I had to break these up because I had enough to make two. If I'm being honest, I could find enough to create 28, or more. When I was at Drexel University and I was immersed in printmaking we had to write an artist statement for each piece of work. Mine always ended up being more poetic and storytelling-like than just any regular artist statement but I think at the time, that is what I needed to do. So this week, we revisit the juxtaposition of imagery in [my own] nature photography and imagery in [my own] words in the form of prose, poetry, lyrics, or reflections.
Visual and Verbal Art: Part Two
Meditation and Reflection
Snoozing for a minute or forever...
Emmaus, PA. Garden photo in July 2020.
[Image on the left]: I was participating in one of Ag Institute's Summer Workshop series in July of 2020 and in one presentation about bees I remember hearing these amazing tidbits. They could fly hundreds of miles and pollinate thousands of flowers in a lifetime but, one day, in the blink of an eye, they couldn't even for one more second, beat their own wings, and they would drop dead right there.
I think about this in relation to being a mother for these bees are females. The pressure of providing nourishment and all the needs of others. Being an artist, a teacher, a business owner, an entrepreneur, a creator, a gardener, a mother, a friend, a volunteer, and trying to be the best of those things. It is easy to lose track of ourselves, our goals, our focus. This bee needs to get pollen and she does. She literally fell out of the sky dead from exhaustion from doing her job. So in these moments, I take the time to reflect on what is important right now, what do I need to do, what do I want to do, what is absolutely vital for my family that they can't do on their own. Then I breathe, relax, and prioritize. Maybe I'm pollinating too many flowers. Maybe I need to lay here on these delicate petals and soak up some sun for a few seconds. How can I fly if I have no wings?
"The Giving Tree"
Come Boy. Sit down. Sit down and rest.
Emmaus, PA. Texture Walk photo in March 2020.
[Image on the right]: This was once a beautiful tree. Tall and majestic. But one day, someone who took care of her before we did, decided to cut her down. Was she sick? Did she pose some kind of threat? Did she cast too much shade? Did she block the view of someone who didn't even care in the first place? I don't know. I will never have the chance to find out. I don't think she ever gave apples, or branches for boats, or was used to build a home. But I imagine all the children she loved. The birds she shielded from the storms. The insects she gave comfort to in their busy communities. I wonder if she had initials carved into her side, changing with the times of the heart. I saw her there while I was on a texture walk with my children. Look at the lines—the smooth, the rough. The stories she could tell. Now she was dried and cracked, aging, aged. But she called out to me, "Come boy. Sit down. Sit down and rest," and I wanted to sit there and rest, to listen to the songs' of the flowers, to watch the children of the trees floating passed me—gently kissing my cheeks on their way. I wanted to talk about what happened, hear her story. I wanted her to cradle me in her wooden embrace, easing my ever wandering mind with her ever-knowing wisdom.
She is almost gone now. I checked on her last week. She has been weathered, worn, torn, demolished. She is almost becoming something else, returning to the Earth as if it is claiming her and her time. As if the ground itself has reached up and is pulling her back to where she began. To where she will begin again and everything around her will begin along side.
"Oh, to be free"
How far will they go? Run, run my children, you're free. We trust you.
