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Exhibit A:  Droplets of rain on leaf

Exhibit A: Droplets of rain on leaf

The truth is:  I don’t live in Spain.  Have never even visited that beautiful country.  Although my daughter visited there last autumn and spent a week aboard a sailboat in Barcelona.  She actually learned how to sail on the Mediterranean!  How cool is that?

Exhibit B:  Droples of rain on yellow-green leaf

Exhibit B: droplets of rain on yellow-green leaf

However, I am a fan of My Fair Lady.  The recesses of the brain that still love to sing “The rain in Spain falls mainly on the plain.  (By George I think she’s GOT it!)” undoubtedly hijacked this blog.  Hence, the title.

Exhibit C:  Upright Leaf with (you guessed it) droplets of rain

Exhibit C: Upright Leaf with (you guessed it) droplets of rain

Actually, I made it outside for today’s outdoor adventure in between showers.  All morning an ominous inner voice kept nagging, “You better get outside.  You’re going to be sorry.  You’re going to be cold and wet and miserable.  You better stop your putzing and get outside.”   (I mostly ignored its dire predictions, until the sky suddenly darkened threateningly.  Time to go outside.)

Exhibit D:  Leaf veins of rain

Exhibit D: Leaf veins of rain

As usual, nothing immediately presented itself as an interesting photographic study.  Same old, same old.  Who wants to see more colorful autumn leaves, especially when they are starting to turn that dismal flat pastel washed-out color? (With a few vibrant exceptions, of course.)  Then suddenly I saw It.  Oh my goodness!  A perfect Leaf with perfect water droplets.  What could be more magnificent?

Exhibit E:  Studies in White Leaf

Exhibit E: Studies in White Leaf

Once you see one, you see more. Your eyes are suddenly opened.  Leaves with water droplets appeared everywhere!  And aren’t they so…so…artful?  Like they belong hanging in some art museum where we can all admire something as simple as Rain Droplets on Leaves.

Exhibit F:  Sappy brown rain droplets on leaf

Exhibit F: Sappy brown rain droplets on leaf

The journey to photograph leaves took me down the road, with a side detour on an old logging road.  The eyes remained trained on the ground, lest a single leaf escape admiration.  (Anyone believe that?  There are nigh on a million leaves on the ground!)  As I exited the logging path, I spotted AJ walking up the road.  Walked down to him, and together we crested the hill.   Invited him to look at Barry’s garage project.  OK, will show the rest of you the garage edition project another time, once we get off the subject of leaves.

Exhibit G:  And Two shall join together...

Exhibit G: And Two shall join together...

It started to rain harder.  AJ continued on his walk.  I did one more loop around the back of the house, emptying the woodstove ash buckets (with the dead trapped mouse lying belly up in the white ash) and discovered the Family of Leaves conclusion to the series.

Exhibit H:  Family of leaves in rain

Exhibit H: Family of leaves in rain

Came inside to turn on the computer and discovered another message from Wordpress.com saying they were featuring the previous blog on their home page.  This time I didn’t get wildly excited and almost suffer a heart attack from dancing on the ceiling.  This time I maturely wrote the editors a note, “Have I told you guys how much I love you lately?”  They haven’t written back.

Catch a falling leaf and put it in your pocket...

Catch a falling leaf and put it in your pocket...

The Anishinabe (or Ojibway) call this October moon “The Moon of the Falling Leaves”.  This one isn’t hard to figure out.  The leaves are falling everywhere.  They’re not falling like they will fall in a week or so, but now they trickle down from the trees, splashing their red and orange and yellow colors everywhere.

It’s still raining.  Here’s what happens:  rain pours non-stop from the sky in a flurry of wet showers.  Then it ceases.  The sun even sometimes peeks briefly from behind the cloud-studded sky as if to say “Is it safe for me to come out yet?”  But then quickly ducks back in just as another rain shower pours from the heavens.  Yep, that’s how it’s been for days now.  The temperature stays in the upper 40’s or lower 50’s.

