Ralph Waldo Emerson and quietude

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Perhaps we need a requiem for a quiet moment for I fear that moments of quietude are on the endangered list; right behind solitude. To find quiet is like trying to find a spot at a picnic without ants. We are in a time where there is a constant flow of attention and noise. Close your eyes and take a moment. Listen. It matters not if you are alone in a room for regardless of how hard you may try there is some underlying noise. The hum of the refrigerator or the off and on of the gas heater. Go outside; there is a chronic bombardment of noises echoing from cars, planes, construction, and lawn mowers.  Even among the spender offered by far-off parks, a helicopter circles the canyons and waterfalls. A bulwark of noises all too great for Mother Nature’s whispers.

And so, we must believe that there are places where stillness exists and nature is given back her power to speak… I hope. Ralph Waldo Emerson 2jpg

Today’s post brings back the esteemed thinker and expert on tranquility; Ralph Waldo Emerson (1803-1870), who said “Nature is made to conspire with spirit to emancipate us.” The central figure in his literary and philosophical group, now known as the American Transcendentalists, he was a preacher, philosopher, and poet, as well as being considered having the finest spirit and ideals of his age. Emerson was a bold thinker having penned essays and gave lecture that offer models of clarity, style, and thought, which guaranteed him a formidable presence in 19th century American life. He offered his views on the harmonies of man and nature, intellectual and spiritual independence, self-reliance, and Utopian friendship. He was a committed Abolitionist, a champion of the Native Americans, and a crusader for peace and social justice.

I now invite you to contemplate a stanza from his poem titled Walden, snipped from his book Society and Solitude (1875).

In cities high the careful crowds

Of woe-worn mortals darkling go,

But in these sunny solitudes

My quiet roses blow.

Esteemed thinker: John Muir and respecting nature

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There are few people that would disagree with the idea that humans and plants should and can co-exist. Though we know that there are many species of plants that have raised the ire of both men and woman, for the most part our relationships are of the utmost importance, especially for people. Plants provide us not only shade, food, medicinal benefits, and aesthetics, they are the source that keeps our land from eroding and provides us with oxygen to breathe. All and all it seems as though they are certainly pulling their weight.

IMG_9963 Being this is the case, with all the positives they provide, one can agree… flora and fauna do not ask for much except to be left alone. However, it makes us wonder why it is that some humans have a propensity to destroy or maim with no regard for the outcome of the plants. For example, let us take the bamboo plants that are growing in a particular zoo’s habitat; it offers us the opportunity to walk among the gatherings of these majestic plants that have grown to heights that rival a tree. Such a lovely setting it is until you examine the stalks closely and see the bamboo  has been intentionally carved and defaced with names and dates of those who felt a need to molest the plants. An intentional act with seemingly little value or purpose.

And so, the next time you come upon a plant, take heed for although you may have a yearning to claim it as your own, think twice before putting you signature on Mother Nature’s creation.

Today’s post brings back the esteemed thinker John Muir (1838-1914), a revolutionary preservationist naturalist, writer, conservationist, and founder of the Sierra Club. Born in Dunbar, Scotland in 1849, the Muir family emigrated to the United States, settling first at Fountain Lake and then moving to Hickory Hill Farm near Portage, Wisconsin.muir

In 1867, while working at a carriage parts shop in Indianapolis, he suffered a blinding eye injury that would change his life. When he regained his sight one month later, Muir resolved to turn his eyes to the fields and woods. He walked a thousand miles from Indianapolis to the Gulf of Mexico, sailed to Cuba, and later to Panama. After crossing the Isthmus, he sailed up the West Coast, to San Francisco making California became his home.

John Muir is noted as the Father of the National Park Service, convincing the U.S. government to protect Yosemite, Sequoia, Grand Canyon and Mt. Rainier as national parks through his writing. John Muir’s words came from his lifetime work as a wilderness explorer, and his unyielding desire to maintain a natural environment that would not be exploited; still a rallying cry for all who wish to preserve our world.

