Gift #796: March Artist

Since it’s almost the end of March, I thought we should have our monthly artist feature for Marjolein Bastin!  What happened to March?  I can’t believe it’s going to be April next week.  Hopefully the weather will start to get warmer next week.  We’ve had a bit of a set back with highs in the 30s today!  I guess the winter coat and bootwarmers weren’t quite ready to be put away for the season.  We even had flurries today!   But these pictures epitomize everything lovely about emerging Spring.  The colors and images are soft and gentle, just like warm spring breezes and dandelion fluff and rabbit ears.  Speaking of rabbits…

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This little one is enjoying a mouthful of tender shoots.  We have a few neighborhood bunnies.  I accidentally scared one out of the front yard a few days ago when I came home from work.  I know many people get frustrated with rabbit’s inability to distinguish weeds from prized plants, but they’ve largely left the garden plants alone so our relationship is amiable.  I love the contented look on her face as she sits in a bloom of wildflowers.

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The dreamy landscape of this watercolor is breathtaking.  It shimmers with light and motion.  Marjolein Bastin has very cleverly captured the essence of depth and the illusion of movement by blurring the flowers in the background.  It feels as if you’re pulled right into the meadow and can smell the sweet nectar and listen to the warbling of birds.  If you sit still long enough, you’ll feel the feather touch of a butterfly on your arm.  The pinks, yellows, and green in this piece make me very anxious for the coneflowers and yarrow to bloom in the yard.

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In this nightime scene, a mother and daddy bird softly sing their unhatched chicks to sleep as a sliver of moon rises over their nest hidden in bushy leaves.  Mother birdy looks like she’s contemplating the day when her eggs are hungry, noisy chicks demanding their dinner and a story and a glass of water before bedtime.  And maybe another story.  I’m sure they’ll be excellent parents – look at the care they’ve taken in constructing their beautiful nest and protecting it.  As night closes in on this tranquil scene, we prepare to say farewell to March and reflect on all the blessings it held.

Blessings to you,

Sarah

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Black and White Challenge Day 5

Well, it’s the final day of the challenge.  I was intimidated about joining in when I received the invitation because I hadn’t done anything like this before, but I’ve really enjoyed it and am rather sad that it’s ending already.  It’s given a fresh perspective to my photography and taught me more about the art (and believe me, I need all the help I can get!)  For the last day I thought I would examine how a few of my favorite things  look in black and white.  No, I don’t mean brown paper packages tied up with string.  I’m thinking of the gifts of the forest.  These photos were all taken at Spring Mill State Park this past fall.  It is my most loved place in Indiana to visit because there are miles and miles of forest to walk through.  The oldest trees in the state live here and they have stories to tell!

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The forest never fails to inspire with its beauty.  Although truth be told, I have to make an effort to look up at the trees because I’m usually looking at the forest floor.  Treasures a’plenty can be found here.  Mushrooms are among the most precious prizes.

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Turkey tail is a common finding on tree trunks.

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Ferns grow from decaying tree trunks as well.  They are spectacular subjects to photograph – brilliant green standing out against dark, damp wood heavy with the smell of rot and live entwined.

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The southern part of the state is heavy with limestone.  Consequently, there are many caves and outcroppings of exposed, weathered stone.  Moss and little plants eagerly grown in any crevice of rock they can find.

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And finally, the forest’s equivalent of gold doubloons… acorns.  I’m incapable of walking past them without stopping to pick them up or photograph them.  It makes for some long walks, but we are so blessed to have many nut trees and a variety of acorns to delight us.  A post on my obsession with acorns can be found here.

image image I hope you have enjoyed the walks through nature in black and white with me.  It’s been an exciting adventure, and most satisfying to see how beautiful natural objects can be in the absence of color.  Maybe you’ll be inspired to view your own ordinary miracles in black and white too.

Blessings to you,

Sarah

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Black and White Challenge Day 4

After we’ve explored the trunks of trees and wandered up their limbs, we’ll now explore leaves.  I must confess that leaves are in short supply right now.  I did find these Heuchera leaves in the garden.  Last year’s growth is a bit frost-burned on the edges, but new baby leaves are growing up to take their place.  The leaves are a dusty gray/green color with purple overtones .  Their intricate veining gives interest to a black and white version.

image This succulent was made to pose for black and white photography.  I found this beauty in the greenhouse at the Art Museum’s garden.  I love succulents and will have a separate blog post about them coming soon.  The thick leaves and tiny hairs help the plant retain moisture, but they also provide amazing texture that is perfectly captured in black and white.