Three Leaves

Three Leaves

Today, in between rain showers, we pulled up the brown tomato plants and threw them in the woods.  Most of the tomatoes were rescued from freezing the other night, so the ripe ones already sit inside on the kitchen countertop and the green ones lie in the basement sandwiched between newspapers.  Just before we finished, the rain unexpectedly drenched us as another shower passed through.  I don’t know why I said “unexpectedly”.  These rain showers are getting quite expected every twenty minutes.

Colors lined up in a row

Colors lined up in a row

Good news!  The phone just rang and it was my mom.  She and dad are (hopefully) planning a trip up to visit next weekend. Hurray!  (This, however, means that I will need to spend a great deal of time INSIDE in the next several days cleaning up the house.)  But don’t worry, the outdoor commitment will still happen.

Here are some interesting photos from our trip to Houghton last night.  We drove down near the lift bridge when Barry said, “Look at that girl!  You have to take a picture.”  He prepared to stop the car.  I was full from dinner and muttering something like, “I don’t WANT to take a picture…” but the car was stopped and he gestured over toward the bridge supports.  I reluctantly opened the door.

But what a surprise!  How cool!  Some graffiti artist had drawn cool-looking figures on the supports.  Now, I know some people think this is defacing public property, and maybe it is.  But I loved all three figures!  Great art on the construction site.  (Much nicer than looking at all the construction vehicles.)  What do you think?

Girl playing violin in construction zone

Girl playing violin in construction zone

Somebody wants Change

Somebody wants Change

The Inspector looks around, wondering who the artist might be.

The Inspector looks around, wondering who the artist might be.

Before weeding.  Isn't it a mess?

Before weeding. Isn't it a mess?

To weed or not to weed.  That is the question.

I’m sure many of you are raising your eyebrows and thinking, “What’s she talking about now?  Of course you must weed your garden!  Otherwise the weeds will take over the vegetables and pretty soon there will be a terrible mess.”

Yes, yes.  Those facts are known.  It is the truth.  The garden must generally be weeded.  (Plus, our garden sits squarely in front of our house.  It has to look respectable for visitors.)

But I have experienced moral pondering for many years.  How can we simply, randomly and brutally pull up certain plants in order to make room for other plants?  Who are we to determine that something like this delicious and precious wood sorrel shouldn’t exist in our soil? 

Ahhh, lovely sour-tasting wood sorrel growing in between the beets and kale!

Ahhh, lovely sour-tasting wood sorrel growing in between the beets and kale!

Each plant (or weed) growing in the garden soil contains beauty of some sort.  Some have medicinal value; others nutritional punch.  Some bloom with pretty wildflowers.  Others, like the quack grass, probably have some sort of value that I can’t fathom right now.  Perhaps their roots work up the soil, breaking up dense clods.  (Just a guess!)

Some years I’ve grumbled about the morals and ethics of weeding the entire summer while diligently pulling up the weeds.

Not any more!  Instead this is the new view:  in creating a painting you choose certain colors from your palette and refuse others.   In writing, you cull your words and edit to express just the right sentiment.  (Well, ideally we edit.  Sometimes we just create a garden of words, weeds and all.)  Creation generally demands we choose some things and reject others. 

Therefore, the garden is an act of cultivated creation and weeding simply enhances that which we choose to plant.  Hope that makes sense to the readers, who probably knew this without thinking philosophically about it at all.  In other words, the beautiful wood sorrel can be appreciated and admired and loved growing along the shed.  It is not allowed in the creation of the garden.  Unless we plan to add it to our tossed salads.  Then it can remain growing helter-skelter between the more “civilized” crops like peas and carrots.  The same goes for lambs-quarter.   It shall not be plucked!

The weeded garden!  (OK, I left that lambs-quarter in.  Dinner this week.)

The weeded garden! (OK, I left that lambs-quarter in. Dinner this week.)

Not only do we have vegetables growing in the garden, we also have three flowering plants.  These were gifts to us from a friend who owns a greenhouse.  They are looking over all the vegetables to make sure everything is growing properly.

Tenderly blooming

Tenderly blooming open

I haven’t posted hardly any flower photos in more than a week, so it’s time so get up close and personal with one today.  This variety is called Rudbeckia.  It is the blooming season, you know!

