Living in Climate Change: The Art

Background vector created by freepik – www.freepik.com

We are living in an unprecedented time for the human community. Everyday we receive more dire news. An estimated seventy-five million refugees roam the planet in search of home and hearth. A good percentage are climate refugees: flooding, drought, storms break down food systems, infrastructure, and interrupt energy. It’s not just international refugees: the U.S. now has fire, flood, and infrastructure failure refugees, and our major agricultural breadbaskets are threatened.

How do we go about work, family commitments, and living in our local communities in such a time? Keep our sanity? A sense of hope and prosperous future for our kids and the generations coming along? Grandchildren and great grandchildren?

What of the landscapes that are threatened, the ones we call home, that we love and cherish and from which we receive healing and joy. The flowering trees and shrub, the birds, bees, animals that enrich our experience of being alive on Earth?

Well, we haul water and chop wood: we do what is within our means. I cannot afford a Prius so I drive less. Others create sanctuaries for wildlife in their yards, and we try to recycle given all the barriers. We espouse a love for people and the land and waters and we engage with local and state leaders to manage resources for the long term. If we are religious, we gather at the church, synagogue, or mosque to consider how our faith lines up with the ecological needs and challenges of our time.

We suffer no strangers. We are all connected across the planet with each other. We all want the same things, share common dreams.

It’s so easy to become despondent, afraid, and hopeless. We must put our arms around each other and do what is in our means. In doing so, bounty arises again as we rediscover the power of community and the invigoration of personal clarity in how we makes choices and what we can offer of our talents.

 

Dream Acres

DREAM ACRES FARM

Holding-Out and Holding-On in America’s Heartland

Dream Acres Farm in Bowling Green 2018

Golden meadow grasses wave in the afternoon breeze along a far bank of dark green pine and hardwoods aflame in fall colors. The trees form the meadow’s northern border. Lover’s Lane, Old Towne Apartments, and Interstate 65 serve as other borders to Dream Acres Farm—a sliver of Kentucky farmland and noble hold-out against development.

The white picket fencing, farmer’s house, and rolling green lawn that face Lover’s Lane were built when this land near Bowling Green was “the country”. I imagine teenagers romanced in a car along a moonlit dirt shoulder, and that dense forests still grew to the horizon. The farm’s 15 acres are worth millions now that the town has grown up around it. Everyday another few acres of Lover’s Land churn under the blade in becoming hotel, medical center, nursing home…

Cutting the Meadow

Every day I thank the farmer for holding fast to his farm amidst the pressure of land sales. He tends a dozen fine steer and occasional cow and calf to graze and grow in his meadow. Because the windows of my small apartment face the meadow, I am a constant observer of the herd’s movement, their presence or their absence. When the first hard frost arrives, they are gone to groceries and restaurants, and suddenly the meadow feels abandoned. Slowly, I’ve learned much about bovines: how they form attachments with the farmer, running and frolicking around him whenever he drives his rusty tractor out to inspect fences. I never knew cattle could move so fast. I’ve sketched their charcoal-black postures in the emerald grass of springtime and photographed them hip deep in a field thick with golden grasses in the fall.

This spring a community of swallows took up residence at my apartment complex, nesting on windows and gables facing the meadow and from which they emerged and returned with lightening-speed, providing me with more entertainment. After some time, I realized why they had come. As the cattle moved in the high grass, grasshoppers and gnats rose in swarms. The swifts careened in and around the thick calves and heavy hooves like fighter pilots after targets. When the insects’ life-cycles ran their course, the swifts disappeared into thin air.

Daily observation helped me discover the diversity of life in the meadow beyond the obvious farmer-bovine-grass relationship. Black silhouettes circled in the late afternoon sky portending prey moving in the grass sea: rodents, rabbits, snakes, perhaps frogs. I am sure there is an owl perched in the far border of trees whose throaty hooting I cannot hear over the constant roar of I-65. The life in the meadow also includes a neighbor’s acre of goats attended by sheepdogs that escort them in and out of a sagging, grey barn. Dream Acres Farm has its own barn from which the cattle emerge and return, but most days they sleep out under the stars.

When the farmer dies, will his heirs sell the farm and make millions? Probably—in the way of progress. When they do, I will disappear as the swifts to find another teacup of wild. And then, when no teacups remain, shall we all disappear like the swifts, into thin air?

I pray for the old farmer to live another day—my knight, my muse.

Marjorie Rawlings: Warm or White Christmas?

Florida Humanities Council posted a wonderful story about Marjorie Rawlings learning to love Florida at Christmastime. It took some time for the writer to adjust to warm air and green plants at Christmas but once she did, she was in it lock, stock, and barrel. Great article.

Paralleling Rawlings, but humbly drawing no comparison in talent, I am spending Christmas in Tucson to promote my new novel, Threshold, in very warm BUT DRY weather. Here we might be sipping margarita’s with lots of lime.

Below are photos I took at Rawlings’ Cross Creek home, now a Florida State Park, and great place to visit on your way down to Key West.

The cherished indoor bathroom.
The cherished indoor bathroom.
All the original furniture.
All the original furniture.
Garden and Trip to Silver Springs 149
Ernest Hemingway slept here and maybe Scott Fitzgerald. A steady stream of writers stayed at the Rawlings’ B&B.
Marjorie wrote at this table, probably with an icy margarita!
Marjorie wrote at this table, probably with a whiskey near at hand.

 

Garden and Trip to Silver Springs 154

An Artist’s Life – Part II

SUNSET

Art emanates from the body’s experience in the physical world; art arises from spiritual forces that animate the world we perceive. Art enhances and extends our perception of the life experience.

Art is a record of values, what is valued, of memory, of dreaming. Art is organic, from the great experiment set in motion by the greatest Artist of all, who creates without judgement – setting form free upon the world to live, interact and transform with time, ultimately to return to the body of the universe herself.

We need art to see, to perhaps understand, and to remember the beauty of being alive on a magical planet spinning among stars, to be drawn together in our mutual experience as one body of living creatures on Earth.

Art reminds us that We Are One–mysterious, full of gratitude for the rising sun, cool moon, and final rest in the substance from which we once arrived – fresh, receptive, and excited to be alive!

*In celebration of my dear friend, Boyd Christensen, artist and fellow sojourner, and to all artists among us who remind us how we once arrived, full of joy and wonder.

An Artist’s Life: Part 1

IMG_20150518_185202Boyd Christensen, my dear friend, passed away yesterday. He was friend, buddy, and my artist mentor. A quiet man, his art focused on design in nature.

As an artist creates, his or her ideas and medium of expression evolve. One can see this in the body of Boyd’s work and the materials through which he chose to create.

He was a problem-solver, good at design, good with his hands which he applied to construction. He and Betty, brought their unique abilities to every home they owned–each a masterwork of thoughtful, organic design.

Boyd taught me what an artist’s life is about, not through words, but through his daily actions which I observed over the 30 years we knew each other. He was always thinking about his art, and I noticed that he saw shadow, light, negative space and motion/form in all things. His mind was clear.

He worked in his studio almost daily but he also kept up a playful active life which I believe refueled the artist impulse. He liked to “work in his woods” and to ski, mostly cross country–sometimes in what he described as a heat wave (above zero in Duluth). I was a desert dweller and later a Floridian whom he like to tease about being a wimp when it comes to a Minnesota wintertime.

Their current home in Duluth, MN is a beautiful place set on a hill overlooking Lake Superior. There were thick copses of trees which Boyd set about clearing to improve the view. A man who cared deeply about nature, in fact found the inspiration for his art from nature, he kept each tree for his art.

The popple tree (big-toothed aspen) provided an easy medium for his sculpture. Under the gray or green-yellow bark, the pith is white and smooth, looking at times almost like bone or ivory. Boyd carefully cut each tree, saving the trunks, major limbs, and all the smaller branches, cataloging them so that he could juxtapose these in a sculpture, a set of relationships that reformed the essence of the tree into a new expression. He stayed at his new form of art for many years and finally amassed what he named The Folded Forest. Here is one example:

19701886550_0e1eb44fbe_n