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The following pictures were taken this fall at Spring Mill State Park when leaves were abundant and the world was covered in gold and crimson.  I decided to see how some of my pictures would look without color and was pleasantly surprised by the results.  Details that are eclipsed in color photography really stand out.  For example, you can see mold is starting to claim this spray of oak leaves that have fallen.

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Sunset light filtering through the forest hit these leaves just right and illuminated the beautiful venation.

image This is my favorite photo.  The sun lit up this spray of ferns by the side of the trail.  Tiny leaves with marbled variation in color daintily flutter in the glow of autumn light.

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When you spend time with leaves, it is easy to see each leaf’s individuality.  Focusing on the attributes of a leaf – its color, texture, venation, shape – give an appreciation for the unending variations to be seen in nature.  Any preconceptions you might have about leaves being all the same are immediately swept away.  The closer you look at the details in creation, the more miracles you see.

Don’t forget to visit Forest Garden for her 5th day in the challenge!

Blessings to you,

Sarah

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Black and White Challenge Day 3

From the trunks of trees, let your eyes travel upward and gaze upon their magnificent spread of limbs.

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Trees always seemed to me to be living sculptures, carved from breathing wood, a trunk splintered into a thousand branchy shards.  Each tree has a different silhouette, a unique patterning of limb.  But trees are not static creatures; the tree you see today will not be the tree you behold tomorrow.  Always the tree is taking in cues from the environment, weighing its surroundings.  Limbs grow thicker, longer, entwine around each other, fork into smaller twigs.

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Against a bright blue sky, the expanse of trees reaching out to sun is striking in its contrast.  On a cloudy gray morning, the branches can look like fissures of ice along a river as limbs slice through cloud and fog.  In color or in black and white, trees offer a dramatic portrait of life in slow motion.

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Stop by Forest Garden to see her lovely photos.  She has invited Breezes at Dawn  to join the challenge and I’m sure you’ll appreciate her marvelous photography too.  And feel free to join in the fun if you feel inspired.

Blessings to you,
Sarah

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Gift #795: Daffodils in the garden

Yesterday was truly a blessed day.  There were bluebirds at the window and daffodils in the garden.  That sounds like a song title.  Hmm… but I digress.  After months of waiting, the very first flower unfurled its petals and emerged bravely into a new world.

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And how appropriate that it was a daffodil.  Liquid sunshine poured into petals.

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To quote from C. S. Lewis’ Chronicles of Narnia, “When Aslan shakes his mane, we shall have spring again.”  Spring is definitely coming and each day will bring new miracles to be thankful for.

Blessings to you,

Sarah

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Black and White Challenge Day 2

Yesterday’s post of papery dried hydrangeas were a study in the delicate graces of nature.  In today’s post we will gravitate to the other extreme for a closer look at thick, strong texture – namely tree bark.  I’m no stranger to photographing tree bark – I do it all the time because I am fascinated by the grooves and knots that give a tree its individual character.  Examining tree trunks  in black and white allows the eye to travel easily through the woven texture of bark – the curves, waves, bits of lichen all create a masterpiece.  I’ve collected pictures of tree trunks from my travels and when I become adept at designing knit patterns, I think it would be fabulously fun to design a collection of cabled, textured pieces inspired by the tree bark of my favorite trees.  That will be a way down the road, but in the meantime, here are some shots from the trees that share home with me that I took over the weekend.

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The squirrels love to sit on this protruding knot of the big walnut tree.  I believe the squirrels are under the impression that this “chair” was created just for them.  They’ll perch there while shelling walnuts, or scratching, or enjoying a bit of sunbathing.
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An exposed tree root has a weathered, smooth surface with a multitude of cracks giving it interest.  Note the way the root curls back on itself – it looks like the back of a crocodile.

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In contrast, a close up of the tree’s trunk reveals rough wavy bark.  The left side has a loose, shaggy appearance, but the right side is composed of more dense, narrow ridges.

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This tree knot captured my imagination because when I transposed it to black and white, you can kind of imagine a face in the knot, like a barn owl.  (It works best if you stand at some distance, squint, and use your imagination).

