Friday, December 11, 2015

HOWL: Guest Post by Susan Imhoff Bird

My guest blogger, Susan Imhoff Bird, is the author of Howl: of Woman and Wolf. Commemorating twenty years since the wolf’s return to the American West, Howl explores the passions and controversies surrounding nature’s most fascinating predator, while also delving into the reality of being human in today’s world.

My Alaska, My Wolf.

I dream Alaska. Immense, white. Fanged, feathered, furred. Hooded and gloved and without question, booted. Mukluks, Juneau boots. Huddled homes, expansive shorelines, seventy shades of blue to be discovered in sky and lake, river and ocean. Great and ferocious predators, thickened by fur and hardened by lot. Bears—black, polar, brown—wolverines and lynx, foxes, wolves. And the winged: bald and golden eagles, hawks and osprey, ravens and owls—great gray, northern hawk, and boreal—the fantastically named gyrfalcon, curving a path high above them all.

My Alaska is massive, resplendent, its edges blurring into towering, snow-sculpted mountains, bereft of trees. But if you peer closely, large paw prints traverse the slopes, dissolving into shadows cast by boulders, by landslide, by earthen tumult.

When I started studying wolves, I went on a late spring day to a valley that had, a month before, watched its snow melt into the ground and drip from banks into its rivers. I saw but one wolf that sojourn, though I’d hoped for more. I stood with a bevy of others, squinting into scopes, and watched the solitary wolf tear sustenance from the carcass of a bison calf. The Lamar Valley was well-filled with bison, cranes, and coyotes, while eagles spiraled above and a grizzly family pawed through a rotting tree trunk on a far hillside, but of wolves, I glimpsed only the one.

I returned to Yellowstone five months later, arriving the day after a blizzard, and learned to search for wolves on snow-dusted sage plains, on rocky outcroppings, on ice-laced creeks and tree-dotted buttes. Alaska, I thought, is more like this. I saw wolves—two who circled within forty feet of where I stood on frozen boots, two more a hundred yards away, and a family of eight who lounged atop a ridge, brought to near life-size by a powerful scope, whiskers flicking, eyes blinking, an exchange of paw swipes by two black cubs. Another morning, a pack of wolves was so far away that in my scope, they were lumps of gray-brown upon a rocky hill of gray-brown. Still others I tracked as they ran through winter-stiff grass and across ice bridges, only to disappear again in the shrub.

Soon I began to dream a wolf. She travels sloping mountain flanks, she sniffs for fellow and foe. She looks upon the world through eyes of gold, which glow on moon bright nights. Life is spent in snow and sun and rain, in pursuit of elk, caribou, moose, that routinely elude and escape. She sleeps curled nose to tail, she naps while the sun is high. She partners for life. She howls to bring her family close, and she howls to warn others away. She is guided by hunger, by instinct, by love, which are often one and the same. Her coat is a hundred shades of time-worn granite. My wolf is wild in every way, with a spirit so wide its edges blur. Into mine.

In my Alaska, live wolves. In my wolf, lives Alaska.

Find out more about Howl and Susan Imhoff Bird at


Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Coming to Pass: Guest post by Susan Cerulean and David Moynahan

Welcome to guest writer Susan Cerulean and photographer David Moynahan. Susan and her husband Jeff have collaborated with David and his wife Crystal for more than a decade--creating books and events, and exploring Florida's coast and other wild places from the Suwannee River to Iceland to the Virgin Islands.  Below is an excerpt from their newest collaboration, "Coming to Pass: Florida's Coastal Islands in a Gulf of Change".


I once watched a woman collecting live sand dollars from a shallow bar off St. Mark's. She waded near me, knee-deep, fumbling for the flat rounded animals with her toes, and then pulling them to the surface of the water.

"What are you going to do with all those sand dollars?" I asked. For fear of crunching down on their shells, I had been stepping cautiously through the water column.

"I'm collecting them for party favors for my niece's wedding," the woman replied. She wiggled another palm-sized dollar free from the soft sand, and added it to the blue plastic bucket she carried.

"You know they are alive, don't you?" I asked. Her bucket brimmed with at least a hundred sand dollars. Their fine brown moveable spines, which formed a felt-like coating over their shells, waved impotently in the cool air.