Blooming wide open

Blooming wide open

Sunset over the Keweenaw Bay on the 4th of July

Sunset over the Keweenaw Bay on the 4th of July

Before we even get to the subject of fireworks (human or ant) let’s enjoy a peaceful moment.  Look at that sunset in the photo above.  Isn’t it beautiful?  Calming?  Lovely?

We drove over to Baraga about 9:30 p.m. last night.  I had a yogurt strawberry ice cream in a waffle cone which dripped ice cream all over the hands while trying to take the following photo.  It’s a wonder there’s not smears of frozen strawberry yogurt all over the image.

Family after family, campfire after campfire, as folks line up along the bay to watch the fireworks

Family after family, campfire after campfire, as folks line up along the bay to watch the fireworks

Hundreds of people milled everywhere, waiting for the fireworks.  Along the Keweenaw Bay in every imaginable spot.  By the park.  Over behind the marina.  On Sand Point.  Half the community turned out to watch the firework display.

It didn’t start until 11 p.m.  We were yawning in the car, but our cameras were ready.  A family from Chassell (a town to the north of us) with relatives from Tennessee surrounded our car.  We were entertained.  Dozens and dozens of private pre-show fireworks boomed off everywhere.  We live on a Native American reservation, so fireworks are readily available.  Big ones.  At one point we sat surrounded by smoke and fireworks, waiting for the main attraction. 

Are you ready for the lovely firework photos?  Yes?

Well you’re not going to see any here.

You may see something that vaguely resembles a “light show in the sky” but it would be a stretch to call them “fireworks”.  My camera simply wouldn’t register anything other than a blur.  So let’s call the following images “art” instead. 

Here are some “art” shots.

Musical ntoes on the horizon

Musical notes on the horizon (quarter notes?)

Colored dots in the black sky

Modern art dots in the black sky

My personal favorite  :)

My personal favorite 🙂

Can anyone else see Tinker Bell?  or have I lost it?

Can anyone else see Tinker Bell? or have I lost it?

Oh, OK.  You’re wondering if there is anything half-way resembling “real” fireworks.  Not really.  But here’s a shot that almost captures the essence of the light show that entertained hundreds of us during the 4th of July celebration in Baraga last night:

Fireworks!

Fireworks!

And now it’s time to share about the Ant Fireworks.

This morning we were splitting up a truckload of firewood, as usual.  We are really roaring through that huge pile of wood with, maybe, only four truckloads left to split and haul and stack.  We decided to split some cedar kindling today.  Easy, right?  Cedar cuts like a  knife through butter.  It’s a breeze to split.

We split maybe a half dozen.  Then hauled another log onto the splitter…and…broke it open…and hundreds of ants burst out of that log.  Red ants.  Fire ants. Biting ants. 

You should be glad you don’t have any pictures of what happened next.  The ants started crawling up our jeans, in our shirts, under our sleeves.  We (well, mostly me) started jumping and swatting and trying to kill the fiercely biting red ants which were attempting to bite and sting and attach to our skin.

Between the noise of our yelps as the ants bit and the streaming ants scattering all over it looked like massive fireworks!  And yes, I had to take my jeans off in the driveway, hoping to high heaven that no one would choose this particular moment to come visit.  Off came the jeans!  Off came the shoes!  Off came the socks! 

And finally the Ant Fireworks stopped. 

I’m hoping never to personally experience ant fireworks of that nature again.  As for firework “art”…or maybe real firework photos!…we’ll try again next 4th of July.

Hope everyone enjoyed their holiday weekend.

You can't escape nature, not even in the city

You can't escape nature, not even in the city

I was tired of the swamp and the woods today and decided to drive north to Houghton and Hancock to run errands, buy organic food at the co-op and indulge at the coffee shop.  Today’s outdoor adventure would be a walkabout around the two cities.

For all you non-Yoopers (Yoopers are folks from the Upper Peninsula), Houghton houses about 7,000 residents and Hancock 4,323 as of the 2000 Census, at least according to Wikipedia.  You might not even want to call them cities.  You could call them large towns.  But for folks who live near the really small towns (or in the woods) we think these cities are really big

Downtown Houghton

Downtown Houghton

Driving around Houghton these days keeps one alert and focused.  If you haven’t visited recently, there’s new routes and roads and pathways to follow. The city is doing a streetscape project for the next several months, tearing up the main street and replacing it with brick pavers.  New sidewalks, street lights, and water/sewer pipes will grace the downtown. 

The above photo shows the initial construction which goes south from the bridge for a couple blocks.  I heard rumors they dug up old streetcar or trolley tracks beneath the pavement.  Isn’t it fascinating to think of the history which might be uncovered digging down through the layers of soil?  Years ago I spent a week on an archeology dig in the Ottawa National Forest.  It’s so interesting (well, and sometimes a tad bit boring) to sift through the dirt, finding recent and prehistoric treasures.  Seems like we found a chipped prehistoric stone tool on that dig, if my memory is even slightly accurate.

Slant of sun through an alley

Slant of sun through an alley

After wandering around Houghton, I attempted to follow the directions to cross the bridge to Hancock.  Mission:  a success!  It really wasn’t hard, once you figured out where to go.  I parked the car at a great little bookstore, Northwind Books, and started the walkabout through this city.  Wanted to wander through a neighborhood and see what interesting photo opportunities presented themselves.  (Believe me, lots presented themselves.  Fifty photos were uploaded, just to prove it.)

Cool picket fence

Cool picket fence

It was really hard to decide whether to post the picket fence photo or the gate photo.  Or the step photo.  Or the bench photo.  Or the Yooper snow scoop photo (every backyard had one to help them shovel out the 250 inches of snow each year).  Or the raven sitting on the phone wire.  Or how about the guardrail with this most magnificent plant/weed growing upward near it?  I’ll tell you, deciding which photos to post is a real challenge.

Fire escape at the old Hancock school

Fire escape at the old Hancock school

For some reason, this fire escape really looked interesting.  Doesn’t it just look like you can keep walking up into the sky from it? 

After the walkabout, one more stop beckoned.  Time to go to the Keweenaw Co-op.  It’s a regular stop.  Best place in town to buy natural food, organic produce and all sorts of cool eclectic healthy products.

They feature panels of hand-painted murals on the side of the building.  For your viewing pleasure, here’s one:

Art on the co-op wall

Art on the co-op wall

I wish you all could have enjoyed the luscious piece of melt-in-your-mouth dark chocolate and the cool berry ice tea.  Very delicious.

A delightful walkabout in the cities!

The bud creature waves at you

The bud creature waves at you

It’s been 127 days of this outdoor commitment.  And today was HARD.  I was enjoying spending the time indoors writing a short story (OK, it was a weird short story, but I was writing it, all right?) and there was so many other intriguing things to do.  For one, read.  For another, mess around on the computer.

Outside it was raining and dismal and cold.  I did NOT, I repeat, did NOT want to go outdoors.  The commitment aspect reared its ugly head and defied me.  But, I went.  Opened the door, walked outside…and really enjoyed a half hour wandering following a small stream through a ravine. 

The slight headache dissolved, the mourning doves cooed, the grouse beat their wings rhythmically and the rain drizzled.  I repeat, for the hundredth time, do not believe your mind.  Go outside anyway.  You’ll enjoy it after the first ten minutes or so.

Dried wildflower impressionism

Dried wildflower impressionism

How do you like the art photos here?  First the strange little budding creature!  I gasped when I saw him, his arms outstretched, speaking some sort of spring-language we can barely understand.  Then the dried wildflowers tried to imitate Monet.  I think they succeeded.  What do you think? 

I think it’s amazing what you find when you go outside.  Every single day it’s a surprise.  Thank goodness for that!

Bright green fern in the ravine

Bright green fern in the ravine

The full moon played coy last night.  What a tease!  Now you see her, now you don’t.  It’s a heart-breaking story with a good ending.  Here’s what happened.

As you regular readers know, I readied to sit outside with the Broken Snowshoe Moon last night.  (That’s the Annishnabe name for the April moon.) The moon and I had some business to discuss.  You know she’s magic.  I know she’s magic.  There’s certain areas in my life (and the life of the planet) that need some magic.  You should discuss this with the full moon and see if she might lend a helping hand.

