive is the romantic way to write. All those curvy embellishments just beg you to dawdle lovingly over every letter. Curves are about pleasure, I think. In Nature or in man-made objects, curves lend a sense of the exotic. No wonder I find so many examples in my photos! Here’s a gallery of images, strung together like a love letter in script. I hope you enjoy it!

Thanks to Ann-Christine for delighting us with this challenge theme. Click HERE to view her post and participate.

Lens-Artists Photo Challenge: Close and Closer

“Let each dawn find us courageous, brought closer, heeding the lights before the fight is over.” ― Amanda Gorman

This photo challenge is about moving closer to the subject and letting it fill the frame. There is something in this exercise that resembles the challenge of intimacy. The fear is – what if I find something up close that I didn’t expect? That I can’t control? That I don’t like? And what if I do find something I get very fond of…and then have to move away? Or it moves away…and dies?

My first subject is my sister-in-law’s Pomeranian dog, Kimahri. This little guy is an absolute charmer. He looks like a Teddy Bear and lives his life in the adoring arms of a human. But his health is not robust, for many reasons. He’s as small as a little baby, but he’s actually rather aged.

“Since you cannot do good to all, you are to pay special attention to those who, by the accidents of time, or place, or circumstances, are brought into closer connection with you.” ― Saint Augustine

Two weekends ago, my housemate noticed a cat by the side of our dead-end country road, drenched by the rain and terribly skinny. We guess that she was dumped by her previous owner as she was obviously an indoor cat and very affectionate. Yesterday, they had to put her to sleep due to congestive heart failure. I feel like my housemate braved the pain of getting closer and did the right thing. She works as a social worker in hospice care, and this pandemic has been exhaustingly difficult for her, but she still choses to move in closer and be a caring person. I very much admire that.

“With consistency, we become one step closer to our dreams, while witnessing small victories on the way!”
― Purvi Raniga

My next subject is some mushrooms growing on the side of a tree. Getting closer up to the face of death and decay is a scary prospect. And yet, you might be amazed at the beauty there. I am reminded of caring for my mother during her hospice journey alongside my two sisters. The intimacy of that precious time brought us all closer together and seemed like an eternal and mystical experience.

Thanks to Patti for hosting this week’s challenge and daring us to get close and closer.

Lens-Artists Photo Challenge: Odds and Ends

“A Miscellany is a collection without a natural ordering relation.” ― John Edensor Littlewood

This morning, Tina of Travels and Trifles invites us to post images that may never fit into any Challenge category, so I went looking for recent captures that I just…like. For no particular reason. Turns out, however, that I could say truthfully that they do have something in common. They were all taken within an hour’s drive from my home in Oregon.

“The world is so full of a number of things, I’m sure we should all be as happy as kings.”
― Robert Louis Stevenson

I hope you find a huge collection of various things to delight you this week, close by your home. Living local has many environmental and social benefits and can help heal the planet and our selves.

Lens-Artist Photo Challenge: Water

“Life in us is like the water in a river.”
― Henry David Thoreau

“You are water
I’m water
we’re all water in different containers
that’s why it’s so easy to meet
someday we’ll evaporate together.”
― Yoko Ono

“Empty your mind, be formless, shapeless, like water. Be water, my friend.”
― Bruce Lee

“Be like water,

Flow like a river,

Crash like the rain,

Fly like the cloud again!”
― Md. Ziaul Haque

I am like water; I have many moods and forms, from tiny droplets of doubt or hope clinging to the cobweb threads of reason, to the crashing surge of love and purpose that washes over me when I am inspired. We are water; our lives depend on it. We cannot create it ourselves, but we can be ever grateful that it is all around us. We must protect it in its many courses: creeks, rivers, bays, oceans. We must be mindful of using only our share and making sure there is enough for every living being. We must protect the water cycle in every way possible.

Thanks to Anne Sandler for hosting our challenge this week and reminding me just how important this subject is – for everyone.

Lens-Artists Photo Challenge: Low-Light

“If I can put one touch of rosy sunset into the life of any man or woman, I shall feel that I have worked with God.”
― G.K. Chesterton

This week’s challenge comes from a new member of the Lens-Artist team, Sofia Alves. She invites us to play with low-light settings and share tips. Here’s my tip: watch the sun set and take lots of pictures. The light will get lower and lower over time. If you start early enough, you’ll get lots of practice. You might see a light show with a million gradations of color, reflected on surfaces like waves and awestruck eyeballs. And meanwhile, you might notice the space between you and the horizon – and the 93 million miles between you and the Sun. That might give you a new perspective on Life in the bargain. If you’re very lucky, there might be others of your species around taking in the changing light, the coming night, and you’ll have someone to share that with. If you stand very still while taking those shots, you might realize you are on a revolving planet that is always changing. And you might feel better about Change in general while you’re in the presence of such beauty. In fact, the whole experience of low-light might become the highlight of your day…or your week…or your month. And just think, you could photograph a sunset every single day for the rest of your life!

Amazing possibilities abound, even in these difficult times.