So, I take you out of your hectic world into a day with John Muir and his observation of trees; Feast upon this vivid excerpt from Steep Trails.

“No lover of trees will ever forget his first meeting with the sugar pine. In most coniferous trees there is a sameness of form and expression which at length becomes wearisome to most people who travel far in the woods. But the sugar pines are as free from conventional forms as any of the oaks. No two are so much alike as to hide their individuality from any observer. Every tree is appreciated as a study in itself and proclaims in no uncertain terms the surpassing grandeur of the species. The branches, mostly near the summit, are sometimes nearly forty feet long, feathered richly all around with short, leafy branchlets, and tasseled with cones a foot and a half long. And when these superb arms are outspread, radiating in every direction, an immense crownlike mass is formed which, poised on the noble shaft and filled with sunshine, is one of the grandest forest objects conceivable. But though so wild and unconventional when full-grown, the sugar pine is a remarkably regular tree in youth, a strict follower of coniferous fashions, slim, erect, tapering, symmetrical, every branch in place. At the age of fifty or sixty years this shy, fashionable form begins to give way. Special branches are thrust out away from the general outlines of the trees and bent down with cones. Henceforth it becomes more and more original and independent in style, pushes boldly aloft into the winds and sunshine, growing ever more stately and beautiful, a joy and inspiration to every beholder…”

 

 

Alfred Stieglitz and Mother Nature

Nashville winter trees_Resized_with nameThere is little doubt that 21st century technology has offered most of us advantages over those of the past. We are able to transport ourselves with little effort, feed ourselves with little strife, and communicate with the same degree of ease. Simple chores, such as laundering our clothes and cleaning our homes are no longer grueling; all easily accomplished using modern day conveniences.

However, hard as we try, when it comes to producing exquisite images… Mother Nature still out does even the most up to date cameras. And though we have come a long way from the first image makers, earth’s natural splendor from the beginning of time is still superlative. Her winter vistas produce the most daunting of black and whites while springtime, autumn, and summer test the boundaries of original colors beyond any means we can imagine.

Alas, with her infinite array of vistas and spectacles, we are only privy to her delights for a wink of time. Like a lovely dream we try to remember, so are her dawns, her sunsets, her sun showers so very elegant. All she asks of us is to indulge in these fleeting moments and then… sigh; for no modern trick nor gimmick can hope to offer such a grand performance as hers.

Alfred StieglitzToday’s blog returns the esteemed thinker: Alfred Stieglitz (1864-1946 b. Hoboken, New Jersey.), the innovative photographer and art promoter who received his formal education in engineering in Germany. Upon his return to the New York City in 1890, he set his sights on establishing photography as a “legitimate” form of art. In his early career he began to promote photograph as ‘art’, comparing his use of the camera as a tool to an artist and his/her paintbrush. Stieglitz’s artistic and creative talents harnessed the use of natural elements, such a weather, to create effects he wished to achieve and the camera’s focusing abilities to soften the frames.

In 1905, he founded the Little Galleries of the Photo-Secession at 291 Fifth Avenue in New York, with Edward Steichen, which later became known simply as ‘291’. Here he succeeded to elevate photography to the status of sculpture and painting.

In 1917, he met the much younger American painter Georgia O’Keeffe, who became his lover and finally his wife in 1924. Over a period of 20 years, he had taken over 300 individual pictures of her, demonstrating his unique and undeniable artistic ability to capture many facets of a single subject.

Let us know take time out from your hectic day to ruminate a most inventive work of art; a platinum print by the renown Alfred Stieglitz titled “Out of the Window” (1925). It is certainly one even Mother Nature would sit up and take notice of…after all…she did have much to do with its creation!Steiglitz_Out of the window

When it’s Fall

For those of us who are in the throws of falling leaves and are waking up to trees exchanging leaves of green for colors of harvest, today’s post brings to you my poem… “When it’s fall”….