At 9 p.m. sharp I’m staring out the bathroom window where the night before Madam Moon shined her almost-full face down from the heavens.  OK, Madam Moon, where are you?  No sighting.  The dusk deepened all around, but our Lady refused to show her full white face. 

What to do?  I trudged outside and quizzically surveyed the sky.  Yep, there’s some random twinkling stars.  Yep, darkness descends.  Yep, those night birds chirp their goodnight songs.  Where oh where are you, O Moon?

Suddenly, through the trees.  What is that?  A great orange globe seems to penetrate through the woods.  YES!  I leaped inside, donned Grandma’s old snowmobile suit from the early 1970’s, and sprinted outside toward the car.  Shouted to my husband in the garage something probably inaudible like “The moon!  The moon!  I’m going to chase the moon!” and sped down the road through the mud and darkness, headed for the bay.

The 90 year old neighbor down the road insisted several months ago, “You must take a picture of the full moon over the bay.”  So here I am, trying to figure out where to park, trying to determine where to access the bay without trespassing wantonly on private properly, trying to chase down that Mother Moon rising full and orange and huge over the calm waters.

I finally found an access, not telling you where, running helter-skelter in the dark, trying not to fall with camera in hand.  The moon lit the surroundings enough to provide comfort while jogging in the blackness.  Arrived at the bay, breathless, prepared to greet the Moon and…and…I am not kidding…there is NO moon.

WHAT?  How could this be?  How could the moon shine so bright and orange and beautiful one minute, and the next minute be hijacked?  Who stole the moon?  I covered twenty possible scenarios in my mind in the next five minutes, standing dumb-founded.  (Well, it was probably one minute, before I began running wildly back up to the road and searching for another access.)

I had joined a group on another site, gaia.com, yesterday called “Now I can See the Moon”.  All I could think was…Now I can’t see the moon!  What an odd thing.  You join a group in the morning which advocates seeing the moon, and now the darn thing has packed up and left the country.  Without a cloud in the sky.  How could this happen?

At the second access, I stopped still in my panting tracks and beheld…the most beautiful sight in the universe.  That fat orange magnificent pregnant jubilant moon crested oh so slowly above the horizon, lifting herself onto our visible skies like a lady giving birth to a light we’ve rarely seen on the planet.

(Later, Barry helped figure it out.  We’re higher up on the road so the moon was visible rising here first.  Down at the bay it took a tiny bit longer.  Thank goodness that mystery was solved…)

I snapped photos of her magnificence but, alas, I don’t know how to slow the shutter speed and all those photographic adjustments to capture the way she appeared on the horizon with her shadow shimmering on the waters of the bay.

So this is the view the camera registered, with a flash illuminating the bush overlooking the lake.  The second orange ball is the shadow of our moon on the lake.

The "Broken Snowshoe" April full moon

The "Broken Snowshoe" April full moon

I’m heading back down there tonight to spend some more quality time with the moon.  Hope you all enjoy your time with her this month!

Shells in bright green seaweed

Shells in bright green seaweed

Today I walked along the beach, alone.  Thinking about beauty and…well…things we determine are not quite so beautiful.  How every place and every person contains parts which don’t photograph as well. 

Sometimes, when we first visit a place, we fall in love with all the beauty.  Our eye follows loveliness; we admire this and that.  We view the palm trees and sigh at the way they sway in the wind.  Our heart thrills to the surf, to the low and high tides and white beaches and arching dolphins.  Beauty surrounds us.  It’s where our eyes so often follow, the thrill of the gorgeous.

Today the shores of Fort Myers Beach lie strewn with seaweed.  Brownish-greenish seaweed everywhere.  It’s not…how should I say this?…pretty.  My mom and I have a theory (only a theory, mind you) that a rougher sea might blow the seaweed out into the depths.  In the meantime, it lies thick, like an eyesore, blemishing the white shore.

