Friday, March 28, 2008

Let Loose

“When it is my time to create, and I fear that what I have to say will be worth nothing to anyone, I think of these artists who have moved me so deeply….they have, through the years, held me up, sustained me, moved me forward, nourished me, healed me. And this, not because they attempted to fire up the spirit of anyone else, but because they dared let loose their own."
--Jan Phillips, Marry Your Muse

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Barred Owl Neighbor

I’m not altogether sure what thrills me so about seeing owls. Maybe it’s that they are so quiet and secretive. Or maybe it’s that each encounter is so unexpected. This particular Barred owl is my neighbor --well, in the neighborhood, anyway. He flew across my path last week as I was driving home at dusk, moving across the road from one wooded area to another. Last evening I encountered him again during the same time of day, same area, perched on a wire. (But of course it was the same owl.)
As I passed, he tipped his head down, in that funny owlish way, having spotted movement, or more probably, after hearing movement in the grassy area below him. His evening hunt had begun.

Egg laying for the Barred owl occurs in early March and incubation lasts four weeks. Young are soon to hatch, so the possibility of seeing them increases. Owls can sometimes be seen hunting in daylight hours while they are feeding young. In fact, my very first encounter with a Barred owl occurred during nesting season. As I paused on a walk, I looked up and there she was, still, quiet, beautiful, perched on a low tree branch in mid-afternoon, giving me a wonderful look at those amazing, expressive eyes.

Monday, March 24, 2008

American Kestrel

While driving on a country road in Cheatham County, west of Nashville, TN, I spotted a kestrel perched on a post at eye level as I passed. Completely surrounded by fields and not another soul in sight, I quickly made a U turn and headed back, pulling off onto a barely-there shoulder of mud and grass. To my delight a second kestrel joined the first and after a brief aerial display, the pair landed on a nearby wire and copulated.
Just as I reached for my camera, I noticed that an older gentleman in a truck had pulled off the road in front of me and was backing up. As I mumbled to myself, “okay, what is he doing?”, he opened his door, placed one foot on the ground and shouted back over his shoulder, “you got trouble?” After a couple of repetitions of, “no, I’m just watching the birds,” he understood and went on his way. And as he did, I watched my beautiful kestrels fly over the rise in the field and disappear from view, my camera still untouched on the seat beside me. --Oh, me. You've gotta' just love the country.

The American Kestrel is a falcon, about the size of a jay, with a rufous back and tail. Kestrels are known for their ability to hover in mid-air on rapidly beating wings while hunting prey, a feat that is spectacular to witness. Breeding season has begun. Eggs are laid in nesting cavities from late March to mid-April and both sexes participate in incubation.

Saturday, March 22, 2008

The Moment

Stay present with the moment. Feel it, sense it, become it. Embrace it fully aware. In joy and in pain, this aliveness will never fail you. It will strengthen and heal.

Friday, March 21, 2008

Life's Journey

“Many of us venture out into nature looking for signs of life with our cameras. We’re moved by something and we shoot, unaware that there’s more to the image than meets the eye, that it contains, perhaps, an answer to a question, a clue for our life’s journey.” --Jan Phillips, God is at Eye LevelI think about this intimate look at a crabapple blossom, how exquisitely delicate it is and, yet, how very, very tough; how brief its small life, yet, how everlasting its influence on the tree and other life forms that visit the tree. Is this not the same for all of life?

We sometimes make art, write, photograph, in order to hold time still, to capture a single moment of what we feel in our hearts so that we can revisit it over and over again, so that we can always remember.
These images were taken on day 6, following an entire day of fierce winds, a tornado watch and pelting rain. And still the blossom is beautiful.

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Your Best Friend

Of writing, Natalie Goldberg says, “…it is your friend. It will never desert you, though you may desert it many times. The writing process is a constant source of life and vitality…. it offers me a chance to touch my life which always softens me and allows me to feel connected with myself again.”

I sometimes suggest writing as a way of sorting things out, gaining insights and restoring calm. Recently, a young woman brought me a page she had written. She had written it in a moment of feeling overwhelmed. She handed the page to me with embarrassment, saying, “this isn’t my best work,” and yet, I think it may have been just that, her best work. It was spontaneous, pure, open. In less than a page of words, she had expressed her fears, corrected the false assumptions that fueled them and restored calm. And that is beautiful. That is your best friend speaking to you from within.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Whooping Crane Migration

The first whooping crane returned to the Necedah National Wildlife Refuge in Wisconsin yesterday. This whooping crane happened to be the first chick hatched in the captive-reared population in 2001 and was part of the first class of whooping cranes taught to migrate along the eastern flyway from Wisconsin to Florida by Operation Migration . The estimated 76 whooping cranes that currently migrate in the eastern flyway are on the move now. They have been sighted in KY, TN and IN enroute from their wintering grounds in Florida to nesting grounds in Wisconsin. All of these whooping cranes were costume reared to keep them wild and were taught to migrate following Operation Migration's ultralight aircraft. At last report, March 9, the Aransas National Wildlife Refuge population of 266 whooping cranes had not yet begun migration. This original population, now at its highest number since the early 1940's, migrates from wintering grounds on the Texas coast to nesting grounds in the Wood Buffalo Reserve, Northwest Territories of Canada.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Creative Possibilities

I had no idea I would get so caught up in this project, the changes, the variations in light, the softness captured by the macro feature of the camera (Canon Rebel Xi). It's been a study of light and of seeing--endless possibilities, endless discoveries, as if painting without a brush.
Lots of irregular shapes and leafing out in day three images.

Monday, March 17, 2008

A Blossom's Progression

In nature, as in our lives, everything changes, sometimes rapidly, sometimes with slow deliberation. I sometimes look back and see events as they unfolded and realize they happened in perfect order, everything with its time and purpose. Now when I feel uncertain or disappointed, I am comforted by this Unknown. Everything changes in unexpected ways. It’s the water moving the pigment, the clouds changing the light, rain nourishing the tree, the progression of a blossom, a movement as elusive as the wind.
Crabapple blossom images from day two.

Sunday, March 16, 2008

Drippy Crabapple Blossoms

I so enjoyed this yesterday. In only a few hours, everything had changed. Gone were the airy petals of the morning. The storm left the blossoms drippy with rain. A March wind remained, shifting the clouds, changing the light, making the limbs sway and blossoms shiver. I was glad I took the time to visit. I would have seen the tree, but missed these amazing blossoms.

Saturday, March 15, 2008

Crabapple Blooms and Satisfaction

"No artist is ever pleased. There is no satisfaction whatever at any time. There is only a queer, divine satisfaction, a blessed unrest that keeps us marching and makes us more alive..."
--Martha Graham Shimmering sunlight on damp petals, the energy of a thunderstorm--I enjoyed both this morning. The crabapple in the front yard opened its blossoms this week so I payed it a visit. I wanted to know it better and also see what my camera could do. There is softness in the photos, but not the clarity or detail I want. And so I'll play with it again when the rain is finished. It's funny how that works. There is no plan, just a series of interactions. And when you're finished, you know more than you did before. But you also know there is more, that you have not quite reached what is possible. This sort of dissatisfaction is enjoyable. It's intimate, energetic and alive.

Friday, March 14, 2008


“Listening to the siren song of more, we are deaf to the still small voice waiting in our soul to whisper, “You’re enough.” -- Julia Cameron, The Artist’s Way

Wednesday, March 12, 2008


"I've always felt one starts a painting and it's finished by a higher power; the inspiration, the freedom, the flow, even the color can be a surprise."--Ceacy Henderson Hailey

When we let go of our fears and focus entirely in the moment, there is a flow that happens, that connects us to something beyond what we know. We lose our sense of separateness and become one with our creating. It is a dance of sorts, wholly gratifying and mysterious, one that drives us to create, over and over again.

Monday, March 10, 2008

Earth Intimacy

Wildflowers are shy and illusive. They reach up from fallen leaves in demur silence. It would be easy to overlook them. But to stumble upon their subtle beauty, while the nights are still cold and the tree limbs bare, to stop and gaze upon silken petals and inhale the rich Earth smells that surround them, this is to feel Earth's breath upon your face.
A budding Cutleaf Toothwort, not yet ready to open its pedals.

Sunday, March 9, 2008


Delicate, pale, delicious
wildflower blooms and whispers
come gently, come closer
Lie down beside me

on my damp bed Earth
and behold her blush

Vickie Henderson, 2008
I would not know the name of this Slender Toothwort without the help of my camera and my good friends Jack and Dot Carman. It is a treat to know people who enjoy nature as I do. Jack's book, Wildflowers of Tennessee, is my favorite among wildflower references. Focused on flowers of Tennessee, it is organized by plant families and includes excellent photos to aid identification. Because Tennessee's diverse terrain and geology produce such an abundance of flora, the species described in this book cover the eastern United States, the Central and Southern Appalachians, as well as, the Ohio, Tennessee and mid-Mississippi river valleys.
--A first-choice resource for native plants.

Saturday, March 8, 2008

Expectant Snow and Bird Attitudes

Snow is falling in Tennessee, more of spring’s titillation. A good day for writing, reading, painting and maybe, even walking. My friends in Canada are expecting twenty inches. With mountain ranges surrounding us, we wait and see in the Tennessee valley, never quite sure what to expect. A wren was singing as I snapped this photo, belting out his song as we shivered in blowing snowflakes. And before first light, an Eastern Towhee trilled his notes. A day ago, he was singing in the rain, in the drippy, upper most branches of a bare tree. Bird attitudes—attitudes to live by.

Friday, March 7, 2008

A Walk in Nature

"... in the distant woods or fields, in unpretending sprout-lands or pastures tracked by rabbits, even in a bleak and, to most, cheerless day….I thus dispose of the superfluous and see things as they are, grand and beautiful. –Thoreau’s Journal, January 7, 1857
A walk in nature, in a place new and unfamiliar or a familiar path, ever fresh with seasonal stirrings, enlivens both body and spirit. I often refer to walks as hikes, yet my experience more closely resembles wanderings. Movement becomes secondary to the sensory pleasures unfolding. Mundane worries recede and every step, every breath becomes vibrant with natural riches. Soon, separateness also fades, and in its place, a sense of oneness, an envelopment that renews, deepens and awakens, and without effort, touches infinite tranquility.

Thursday, March 6, 2008


A harbinger “makes known the approach of another [or] heralds”, according Random House. I’ve heard this expression for years, tagged onto countless species of spring blooms and songbirds, among them the crocus and the bluebird. But during my hike in Edgar Evans State Park (see March 2 post), I stumbled upon the true Harbinger-of-Spring (Erigenia bulbosa), a flower that actually wears this name, an early blooming member of the parsley family, also known as “salt and pepper”. Among decaying leaves, while the forest hardwoods are still barren of bud and leaf, these delicate clusters of white brighten the drab landscape and whisper their promise of warmer days to come.

Wednesday, March 5, 2008

Yellow Bellied Sapsucker

Sit still in nature, in just one spot, and not only will your senses be renewed, she will come to visit you. And so it was, while lazily enjoying bluebirds and unseasonably warm sunshine, first the distinctive “cheerrrr”, then a Yellow Bellied Sapsucker appeared. A rare nesting species in the Unicoi Mountains of east Tennessee, its southern most range, the sapsucker winters in the state from September through May.
As his undignified name implies, the sapsucker feeds primarily on tree sap, a drilling achievement that has entertained scientists for years, since, despite much effort, they’ve been unable to duplicate this free flowing release of sap. Biologists now believe there may be an anti-coagulant in the sapsucker’s saliva that is the secret to its ability to keep tree sap from clogging. Representing one of nature’s hard-working neighborly sorts among birds, the trail of sap the sapsucker leaves behind benefits other birds and animals who feed on the sap and the insects attracted to it.

This White-breasted nuthatch, also feeding nearby, is one species that benefits from the sapsucker's efforts.
What a different world this would be if the human species shared resources so readily.

Tuesday, March 4, 2008

The Gentle Eastern Bluebird

"As might be expected of creatures so heavenly in color, the disposition of bluebirds is particularly angelic. Gentleness and amiability are expressed in their soft musical voice. Tru-al-ly, tru-al-ly, they sweetly assert when we can scarcely believe that spring is here; tru-wee, tur-wee they softly call in autumn when they go roaming through the countryside in flocks of azure." - Neltje Blanchan, Birds Worth Knowing, 1917 I first encountered the Eastern Bluebird in 1992 when I ventured into farm living in east TN for a period of time. Bluebird boxes were already in place and the resident bluebirds introduced me to their gentle nature and song while I worked in the garden, enjoyed early morning walks and watched nesting activity while sipping coffee on the porch.

As I planted the garden, they collected on the wire overhead and sang. By chance, I discovered that if I uncovered a grub and tossed it a short distance away, a bluebird would quickly drop down to fetch it. Once while watering the garden during the dry days of summer, I delighted to watch two chattering bluebirds repeatedly fly through the sprinkler’s arched spray, every bit as playful as laughing children.

And in the fall, after three bluebird families had raised all their young, I witnessed dozens of bluebirds gathering on tree limbs and along fence wires in the early morning. Flying just ahead of us, from post to post in leap-frog fashion, bluebirds were as much a part of morning walks as the Australian shepherds that eagerly led my way.

Monday, March 3, 2008

The Eastern Bluebird's Spring Melody

The gentle warbling notes of the Eastern Bluebird are among favorite spring melodies. Permanent residents of Tennessee, they seldom leave the state but roam the open country side during the winter months in small flocks searching for seeds and berries. This is the time of year when territorial songs begin and pairs of bluebirds can be seen visiting potential nest sites located in abandoned woodpecker cavities or man-made nest boxes. It is common for bluebirds to have two clutches of young, sometimes three. When late winter weather is mild, pairs will lay their first eggs in March.
Bluebirds hunt for insects from a perch and can be seen dropping to the ground to capture prey. They are quick, however, remaining on the ground for only an instant. The above photo was captured during one lift-off.

Sunday, March 2, 2008

Spring's Waking Moments

The forest floor is coming to life on Tennesee’s Cumberland Plateau in Edgar Evans State Park and Wildlife Management area. At first glance the terrain speaks in browns and grays. But these neutrals set a perfect stage for the brilliant green mosses and ferns displayed beneath bare trees.
And among the leaves, a tiny flower garden blooms, as delicate and elusive as the Eastern bluebird songs drifting overhead.
Spring doesn't officially arrive on our calendar for three more weeks, but the natural world is brimming with spring's renewal.
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For the Love of It...

...the sage sees heaven reflected in Nature as in a mirror, and he pursues this Art, not for the sake of gold or silver, but for the love of the knowledge which it reveals.
Sendivogius (1750)

Your Uncapped Creativity...

Your Uncapped Creativity...
"There is a vitality, a life force, an energy, a quickening that is translated through you into action; and because there is only one of you in all time, this expression is unique. If you block it, it will never exist through any other medium and it will be lost. The world will not have it. You must keep that channel open. It is not for you to determine how good it is, nor how valuable. Nor how it compares with other expressions. It is for you to keep it yours, clearly and directly." ----the great dancer, Martha Graham