Camp Olympic Park, Lower Macungie Township
Fall Season, 2017-18
There was another line to this, originally, which I left out for this post. It said, "And, we are both really fast—in case—we would need to run after you." Reading that now, made me flinch. It isn't like a pack of wolves is roaming our area waiting for unsuspecting parents to allow their children to have a little bit of free and wild space. These two children are sometimes like their own pack of wolves. No one else was at the park yet. I was pulling my wagon full of gizmos and gadgets, spoons, buckets, water, snacks, and my blue blanket. Run wild, my children! I remember saying in my mind. You're free to be you, however that may be today, or forever. How far will you run away before you look over your shoulder? Why would you even look when there is so much open green right in front of you waiting to be explored, investigated, loved. You need this. We all do. We all need our time, our space, our own adventures. Be free to live—for even a small moment of your toddler existence—free to make your choices. I didn't choose this park for no reason, I chose this spot because it sits on 40+ acres of open space. Now is the time to spread your wings and I promise, I will not steal the wind from your sails, I will not close you indoors, I will not tell you who to be because I missed out on something and maybe you can try to do it for me. I will not put you in a box of what I expect from your life, we will only use "not a boxes". We will use our imaginations, we will tell stories, we will learn the magic of nature, and the mysteries of the world around us. If you ask me, I will show you or maybe you could show me. Our time here is short. I don't have time to squeeze the life out of children so vibrant. Nor would I want to stop you from your own adventures. I'll hug you when we meet up. I'll ask what you saw or what you heard. We'll talk about the adventures we had on our own, and we'll start to make more adventures together when it is our time to do so.
"Tasting shapes and colors"
Don't just stand there and look up—you'll never experience the feel of the ground on your back.
You'll never feel the earth under your knees.
You'll never meld your shoulders to the rocks.
You'll never become one with nature without taking a moment to be still,
without returning to our natural resting position. Gazing straight up with a wider view—
Allowing ourselves to be sucked into the experience.
Vallea Lumina, Whistler, British Columbia.
Photo and video taken in September, 2019.
This experience, it changed me. It stirred something in me that was asleep. I was standing there looking up in the dark and the music changed and the lights went on and I just couldn't see. I took this video from a standing position and realized that I just wasn't experiencing the sensory aspect to its potential. I realized I was watching this spectacle from a tiny blue screen that didn't serve it justice. Is this how I'm living my life? Am I seeing the big picture? I saw a bench and laid down on my back. I wish I took some photos or a video from this viewpoint because it was so different. I'm also glad that I didn't because I would have lost the movement, the meaning. My arms fell to my sides, slightly brushing the dirt below me. My world opened up as I could turn my head and eyes and experience every single branch, every pine needle. Every light, every sound. I tasted pink and green and circles and round. I smelled melodies. I could hear the frequencies of the colors changing—ebbing and flowing and resonating in the woods. Everyone else just fell away. Everything, every thought. It was just me there. The trees were breathing through the lights or maybe they were singing along. My cheeks moist with a river of tears that seemed unavoidable. Most people oohed. Some people Ahhed. But they just kept walking, stopping for a moment to take a picture on the iPhone and then continuing through. They didn't even listen to the entire segment or start from the beginning. No, I can't go, I whispered. I want to experience this again, and again. I want to hear what they have to say, I want to breathe the same air and sing the same song. Listen to the magic of the forest. Sometimes, I can close my eyes and relive it: the sway of the trunks, the whistle of the branches, and the sweet, quiet tears of connection. That's all I ever really wanted.
Tethered kites of pink, healing petals dance in the wind above my head, always slightly out of reach until they land beneath my feet.
Magnolia Tree. Emmaus, PA, March 2020.
Everywhere I have ever lived, it seemed there were always magnolia trees except for the house that I grew up in. There was a majestic magnolia at my grandfather's house down the street but we never really went there. Maybe it was the nostalgia. The Philadelphia streets covered in pink, brown, white. The paths through Highland Park in Pittsburgh. My aunt's house hosts a beautiful magnolia right in the center of the backyard. Our own street in Emmaus, which is actually one of the only ones with so many magnolia trees—looking in both directions you see the spots of pink that pop up with the assumption of spring. It is so interesting that something so beautiful can last so long or not. We have had years where a late frost came through or a few unseasonably warm days enticed blooms too soon. We only have the pleasure to gaze upon the flowers for a few days and then walk through a carpet of remembrance. Over the last few years, I have been participating in courses focused in herbalism. You can't imagine my excitement when I found out that magnolia petals are edible and even healing. They are especially beneficial for respiratory health. I collect some and put them in honey. I haven't pickled them yet but have read that it is the preferred method for consumption. Every plant that we own has been meticulously chosen for health and wellness benefits. Nature is always there, waiting to help, beckoning for us to remember her importance, whispering the secrets we seem to have forgotten. The colors, the shapes, the pleasantries they draw us in as if we are pollinators. If we take the time to smell the flowers, maybe we can think about their uses. Everything holds more than what the eye can see, everything holds meaning, everything has purpose.