The woman drew back, no doubt sensing the judgment I couldn't keep out of my voice.

"Yes, I do," she said. "So I'll have to soak them in bleach and let them dry before I can paint them for table decorations."

To this day, I cannot think what more I could have said to that woman, or done.

You know they are alive, don't you?

The deep pathology of our time, wrote cultural historian Thomas Berry, is to consider our rights and our story as human beings to be different from those of the rest of creation. One of the many consequences of such thinking is that it leads us to believe that our future is unrelated to the fate of the rivers, the shorebirds, or the sand dollars.

Susan Cerulean is a writer and activist who lives and works in Tallahassee, Florida. She has produced a small shelf full of books about her state, and especially loves being with and observing wild birds. Her nature memoir "Tracking Desire: A Journey After Swallow-tailed Kites" was named Editors’ Choice by Audubon magazine. This excerpt is from her latest book, "Coming to Pass: Florida's Coastal Islands in a Gulf of Change," with images by David Moynahan.  Please subscribe to her blog about nature and activism at
David Moynahan is an award-winning conservation photographer living in the Florida Panhandle. His goal is to help raise awareness of the precious natural world that still surrounds us. At this time of spiraling environmental crises, too many of us have become exceedingly disconnected from nature. By adding his work to the efforts of environmental groups, scientists, and policy makers - honoring the old adage "a picture is worth a thousand words" - David believes that we can re-inspire awe, respect, and stewardship of our remaining wild places. 
A Florida native, David grew up in Miami, with Biscayne Bay, the Everglades and Keys his extended backyard. He spent his youth exploring the seashores and studying the creatures that lived there. Early on, he began to paint and photograph seascapes, fishes, birds, and abstract compositions from nature. Photography became the basis of his journal-keeping as he explored biology, medicine, art, travel, and parenting into adulthood. Over the past decade, his love and respect for the natural world, eye for composition, and long photographic experience have converged into the diverse and striking images that make up his work today.


Wednesday, November 4, 2015

Jules Verne: Happy.

     With freedom, books, flowers, and the moon, who could not be happy?
                                                                                                                         ~ Jules Verne


Friday, October 9, 2015

Igniting the Primordial Fire: A Guest Post by Annalisa Barelli

Welcome to guest blogger Annalisa Barelli, who lives and works on Washington state's Olympic Peninsula. Through her visual art, writing, teaching, and activism, she exemplifies what can happen when art, nature, and advocacy link arms.

Autumn Sea (2009) mixed media on wood

Life is a collection of moments. Even when we gaze outward from earth into the depths of space, we find history reflected in the stars. Sitting on the edge of a mountain, I contemplate my place. The mountain was birthed millions of years prior to my existence, erected from fiery eruption, chiseled by glacier, smoothed by tide. As I rest upon the basalt rock, I feel into all of the moments that have made my own life possible. It is a lineage so long that faces and places disappear into the void, like the uncharted galaxies above. In this expansive view, the separateness that my mind constructs fades and I am returned to a place of connection.

Within The Flame (2015) mixed media on canvas
Walking down the mountain, I no longer can tell where the ground meets my feet or where history ends and I begin, yet in the vacancy of my unknowing I am more alive and more in awe with simply being. I am not a separate self, contemplating the world for meaning; I am part of a much larger expression. And it is here, reconnected to the essence of creation, that I am flooded with the color, vision, and feeling that seeds the growth of my art.

She, Untitled (2012) mixed media print of watercolor and digital alteration on paper
Nature has a way of igniting the inner primordial fire. The spark within that loves deep, beyond cognitive reasoning or any need to possess, into the core of life itself where creativity thrives. With receptivity and trust, the colors and images emerge and there is little room for control. For me, making art has always been a practice of attuning and allowing. In many ways I don’t feel like the creator, but rather a witness to creation. 

Through the Veil (2015) mixed media of acrylic, gouache and gold pigment on canvas              
It is my belief that the role of art is to challenge the mundane and carry visions farther, to bring together what was once perceived as separate, and to make each moment as beautiful as possible. The word inspiration at its root means to breathe. Just as the spark needs a wind to ignite the flame, our lives need inspiration for sustenance. For me, the greatest responsibility of art is legacy. It is not significant that the paintings or stories live on long after I am gone. What is most important is that I live colorfully, moment to moment, leaving my own unique mark on the world around me. 