Thick layers of seaweed wash in against the shore

Thick layers of seaweed wash in against the shore

I have another theory that beauty exists in most everything, although sometimes it’s hidden.  You have to search deeper to see the patterns and glow and light which becomes obscured.  A feather resting in the midst of brown mud-like seaweed perhaps reminds us of that possibility.  To look a little more intently for the hidden patterns of beauty, rather than immediately dismiss our minds labeling things as “ugly”.

Feather in seaweed

Feather in seaweed

Several years ago my mom introduced me to a friend here in the condo.  Her name was Kay Fisher Lewicky.  She was in her 80’s then.  She grew up in Austria before World War II, marrying a half-Jewish fellow.  Her family worried for their safety and urged them to move to Paris.  Still, they were sent to the camps.

She said the prostitutes imprisoned in the camp saved her.  She was young then, and the “ladies of the night” convinced the guards not to take her away, and harbored her among them.  Both she and her husband escaped (don’t ask me how) and moved to New York City.  She later became the personal massage therapist for Neil Sedaka and in later years, when he came to this area to sing, a limousine brought her to his shows.

She created and painted shells from the beach, making art and beauty from the leftover chips of shells.  From the “ugly” cracked pieces, she saw beauty and made little creatures which sometimes won awards in local craft shows.

Kay's shell creations

Kay's shell creations

Some folks might deem the following creature “less than beautiful” but look at that symmetry of legs and shell and strong pincers on that crab!  A mother and her son, wading out a bit further than the seaweed, showed me the dead crab in their pink bucket.  “The seaweed killed it,” the eight-year old boy told me solemnly.  I don’t know if that’s true, but I asked him if we might photograph the crab.  He agreed, and we crouched on the sand for the dead crab’s obituary photo. 

Ode to the crab which died recently

Ode to the crab which died recently

Finally, there’s certain shells prized around here for their round shape and five petal-like pores.  Most folks consider them beautiful.  I looked for one this week along the beach, but only broken chips remained.  Once, several years back, hundreds of live ones blew in along the Gulf.  The live ones aren’t so beautiful, or so people will say.  They’re gray and covered with a velvety skin of movable spines.  After they die, the shell remains and bleaches white.  Beachcombers collect them, prize them, carefully protect them against breaking.  Here’s one my folks have here in the condo:

Lucky beautiful sand dollar...yes?

Lucky beautiful sand dollar...yes?

I think an admirable goal is to allow our gaze to expand until we can view beauty in mud, in thickets, in broken shells, in brown seaweed, in broken lives.  Let’s keep trying, shall we?

Tree Spirit

Tree Spirit

She peers out of the wood grain, her eyes green like mid-summer leaves.  Her hair of bark and lichen also tints green.  Bark accents her chin and we’re captured by her beauty, by the gaze of the Tree Spirit.  She beckons us closer, closer, until we’re mesmerized into remembering all the gifts shared by our tree brothers and sisters.

Move away a little bit and you’ll see her entire essence, crafted so beautifully by local artist, Karen Milszeski:

Our Lady of the Forest

Our Lady of the Forest

We viewed some of Karen’s art today at our monthly Artist’s Way meeting.  Four of us meet faithfully every month (well, mostly faithfully, barring snowstorms and other diversions) to explore any possible inner blocks to our creativity and expression. 

Julia Cameron, author of the Artist’s Way book, believes we’re all artists.  We all have creative potential to express, to make art, to write, to paint, to draw, to sculpt…whatever!  Sometimes, in our living, our inner artist gets stifled, blocked or derailed.  The exercises in this book aim to awaken us to our full potential.  Today we discussed Chapter 8: Recovering a Sense of Strength.

Here’s another beauty by Karen created from first-cut wood.  Our hostess Catherine propped her up against the sauna for her photo shoot:

Notice the lovely cardinal she wears atop her head

Notice the lovely cardinal she wears atop her head

I am always drawn to the art forms which can be crafted out of nature.  They are some of the most lovely.  Simple ingredients like wood, sticks, rocks, bark, berries and other objects merge together to spark our imagination, to ignite the fire of our soul, to create awe and beauty.

And look at our Cardinal Queen’s expression close up:

What is she thinking?

What is she thinking?

After returning home from our delightful and meaningful meeting up in the hills of Herman, I still needed to spend more time outdoors.  The tractor motor hummed in the yard.  Something was afoot;  something looked like work. 

Sure enough.  Barry was ready to move his 24 foot 1976 Sea Ray boat from behind the garage to the front of the garage.  The logic behind that decision?  When it melts in the spring, the area behind the garage becomes soupy and wet.  Time to get the boat on more solid ground.

The boat’s a fixer-upper.  My husband loves fixer-upper projects.  (I might even hazard calling him an artist in design and implementation.) Since finishing the restoration of his 1949 Studebaker truck, he’s started in on this boat.  He’s planning on getting it in Lake Superior this summer in perfect seafaring condition.  Some of my outdoor adventures this summer will be aboard this craft.  Do you believe that?

Anyway, here’s the big move, captured digitally for your viewing pleasure:

Boat moving operation

Boat moving operation

My job:  making sure he didn’t hit the garage with the boat.  Hey, I could handle that today!  An easy outdoor assignment.   🙂

Art, nature, or something else?

Art, nature, or something else?

Day 66 of opening the door & going outside everyday…when suddenly it occurs to ask:  What is “nature” anyway?

You may already have some absolute answers.  You may gesture towards everything non-human such as trees, bushes, snow, wind, deer, ladybugs, feathers, plants and sunlight.  “There,” you say, spreading your arms out wide, “that is nature!”  End of story?

Perhaps.  Yet I’ve noticed that the edges get mighty blurry.  The first example that popped into my thoughts concerned the cup of tea sitting before the computer.  The tea grew on a plant somewhere.  Was that tea plant “nature”?  Or, because it was farmed and cultivated, should it be considered something apart from nature?  The ceramic cup?  Is pottery part of nature, or a human invention? 

Let’s say we’re walking together in the woods and discover a wooden ladder resting upon a tree.  Nature?  Is it part of nature, or alien to it?  Could it be something in-between?  Nature AND human?

If a piece of our human hair falls to the soil, is it now nature or is it trash?  If we write a love letter to the earth and bury it beneath a stone, what are the wishes of our heart?  Rubbish or art?  Gift?  Now a part of nature?

Do you separate the park benches from the trees and snow?  Are the benches artificial and everything else natural?

Do you separate the park benches from trees and snow? Are the benches artificial and everything else natural?

We humans so often want to categorize, to label.  We want to deftly and assuredly define boundaries.  Wikipedia discusses this topic attempting to scientifically analyze it.  Example:  Manufactured objects and human interaction generally are not considered part of nature unless qualified in ways such as “human nature” or “the whole of nature”.

Also this summary:  This more traditional concept of natural things which can still be found today implies a distinction between the natural and the artificial, with the latter being understood as that which has been brought into being by a human consciousness or a human mind.

Hmmm.  OK.  So we humans are not considered part of nature?  Double Hmmm.  Are we separating ourselves from the “natural” world as if we’re somehow different, special, privileged, better, worse?  This type of thinking might help quantify or qualify some concepts, but I believe it also constructs some false barriers between ourselves and the natural world.

A seashell?  The home of a scallop?  Natural.  A wigwam in the woods?  Artificial.  Even though it’s made of bent willow, birch bark, branches, bear skin, cedar, natural ties?  A green natural sustainable home in the woods? 

What about our compost?  The scraps we feed to the deer?  What about art we create out of all natural earth components?  Is a carrot in the garden artificial if we’ve bought seeds in town?  What about a sleigh-ride behind a horse?  Nature or human or some combination in between?  An apple seed planted by Johnny Appleseed…is the tree part of nature or separate from it?

I’ve posted this photo before, but really must post it again for your consideration:

Is this nature?  And at what point did it become nature?

Is this nature? And at what point did it become nature?

I’m sorry (well, not really sorry) to admit that the distinctions between “nature” and “human” are very blurry and indistinct to me.  Those potted plants in the corner seem both very natural and cultivated.  Even this computer links back to elements, soil, water, and sunlight. 

What might happen if we cease to draw such a hard distinction between what is nature and what is not?  Would our appreciation for it deepen or lessen?  What if we started seeing nature in everything we view?  Might we not want to honor it even more?

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April 2017
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