[Magnolia: Image on left, taken in Emmaus, PA 2020]
[Garden Oasis: Image on right, taken in Emmaus, PA 2018]
Longwood Gardens, PA, 2011.
A few years ago now, when everyone used filters on Instagram, I was taking a weeklong School Garden 101 course at Longwood Gardens. I was attending Temple University in Philadelphia finishing my last two courses for my MEd and dual teaching certifications. My grad courses were at 5pm in Philadelphia. The weeklong workshop/course at Longwood Gardens was held from 8:30-3:30 pm in Kennett Square. I, being myself, thought this was completely doable and a great idea. Maybe it was a stretch but I made it work and I am so happy that I did. If I was not starting my teaching job in Pittsburgh five days later, I would have also stayed for the School Gardens 2, which was also a weeklong course. Not only did we have hands-on training, we visited local schools, learning centers, and nature centers to see how they had installed and utilized school gardens as an extension of the classroom. We also planted our own herbs and we got to enter and tour the gardens for free during the week we attended the course. On one of my wandering days, I found this exhibit. At the time, [and possibly this still is available], Longwood Gardens had resident artists that worked and studied in the gardens. This was a sensory garden that one of the graduating students created as his/her thesis project. There were some areas that offered sound effects, windchimes, soft music, and it all related to the plants and colors that lined the winding paths of stone. Everything was planned from the ground up, grown, cultivated with love, and created just so. It really was quite an experience that I recommend for anyone in the Southeastern PA region to go visit. Hopefully they still are running this program and the graduating students have planned and installed their own cultivated spaces which integrate art, sound, the senses, visual interest, and a love for the earth and her mysteries.
"Floating by" You must have flown to this spot for a reason like all things that cross my path—especially the little things. You could have landed anywhere, but you were here long enough to catch my eye. #thelittlethings #nature #feather #naturesymbols #nature #floaton #garden #simple #life #naturesigns
"Floating by" taken in Emmaus, PA, 2019.
Homestead "Here's the house and the garden. Look in the garden, we planted flowers and put a small fence around it. And outside the main fence is the bridge to the lake." #storytelling #imagination #building #sticks #alltheotherkidsarejustrunningandscreaming #stillness #focus #playiswork #teamwork
Wildlands Conservancy. Emmaus, PA, Spring 2019.
Peeling away the layers
Grover Cleveland Park. Caldwell, NJ, 2017.
I love to find the thin, papery bark of trees like this that shed their layers one at a time. Always revealing and yet always hiding a story or the truth. This tree shows what it wants to show—releasing bark in an un-uniformed way. There are spots so thick of papery wisdom, and areas that are almost bald as if they have told all the stories and are now weary from their drawn out words. Maybe they have overshared or maybe they shared what they needed to say. Who gets to choose what is too much, what is just enough? Gently running fingers over a history of life, there's something therapeutic to that. Choosing the path that works the best for the life you want to have. Exposing the authentic you that has been there all along, waiting, watching. Peel away, tree. Show the world your colors, your scars, your stories, your growth, and your wisdom. Share your talents, your shade, your song, and your pain. You wouldn't be you, without it.
Everything shared here is my own thoughts, my own imagery, my own experiences. Learning and education are so important to me and something that is often overlooked in knowledge and growth is reflection. Where did I come from? What path am I taking and am I still on the path that suits me? How do the subjects that I study relate to each other and how do they strengthen my own personal gifts and talents? I like to change the format every now and then to offer some interest for my blog. Thank you for joining me again this week. Remember to take some time to stop and appreciate all the beauty and mysteries around us in nature.
Learn. Love. Reflect. Grow
See you next week for some more good vibes or practical teaching methods in nature.