The next time you’re outside on a hike, shut your eyes and experience the environment with your other senses.  Feel the roughness of tree bark, the smooth rock, the heat of sun, the delicate beauty of flower petals.  Listen to what’s around you – bird and insect song, rustling grasses in the wind, water gurgling.  Smell the landscape – do you smell the metallic zing of wet rock or the soft scent of wildflowers?  Can you detect the nearby stream by the water’s smell?  You’ll soon find each place you visit feels entirely unique and special beyond what you can see with your eyes.  And don’t forget to take pictures to remember your experience in color …. and in black and white for an entirely different perspective!

Be sure to visit Woodland Gnome’s blog Forest Garden for her beautiful photos of the challenge.

Blessings to you,

Sarah

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Black and White Challenge Day 1

I’ve been invited to participate in my first ever blog challenge!  (Pause for a moment of cheering!)  The challenge is to create five consecutive posts of black and white photography that you have taken recently.   I was invited by my friend Woodland Gnome of Forest Garden who is on day 2 of the challenge.  Her lovely blog chronicles the joys of living in a woodland garden and her posts are filled with birds, flowers, trees, and all manner of wonderful things.  I love her blog and eagerly wait for her posts.  She’s taught me a lot about photography and gardening.  She was in turn invited by Eliza Waters who posted some amazing photos of ice crystals today.  I’m new to her blog and excited to explore it and get to know her as well.

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After reading the posts of several who are participating in the challenge, I noted that most of us are unaccustomed to black and white photography.   I naively thought it would be the same as regular photos – just point and shoot an interesting scene and edit it to B&W.  It’s not quite so simple.  Different rules apply when you remove color – when I looked at some of my photos in B&W they were just a jumble of unidentified objects.  It made me realize how much we rely on color to identify and navigate our world.  So I decided to change tactics and use the absence of color to draw the eye to other attributes of the natural world that are beautiful, but under-appreciated.   When I went back outside, I focused on various textures in the plants and landscape.  This tactic worked very well, especially as I found many of my subjects were drab and devoid of color at the ragged end of winter.  They wouldn’t be very interesting in color photography, but they shine in black and white.  So I hope that you will enjoy spending the next five days with me seeing the world through different eyes.

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Today’s subjects are the withered hydrangea blossoms that have clung on in spite of the long hard winter.  Their glorious summer days spent, these tattered flowers dance with the wind and I have been enchanted by their ghostly form all winter.

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In black and white photography their papery forms are a poetry all their own.

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Thank you for joining with me today and I hope you will visit the blogs referenced above to see their perspective on the challenge.

Blessings to you,

Sarah

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Gift #794: Bluebird at my window

For the past few days the thrill of birdsong fills the air in the mornings.  When I leave for work, their sweet voices are murmuring “good mornings” and even though I rarely spy them, I take great comfort in their singing.  It is lovely to hear it again and it makes me almost cry with pleasure.  The sound of birds is among the most beautiful music in the world.  I think it is all the more alluring because it isn’t created by man.  No one but God teaches the birds to sing, and their music is familiar, but otherworldly at the same time.  Its sound reminds the heart of something…. something like feelings of a pleasant memory you can’t fully remember.  To hear creation singing reminds us that the world is so much greater than our own life and perspective.  We share our lives with creatures that flit about the edges of our perception, so beautiful and miraculous that they take our breath away when we focus our attention on them.

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Today I caught sight of some of the musicians that have been serenading our neighborhood.  We had a lot of bird activity.  Perhaps they are flying about the forest selecting their nesting sites.  That’s a happy thought.  I happened to look up at a flash of blue and noticed that there were two bluebirds flitting about the backyard.  I was able to get my camera before they flew off and take a few pictures through the window.

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I was able to snatch the obligatory pose of the bird’s backside.  (That seems to be their preferred posture)  We usually have a couple of bluebirds that take up residence along the edges of the forest and we see them about frequently in the spring, so I hope these stay.  It was exciting to see them for the first time this season.

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“As long as there are bluebirds, there will be miracles and a way to find happiness”    – Shirl Brunnel, I Hear Bluebirds, 1984

Blessings to you,

Sarah

 

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Gift #793: Vernal Equinox

I just love the word “vernal” , don’t you?  It’s a sophisticated way of saying “spring” – a word filled with history and mystery.  It seems to capture the art and spirit of the season.  Plus, it just sounds like green.  I think we are all ready to enjoy a green-saturated landscape again.