©nl avery

©nl avery

John Burroughs and between seasons

must be fall_with nameWe, meaning those of us who reside in the western hemisphere, are between seasons; for sometimes it is as warm as a summer day and the next it is cool and fall-like. And though there is no name for this in- between season, the trees seem to agree. One has only to look around and observe that many of the leaves have not made up their minds either as to what season it really is.

The red maple, for example, presents her foliage as half-green and half-orange. The green leaves are hanging on to their end of the summer color as stubbornly as a child who refuses to eat his or her vegetables. But, like the child that will eventually have to complete the meal, these leaves will eventually have to submit to the inevitable by exchanging their dwindling summer green to a more glorious golden orange. It is a wonder that we too are not sure what to do about our own apparel…whether we should keep our t-shirts in the drawers or remove our sweaters from the cedar closet!

So, like those who look to the groundhog to determine the length of winter and are sadly disappointed that he will not come out of his warm burrow, do not rely upon the metamorphosis of leaves for the official start of autumn. But rather, it will be Mother Nature, like the stern mother that she is, who will cast her seasonal spell upon us, and we will awaken to the harvest days of fall!

John burroughs 2Today’s post is a return visit from the esteemed thinker: John Burroughs (1837-1921) a man who reminds us to observe and take time out of our hectic day to enjoy earth’s free gifts. (And who does not like something for free?) Born in Roxbury, New York he is known to us as an essayist, environmentalist, and conservationist. His union with nature was prominent in his work and his writing.

And so I bring you a snippet of his lovely words from his book, Under the Maples…which is most fitting for today!

“The time of the falling of leaves has come again. Once more in our morning walk we tread upon carpets of gold and crimson, of brown and bronze, woven by the winds or the rains out of these delicate textures while we slept.

How beautifully the leaves grow old! How full of light and color are their last days! There are exceptions, of course. The leaves of most of the fruit-trees fade and wither and fall ingloriously. They bequeath their heritage of color to their fruit. Upon it they lavish the hues which other trees lavish upon their leaves. The pear-tree is often an exception. I have seen pear orchards in October painting a hillside in hues of mingled bronze and gold. And well may the pear-tree do this, it is so chary of color upon its fruit.

But in October what a feast to the eye our woods and groves present! The whole body of the air seems enriched by their calm, slow radiance. They are giving back the light they have been absorbing from the sun all summer…”

Winslow Homer and simple pleasures

close up flower tree_compressedThere are some things in one’s life that time is unable to devour… and that is the simple pleasures. And although time may chip away like the splintering of a tree into kindling, only to be consumed and then float away into ashes, simple pleasures often remain a constant.

How we occupy our time may change from decade to decade, person to person, generation to generation, yet some pleasures are still considered favorites. And even though the world has slowly been dominated by technology, there is still room for a most unelaborated contraption, the swing. The very act of swinging has the ability to transport us back to our youth on a spring day; a carefree moment in life.
And so, I invite you to swing back in time, close your eyes, and allow yourself this unsophisticated delight. Recall a time when a simple pleasure occupied your time; and I would imagine for some, it may have been between the boughs of a tree…. upon a swing. winslow-homer 1890

Today’s blog returns to us the esteemed thinker: Winslow Homer (1836-1910) America’s great artist who in the ninetieth century had the vision to recreate on canvas and paper both the simple pleasures and harsher realities of life. Born in Boston, Massachusetts, Homer began as an illustrator and developed into the arena as one of the finest realist painters in the United States. Known for many of his watercolors, his work often emphasized nature; such the cliffs, mountains, rocks, and the seas of New England. He captured the wildness of the forces in nature as well as the people that endured and settled such harsh regions of the time. He found the tranquility of Mother Earth and her beauty… and then, through his art, brought it all to us.

I now bring you Homer’s interpretation of what I call simple pleasures; a watercolor completed in 1897, Girl on a Swing.

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First image: NL Avery archives, Brickell Walk (2012)

Portrait image: Winslow Homer, circa 1890. Photo: Courtesy the Theodore Bolton papers, 1917-1958. Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution.