From Where the Sidewalk Ends


Somehow, February got away from me. And then March. The days just slipped away through a hole in the floor, the grate, the ground, the sidewalk and ultimately, my soul. So, I search for them along the loop I walk most mornings that harbors mature oaks, maples and evergreens that have been around since this former army fort was established in the early 1900s. And some trees have been here long before that.

The other day, I noticed that a tree company had shown up and marked many long-standing sentries with ominous red x’s spray-painted on their trunks, or orange tape throttling their worn bark. There were too many to ignore, and some choices were downright puzzling. Sure, there were those that were mostly dead, or lopsided. But quite a few looked perfectly fine.

One morning before I left on a long trip, my walking partner and I marched around the loop saying a quiet goodbye and blessing to each of the doomed ones. The rumblings of the chainsaw and shrieks from a chipper could already be heard at the other end of the long parade, seemingly lined up like good soldiers waiting to be struck down by an enemy who claimed friendly fire, as if fire was ever friendly for a tree.

By the time I returned in mid-March, the sadly singled out were all gone, and in their places stood mounds of chips, where their very roots had been sought and ground out of existence. The innocent smell of freshly cut wood wafted in the breeze.

I still feel their ghosts as I walk, searching the sidewalks for a glimpse of the bottomless holes with their shimmering deceptions of days that are no longer there.

As Above

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While I really enjoy the month-long photo prompts that are prolifically offered on Instagram throughout the year, sometimes you just have to go maverick and wander off on your own. All the storms and fast-moving weather fronts during the past two months in my neck of the woods have led to plenty of drama in the skies, so I’ve found my camera tilting upward daily (when I’m not cowering in a first-floor hallway while the tornado sirens wail nearby).

After the first two days of sky photos in September, I said what the heck, why not a month of skies, unfiltered, shown just as they are, or as much as my limited but convenient iPhone camera can capture. I wasn’t sure whether thirty days of sky shots was sustainable, but I found ways to incorporate them as reflections on water (or car hood), and as metaphors for a mood to match the front-page antics of the country I live in.

Indeed, with all the drama manifested this month in both sky and earth, I can’t help but think that the ancient adage “As above, so below” is still a very relevant one.

What the Water Says

Contented chuckling from the creek at Turkey Run State Park.
Contented chuckling from the creek at Turkey Run State Park.

More painting than writing is happening these days, as you can see over at Paints in the Parks. However, I’ve been enjoying some poetry hikes in a local state park as part of our Indiana Poet Laureate’s Arts in the Parks grant. Poet in residence for the summer at Fort Harrison State Park, Shari Wagner has led us along poetic paths to history and nature, providing thoughtful prompts along the way. Last week, her prompt to write in an element’s voice inspired me to start a new poem by a creek in the woods. Though destructive at times, water has always had a calming effect on me, whether in the bath, near an ocean or beside a babbling brook.

What The Water Says: Fort Harrison Poetry Hike

Born babbling
from embattled
ground I could
not stop myself
from gleeful giggling
with the faster flow,
seeking a rush in
rapids, shouting
down the stone-
silent elders who
tried to hold
me back, before
cascading full of
laughter into a
reckless roaring
tide of carnival
tunes and siren’s
sea songs.

Please check out Shari’s website called Through the Sycamores featuring her workshops and wonderful poetry as well as submissions from poets all over Indiana.

Writing for Art

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My tradition the last few years has been to choose a “word” for the year, starting in January. My word for 2015 was “Write,” and while I confess that I did write a fair bit, my greatest efforts weren’t in the form I’d imagined last year. Instead of the usual creative outlets like journal entries, poetry or even that book I keep promising to self-publish, I spent a huge chunk of my time in the throes of the hardest writing of my life — along with the blinking cursor of an online grant application that I filled out last fall.

As a grizzled veteran of numerous English research papers and an agonizingly procrastinated Master’s thesis, this is no small claim. The precise language and focused nuances required in proposing my project and asking for funding threw me into a strange new world, since I struggled to accurately portray a vision that would benefit the public as well as my own personal pursuits. You see, this particular grant focuses on creating art outside in state parks, and in my case, that art will be visual rather than verbal.