Virgil A Kraft said that “Spring shows what God can do with a drab and dreary world”.  Isn’t that beautiful?  It’s a perfect way of describing how the canvas of nature unfurls with color and life after the long sleep of winter.  I must confess that we did not have a spring-like day.  It was cold and very overcast all day and there’s scarce little evidence that we’ve crossed into spring.  But we have and soon enough we will be planting flowers and enjoying soft winds, sunshine, birds, and butterflies.  Today reminds me of the truth that what we see is not the whole story.

Where man sees but withered leaves,
God sees sweet flowers growing.
~Albert Laighton

So for this post, I will show you a picture of what I see and what it will be – a promise and fulfillment.

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The bulbs are first to emerge and once the snow melted, I was delighted to find their little shoots stretching out to the sky.

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The hyacinths will be in bloom in a few weeks.

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The weeping crabapple has started to flush red, a sign that she will be budding soon.

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Transformed into a fountain of pink blossoms, she is the crowning glory of spring.

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Where there are bare branches now….

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Soon fragrant blossoms will perfume the yard.

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I’ve watched the beloved hellebores anxiously through their first winter, hoping they have survived.  A few are starting bud.

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Perhaps we might be graced with a Lenten Rose in time for Easter.

May you all find joy in the coming of Spring.

Blessings to you,

Sarah

Text and photos copyright 2015

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Gift #792: Bibbity – bobbity – boo!

From the moment I saw a glittering shoe with a butterfly coming to rest on it as a teaser before Maleficent last spring, I have been thrilled about the upcoming film Cinderella.  The animated version was full of magic and I had high hopes that the live action would be able to recapture that joy with a new perspective.  As you might expect, I had plans to create something special to commemorate the new movie and I had the perfect yarn for it – beautiful silky blue mohair that I had been a Christmas gift from my mom.  After finding the right pattern, I started work on it in January to have a shawl worthy of Cinderella to wear on opening weekend.  (There are spoilers ahead!)

Like Maleficent, the new Cinderella tells an old story in a new way, with sumptuous visuals and costumes to create a world that is familiar but uniquely different.  Though the storyline was not as reworked as Maleficent, I noted certain similarities in the handling  of the story to give it deeper dimension.  I mentioned on my post of Maleficent that while the original Sleeping Beauty was a glossy, optimistic version of the story, the new film showed a harder, more realistic world in which hurt and betrayal influenced the character development.  The same was true in Cinderella.   The set-up of the story lingered a long time on the happy childhood that she shared with her parents.  As a young girl Ella faced the grief of losing a much-loved mother, who had poured her soul into Ella.  Her last words carved Ella into the person she became – “Have courage and be kind.”  When we see Ella in the familiar surroundings as a servant for an uncaring step-family, we understand much more deeply that her character is the result of conscious choices every moment to honor her mother’s wisdom.  Likewise, we see much more development of the Prince as he becomes a man worthy to inherit a kingdom.  His affection and respect for his father, earn Ella’s admiration when they first meet in the forest.

The most significant shift in the emphasis of the movie had to do with motive.  In the original, Cinderella dreamed of a different life and waited for the day when her wish for happiness would come true.  In our new version, Ella does not dream of a distant future filled with happiness, she creates her own in her current circumstances.  She desires only to go to the ball so she might see her new friend (the prince in disguise).  Even when the prince has declared his love for the girl with the glass slipper, she does not seek him out or attempt to try on the slipper.  She is content to allow her memories of the prince to fill her heart with joy.  This Cinderella is an incredible example that a heart of kindness can transform any situation.  Her continued acts of mercy and love towards her ungrateful step-family were indeed powerful – not because they changed her circumstances, but because they changed Ella’s heart.  The depth of this movie combined with all the charm of the original made this a film a masterpiece with a generous sprinkling of fairy dust.

And in case you are wondering, my Cinderella shawl was completed on time.  I had it off the needles and blocking by midnight on Friday (or Saturday morning).  And no one transformed into a pumpkin!  More’s the pity.  Towards the end, things were a bit frantic and I did have some help knitting.

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Here it is blocked and ready for the big day.  And look – real glass beads.

image image And now whenever I wear it, I will think of Cinderella and the wisdom of her life. “Have courage and be kind.”  That is the most powerful magic.

Blessings to you,

Sarah

 

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