 Creative Fire (2014) illustration of watercolor, gouache and ink on paper

I hold firm to the belief that we are all artists because we are all expressions of creation. When we open to our inherent nature, our moments become the canvas, the stories, and the songs. When we connect to that inner fire and recognize our own life as an expression of a much bigger creative force, we add more to the present moment. Our presence is transformed into a living, breathing art that endures long after we've left our mark. 

Annalisa Barelli is a visual artist, writer, and environmental activist. She resides on the Olympic Peninsula of Washington State where she creates, teaches, and inspires. She is involved with the Protect the Olympic Peninsula group; learn more on her blogpost Activism as Art. You can visit her website at and purchase her work at 

Tuesday, September 8, 2015

Step into Nature: FREE SIGNED COPY and Guest Post by Patrice Vecchione

Welcome to guest blogger Patrice Vecchione, whose new book Step into Nature: Nurturing Imagination and Spirit in Everyday Life,  is, says David Rothenberg, "a true workbook for the senses." As poet Jane Hirshfield writes, this book "...illumines the intimate connection between inner and outer, contemplative and wild, and shows the reasons these connections matter." Continue reading to find out how to get a free signed copy!

                                            Monterey Pine, Jacks Peak Park, California.

That a connection exists between nature and imagination is something I knew from way back, even as a city kid at a remove from unfettered natural enclaves and expanses. Most all children have an innate love of snow on the tongue and wind through their hair. Young spirits are fed by the natural world peeking through, even in small ways. Kids have fewer filters to separate them from that first, true human home.

My parents graced my young life with art--taking me to museums, concerts, and the ballet. A direct infusion into nature herself was not their m├ętier and was limited to brief forays at various parks and trips to the Bronx Zoo.

 As a kid, nature actually frightened me, its unpredictability did. Summer storms replete with thunder and lightning rumbled that point home. Through art, however, I began a sustained a relationship with the earth, liked how the denseness of a sketched forest removed me from the museum floor and into its haven. Images of earth’s places wholly drew me in way before I began to recognize and frequently experience the pull of firsthand nature enlarging imagination.

                                         "Winged Man" by Patrice Vecchione

Some years back, having been a long distance bike rider who, due to arthritis, had to give up even short rides, I took to the woods, for the banal desire to get exercise outdoors, not in a gym. It began innocently enough—I’d walk for an hour or so, get hot and sweaty and return home happily tuckered out.

The place I chose to walk was Jacks Peak Park, a 500 + acre densely wooded park ten minutes from home. What I’d ignorantly assumed was a park with few trails I quickly discovered possessed over 10 miles of interconnecting paths and more if one includes those that go off onto private property.

At first I went walking with little more than car keys and a full water bottle but, after a few weeks, I needed more. Words started coming at me that I felt compelled to write down—a back pocket pen and no paper meant my right hand and inner arm became my canvas, got filled with ink. Once home, I transferred those words to paper.

                            Notebook of "Finds:" feathers from two hawks and a Great Northern Flicker.

With a back-of-the-junk-drawer notebook added to my pocket I began walking not only for exercise but in order to listen and respond. The forest had begun talking to me—the wind whispered, the trees insisted I pay attention. Pay attention to what? To them and to the play between the whole of that natural place and her individual parts and my own imagination. It was just that I’d walk and hear things and be curious about what I was hearing and thinking and have to stop to listen, record, respond. 

What I heard and saw and smelled and touched turned into poems, essays, and collages. There I’d be mid-step watching and waiting—two mice chatting in the bushed, a squirrel leading my way down a path, the frightening loudness of a tree falling nearby. A small yellow flower with red spots at its center made me bend into the brush for a photograph. In late summer all the foliage at the end of life became newly beautiful to my eyes. Having previously preferred high heels to hiking boots and being anything but a nature aficionado, I became a changed woman, an artist anew.

"The Yellow Mountains," watercolor and collage, Patrice Vecchione

This link between nature and imagination was something I had to explore, to write about. I felt a book coming on. Luckily, my literary agent saw the value in it too, as did Simon & Schuster/Beyond Words/Atria Books. My book was bought on proposal and I received six months to write the book. Six months? As the ink on my signature dried I doubted that possibility. However, those six months were the happiest of my 58 years.

The wind wrote my book and the Great Northern flickers did. The rolling rocks gave their unrestrained input. The mountain lions I knew were somewhere lurking added elements of surprise to the words I found. I wrote it in the way nature revealed herself to me—one step at a time.

After about another six months Step into Nature: Nurturing Imagination and Spirit in Everyday Life became a book to hold with pages to turn. It explores the unique identities of places, the link between imagination, inspiration and intuition, how engaging our many senses can expand our creative abilities and revive our spirits, the value of solitude in artistic practice, and more.

Gotta go—nature calls. Who knows what next words may call!

Now that you've heard from Patrice, you're likely enticed to hear more. And you can. Patrice is offering one signed copy for free. If you want it, here's what you do:

1. Comment on this blogpost between now and October 15.
2. Raffle-style, I'll pick one name to get a book.

3. Check back after October 15, or sign up to "follow" this blog and you'll get an email when the winner is posted.
4. If you're the lucky winner, email me your address, and you'll get your free, signed copy of Step into Nature.
5. If you're not the lucky winner, never fear, you can buy the book here or here.

Patrice Vecchione is the author of Writing and the Spiritual Life and two books of poetry, and is the editor of numerous anthologies. She offers creative writing and collage workshops at universities, libraries, parks, and community center, including Esalen Institute.
She lives in Monterey, California, with her best beloveds--her husband, two cats, and her garden. Connect with Patrice on Twitter @VecchioneAuthor and Facebook
PatriceVecchioneAuthor and

Wednesday, September 2, 2015

William Shakespeare: Infinite.

                            "In nature's infinite book of secrecy a little I can read."

                                  ~ William Shakespeare


Monday, August 17, 2015

Residing in Wilderness: A Guest Post by Irene Owsley.

Welcome to guest blogger Irene Owsley, whose images from three artist residencies in Alaska's wilderness have given all of us a new perspective on the wild. This guest post first appeared on the blog Thinking Wilderness.

Traveling by kayak for 8 days with two wilderness rangers during an artist residency program in the Tracy Arm-Ford’s Terror Wilderness of the Tongass National Forest, Southeast Alaska, I was intensely aware of a world defined by moving water. We paddled up the fjord, filled water jugs from cascading waterfalls, dodged growlers and bergy bits in our kayaks and admired icebergs from a safe distance.

View from my kayak, Harriman Fjord, Prince William Sound. L-R: Cascade, Barry & Coxe Glaciers. Nellie Juan-College Fjord Wilderness Study Area, Chugach National Forest.

It rained occasionally, and the sun was elusive. Fog clung to the spruce branches above us, leaving fat droplets on the undergrowth we hiked through. At the end of Endicott Arm loomed Dawes Glacier, the great carver of this landscape. We camped nearby, next to a glacial stream, itself a microcosm of the mighty glacier beyond, alive with sound and movement where water was constantly flowing, crushing and moving rock, working on the palette of the landscape.

View of Dawes Glacier, Endicott Arm, with kayaks in the foreground.  Tracy Arm-Ford’s Terror Wilderness, Tongass National Forest, Southeast Alaska
Single Shot: View of Dawes Glacier, Endicott Arm, with kayaks in the foreground. Tracy Arm-Ford’s Terror Wilderness, Tongass National Forest, Southeast Alaska

And that’s what I was doing, too, trying to make an image of these dynamic forces at work, setting up my tripod in the shallow part of the stream. I was captivated by the smooth granite slide, the multicolored rocks at its base, and the tide which moved in and out, its flow competing with the outpouring from the mountain behind. The setting was primeval, exuding the essence of self-willed landscape, to echo the words of Howard Zahniser, principal author of The Wilderness Act of 1964.

Sunset at low tide, Sanford Cove.  Chuck River Wilderness, Tongass National Forest, Southeast Alaska.
Sunset at low tide, Sanford Cove. Chuck River Wilderness, Tongass National Forest, Southeast Alaska.

At this spot, I shot several vertical images and later stitched them together in Photoshop to create a panorama of the scene that had made such an impression on me. It was one of several panoramas I made as my contribution to the Voices of Wilderness artist residency program conceived, organized and run by a truly dedicated wilderness ranger and artist, herself, Barbara Fischer Lydon, now based out of the Glacier Ranger District in Girdwood, Alaska.

View from Black Sand Beach, Harriman Fjord, Prince William Sound.  L-R: Cascade & Coxe Glaciers.  Nellie Juan-College Fjord Wilderness Study Area, Chugach National Forest.
View from Black Sand Beach, Harriman Fjord, Prince William Sound. L-R: Cascade & Coxe Glaciers. Nellie Juan-College Fjord Wilderness Study Area, Chugach National Forest.

The goal of the Voices of Wilderness program is to bring artists into the wilderness and allow them to create pieces, in their particular medium, that speak to the values of wilderness. The work of many artists was collected over a four-year period for a 2014 exhibition that traveled to seven museums and communities in Alaska, culminating with a show at the Anchorage Museum – all in celebration of the 50th anniversary of The Wilderness Act. The traveling exhibition brought huge awareness to this milestone in conservation history and spurred public engagement with wilderness, both through the efforts of the artists and the participating public lands throughout Alaska.

Single Frame: View from my tent down Harriman Fjord, Prince William Sound.  Nellie Juan-College Fjord Wilderness Study Area, Chugach National Forest.
Single Frame: View from my tent down Harriman Fjord, Prince William Sound. Nellie Juan-College Fjord Wilderness Study Area, Chugach National Forest.

For me personally, the value of my participation in Voices of the Wilderness has been immeasurable. It offered me the unique opportunity for self-supported living in designated wilderness areas in Alaska for 7-10 days at a time which inspired new expression (through my photography) and the articulation of much that lay buried within – this love of all things wild. The experience lifted me to a higher level of understanding where “wild” is concerned and made me acutely aware of the critical need to preserve and support what wild areas we still have. Just as importantly, I was introduced to other artists and wilderness activists who became models to me through their fierce support for wilderness.

[FEATURED IN SMITHSONIAN EXHIBITION] Glacial stream, Endicott Arm.  Tracy Arm-Ford’s Terror Wilderness, Tongass National Forest, Southeast Alaska.
Glacial stream, Endicott Arm. Tracy Arm-Ford’s Terror Wilderness, Tongass National Forest, Southeast Alaska.

And not least, my image of “Glacial Stream, Endicott Arm,” (above) is included in the Smithsonian’s exhibition, “Wilderness Forever,” at the National Museum of Natural History, one of thirteen finalists chosen from over 5000 entries. My image was awarded first place in the professional category for “Scenic Landscape.”

View of Tracy Arm near Sawyer Glacier.  Tracy Arm-Ford’s Terror Wilderness, Tongass National Forest, Southeast Alaska.
View of Tracy Arm near Sawyer Glacier. Tracy Arm-Ford’s Terror Wilderness, Tongass National Forest, Southeast Alaska.

Irene Owsley, a freelance photographer, specializes in the outdoors and travel, particularly in northern regions. Her work has appeared in such magazines as Canoe & Kayak, Sierra, National Parks, Earthwatch, and Natural History and in the publications of several conservation organizations. Since 2011, she has been accepted to participate in three artists residencies in Alaska’s wilderness. A long-time resident of Washington DC until just recently, Owsley found the “wild” in this large metropolitan area by creating a body of work called “Wild Washington,” with images from the riparian areas along the Potomac River. She has exhibited her work in galleries and has been profiled in Rangefinder, Photographer’s Forum, and Nikon World magazine. A new resident of New Mexico, Owsley is focused on producing large scale panoramic landscapes as a way to explore her new home.  She serves on the national board of ASMP (American Society of Media Photographers), promoting best business practices for photographers.

Tuesday, July 7, 2015

Karman Vortices and other Earth Art.

The following images come from the USGS Earth Resources Observation and Science Center whose acronym is (yes, it really is) EROS. The EROS Center has an incredible slideshow of satellite images of our one, our only home.

"Our common home," as the subtitle to Pope Francis' encyclical, Laudato Si', reminds us.

Edrengiyn Nuruu August 1, 1999.  The Edrengiyn Nuruu forms a transition zone between the Mongolian steppes to the north and the arid deserts of northern China to the south.

Karman Vortices September 1, 1999. Each of these swirling clouds is a result of a meteorological phenomenon known as a Karman vortex. These vortices appeared over Alexander Selkirk Island in the southern Pacific Ocean. Rising precipitously from the surrounding waters, the island's highest point is nearly a mile (1.6 km) above sea level. As wind-driven clouds encounter this obstacle, they flow around it to form these large, spinning eddies.
Lena Delta July 1, 2001. The Lena River, some 2,800 miles(4,500km) long, is one of the largest rivers in the world. The Lena Delta Reserve is the most extensive protected wilderness area in Russia. It is an important refuge and breeding grounds for many species of Siberian wildlife.
Dragon Lake December 1, 1999. Nicknamed "Dragon Lake," this body of water is formed by the Bratskove Reservoir, built along the Angara River in southern Siberia, near the city of Bratsk. This image was acquired in winter, when the lake is frozen.
Bolivian Deforestation August 1, 2000. Once a vast carpet of healthy vegetation, the Amazon rain forest is changing rapidly. This image of Bolivia shows dramatic deforestation in the Amazon Basin. Loggers have cut long paths into the forest, while ranchers have cleared large blocks for their herds. Fanning out from these clear-cut areas are settlements built in radial arrangements of fields and farms. Healthy vegetation appears bright red in this image.

Thursday, June 11, 2015

Muriel Rukeyser: This moment is real.

                                        Sundews, Prince William Sound, Alaska.

"This moment is real, this moment is what we have, this moment in which we face each other, and if a poem is any damn good at all, it invites you to bring your whole life to that moment, and we are good poets inasmuch as we bring that invitation to you, and you are good readers inasmuch as you bring your whole life to the reading of the poem."                     

 ~ Muriel Rukeyser

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

I thought I knew ice.

After nearly 30 years in Alaska, after decades kayaking coastlines replete with tidewater glaciers and hiking mountains up to vast icefields, I thought I knew ice. But that’s the wonderment of the natural world: it continues to surprise me.  So when I traveled to the Antarctic Peninsula in February, I saw ice as I never had before.


Endless forms most beautiful, wrote Charles Darwin, and so it is, perhaps nowhere more evident than with ice. Yes, he was writing about biological evolution. But there is, in these giant ancient-ice bergs, an evolution as well. And an unsurpassed artistry.

Once they break from the icesheet or glacier of the continent, they live for years, decades. These bergs are so big they are named and tracked, watched by satellite. B9 sheered from the eastern Ross Ice Shelf in 1987; in 1989, it broke into three pieces; in 2010, the largest piece, B9B, collided with the Mertz Glacier, causing it to calve a massive berg.

And they travel. By current and wind they travel hundreds of miles, circling the continent, moving northward. B9 covered 1200 miles in 22 months. One berg blocked our route through the Lemaire Channel one day, but by the next had shifted, allowing passage. 

Not until this trip had I truly seen an iceberg. Growlers and bergy bits, yes, and floes. But not bergs. They are a different animal entirely. Freed from the icecap or glacier, they wander the coasts and ocean for decades, their faces changing, their bodies eroding and falling apart, until nothing is left but shards like bones.

They are not just white, but a changing tapestry of all colors, swirling in dark seas. Their ice is blue and pink and yellow, purple in dark light, and sometimes struck gold, shining like diamonds. Like the white of a color wheel, it contains all other colors, and reveals one or another or several at any given moment, in any given light and shadow, any alteration in perspective. A changing, moving work of art.

Watching the beauty before me, the constantly changing kaleidoscope of color and texture, never far from my mind was climate change. The Antarctic Peninsula is one of the most rapidly warming places in the world. Ice shelves are collapsing, glaciers and ice caps are retreating and thinning. There’s news this month of the catastrophic collapse of the West Antarctic Ice Sheet, which holds 10 percent of the continent’s ice.

The beauty and the terror of life on Earth right now. Species like Adelie penguins who nest on ice having to move farther south, away from us. The grief of what we are destroying, the joy of what remains. The beauty and the terror: not of getting trapped in the ice, but of losing the ice, the great melt underway.


There is an absence here, an absence of human presense, like a fresh breeze through an open window in a room that has been closed for centuries. It is a place to rest worry and fear, to see by the light of a new path, a new way of living on this planet. There is a lack of thinking that there is anything here for us to do, other than witness.

I still dream of moving through the ice gallery, a gallery of sculptures by elemental forces. Nature doesn’t cling to her creations, said one of my companions. It's like a sand mandala, he said, the beauty formed, and then swept away. Beauty, on a different time scale than ours. More slowly, gradually, at least from our perspective. Geologic time. Earth time.

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

St. Augustine: and the people forgot themselves.

Resurrection Bay by Rockwell Kent

"And the people went there and admired the high mountains, the wide wastes of the sea, and the mightly downward rushing streams and the ocean and the course of the stars, and forgot themselves."

~ St. Augustine of Hippo, Confessions

Thursday, April 2, 2015

A Year of Being Here: the mindfulness of nature and art.

I recently had a poem published in A Year of Being Here.This marvelous blog posts a poem a day, all of them "mindfulness poetry." Most are by contemporary poets, some by relatively unknown poets (like me) and others whose work you've no doubt heard of or read. Some of the voices reach farther back in time, too, to Wordsworth and Meister Eckhart and Rumi.

Mindfulness, as I understand it, is just about being in the present moment, in the here and now. While the site isn't focused on nature poetry, you'll notice that many of the poems, and accompanying artwork, are often about or set in or referencing the more-than-human world.

This is understandable, since the natural world gives us ample models of being present. Just watch a bird or tree or wild being of any kind, and you'll notice that they live their lives (as far as I can tell) always in the present moment. They don't worry about or plan the future, and they don't gnaw on what happened in the past. They do not, as the poet Wendell Berry once wrote, "tax their lives with forethought of grief."

And art: the best inspiration I've ever had has come when I am present, fully present, to whatever is going on right here and now, right in front of me. The mind eases out of the chatter of past/future thinking, and something new opens up, some new slant of light slips in.

So, mindfulness, art, nature - it's all intertwined, all same-same. And this blog, A Year of Being Here, is full to bursting with some of the most inspiring poetry I've ever read. As the curator of the blog, Phyllis Cole-Dai, writes:

If you enjoy the taste of the wild berries I’ve picked, grab a pail of your own and head for light. That’s where these poems grow; there, and in the dappled dark of the woods. You’ll have a fine time, searching for them amongst the bushes and the brambles, so long as you go slow and watch out for thorns and bears.

Sunday, February 15, 2015

Climate Change Art.

"Melting Men" by Nele Azevedo

It's been ten years now since author and activist Bill McKibben decried the fact that there was no outpouring of art helping us truly understand climate change. Without art, he wrote, we don't feel it in our gut; it isn't part of our culture.

It took awhile for art to enter the realm of climate change, I'm guessing because it plays out on such a large scale, through incremental and slow changes, and with such unimaginable long term effects that, well, it was just too much, at first, to handle. I remember the first essay I wrote about it--I used a mosaic form, a form that in itself creates a sense of imbalance, of fractured thoughts and insights. It was the only way I could approach the subject of climate change at the time, though even now trying to get my words around such an overwhelming subject, and what it means on a personal level, is challenging. 

Much has changed since McKibben's plea--at least in the art world. Politically, that's another story. I think this artistic response bears notice, for the ways in which art can speak to more than just our intellect; the ways in which it reaches the gut and the beating heart of things.

The blog Artists and Climate Change has made it their mission to track and share all forms of climate change art, from theatre to sculpture to music to literature. It's a great place to find out what's going on, to network with other like-minded artists, and to just get a sense of how we can approach climate change, not just with our intellects, but with our imaginations.


Thursday, January 1, 2015

Stanley Kunitz: A Representative Human Being.

"As an artist, you are a representative human being--you have to believe that in order to give your life over to that effort to create something of value. You're not doing it only to satisfy your own impulses or needs; there is a social imperative. If you solve your problems and speak of them truly, you are of help to others, that's all. And it becomes a moral obligation."

~ Stanley Kunitz, in The Wild Braid