That’s right, my battles with the written page have been transferred to the terrors of a blank canvas, all in the name of celebrating art in nature. And I will gladly take on that challenge if I can convert even one person to the joys of spending artistic time outdoors, whether it’s to write a poem, compose a song, dance a jig, or set up an easel to paint.

Plus, I’ll be able to travel to some of the most beautiful natural settings that Indiana has to offer with a trusty assistant (my husband), and invite the great outdoors to be my personal work space. In the weeks to come, you’ll see a new WordPress blog called Paints in the Parks detailing my journey as I paint scenic landscapes in six state parks while I research my painting subjects and interact with the park visitors who stop by my easel. I hope you’ll join me on this artistic ride, either by blog or in person.

I believe that in our modern society, we spend too much time cooped up in homes or offices that can become self-made prison cells, preoccupied with the flickering screens of fake connections and false avatars, while a sentient world lies just outside our doors, at the bus stop, on the bike trails, in the parks, and under the shade trees in our backyards; all waiting to be celebrated through ART — my word for 2016.

Careful What You Ask

Day 27: 2015 Taught Me . . .
Day 27: 2015 Taught Me . . .

2015 taught me that in order to find what I want, I have to ask. And the asking can be very hard when I’m afraid I’ll get it.

I’ve decided to participate in Susannah Conway’s December Reflections  photo prompts again this year. During this hectic and stressful season, won’t you join me in mindful reflection from life’s photographic window seats and contemplative comments that provide refuge from the madness.

Confirmation

Day 22: Solstice Sunset
Day 22: Solstice Sunset

Our celebrations of song and feasting last night must have worked because the sun finally came back today.

I’ve decided to participate in Susannah Conway’s December Reflections  photo prompts again this year. During this hectic and stressful season, won’t you join me in mindful reflection from life’s photographic window seats and contemplative comments that provide refuge from the madness.

When the Fog Lifts

Day 19: I Said Goodbye To . . .
Day 19: I Said Goodbye To . . .

This year I said goodbye to some lingering roles that had run their course: the dutiful daughter, perfect mother and overcompensating wife. This year the fog lifted from my eyes, and rays of my own turth blinded me with potential.

I’ve decided to participate in Susannah Conway’s December Reflections  photo prompts again this year. During this hectic and stressful season, won’t you join me in mindful reflection from life’s photographic window seats and contemplative comments that provide refuge from the madness.

Hello

Day 16: I Said Hello To . . .
Day 16: I Said Hello To . . .

I said hello to a quieter existence this year, more introspective, going out (in nature) rather than outgoing. While there, I paused to listen and found the patience to wait for an answer.

I’ve decided to participate in Susannah Conway’s December Reflections  photo prompts again this year. During this hectic and stressful season, won’t you join me in mindful reflection from life’s photographic window seats and contemplative comments that provide refuge from the madness.

The Ultimate Om

Day 15: Soundtrack of 2015
Day 15: Soundtrack of 2015

I heard my 2015 soundtrack during an early morning walking meditation when our retreat leader played Jonathan Goldman’s “Ultimate Om” on a powerful boom box in the middle of a magic garden. I watched the sun come up to the sound of monk hum, whale sigh and universal lullaby as dew sparkled on the grass. I was home.

I’ve decided to participate in Susannah Conway’s December Reflections  photo prompts again this year. During this hectic and stressful season, won’t you join me in mindful reflection from life’s photographic window seats and contemplative comments that provide refuge from the madness.

Granting My Wish

Day 12: Best Decision of 2015
Day 12: Best Decision of 2015

My decision to apply for an arts grant after a friend’s encouragement turned out to be the best decision this year. I found out yesterday that I got the grant! Looking forward to plein air adventures in state parks for 2016.

I’ve decided to participate in Susannah Conway’s December Reflections  photo prompts again this year. During this hectic and stressful season, won’t you join me in mindful reflection from life’s photographic window seats and contemplative comments that provide refuge from the madness.