Who Lives Among the Flowers?

Photo-blogging the summer of 2014

Last weekend I took photos of the magnolia seed pods and sent them to a friend, who exclaimed: “what an awesome praying mantis!”

I hadn’t even noticed the creature when I clicked the shutter. So, I thought, how many photos do I have with accidental critters in them? A few. But if I expand the concept, I have a great many images of life among the flowers.

Most, but not all, of these images have animals among the blossoms. Human animals included. In a few, like the first, the wildlife is invisible. It’s been a colorful year!

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Fairy house on Capitol Hill

LilyLaikaAzaleaPoodles Lily & Laika in Congressional Cemetery

IMG_3597Compulsive Gardener Glee

IMG_2757 Jose visits from the Left Coast

IMG_2773 Lynn and her lovely daughters, plus Hunter

IMG_2948Laurels blooming on NoName Road

IMG_2708Freya

IMG_3602Pollinators at work

IMG_3274Blogger in Bliss

IMG_3387 Silver-bordered Fritellary on Echinacia

IMG_3348  Boats & Day Lilies

IMG_3217 Zebra Swallowtail on Buttonbush

IMG_3207Carol sunning

IMG_3447Lotus in the Mattawoman, flood tide. Who swims below?

IMG_3416Forest spinner

IMG_3614Southern Magnolia pods and mantis

Scots and Independance

bannockburnWhat little authority I might have to weigh in on the wisdom or folly of Scottish Independence is debatable. But I did live in Scotland for a year in 1977-78. I went to the Festival, studied at University of Edinburgh, traveled the Highlands and islands in search of stone circles, and taught for a while in Shetland.

I drank with my colleagues and friends and heard many a tale of how, over many centuries, like other colonists, rebels and indigenous folk, the Scots suffered greatly at the hands of the English.

But I want to share a tiny moment that has as much or more bearing on today than the bloody swords of yesteryear.

6794779707_811d3266a4In 1977 I arrived my cheap London hotel near Kings Cross, a naive young midwestern student, too jet-lagged to be excited. The terrific bargain hotel proved to be thrice the cost as promised, and the lift was broken, so I lugged my heavy case up the stairs.

As I checked out the bath-down-the-hall, I saw a purple sticker on the toilet tank. I peeled it off and stuck in my journal, puzzled. I had never considered Scotland as separate from the UK before, and the recent construction of North Sea oil platforms had barely reached my embryonic consciousness.

Little did I know that I would find strong opinions and a very fierce, proud and distinct culture north of the Borders. That Shetlanders didn’t consider themselves Scots, much less British. That, for good or ill,  memory of ancient battles lives on in the blood. That although the United Kingdom appears united, the stories of Bannockburn, Culloden, the Clearances and other atrocities leave a mark, and, now that Scotland’s economy is strong, England may have some karma coming due.

Art in the Open Air Studio

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Painters have been busy in the beautiful open-air studio here in the Swamp Forest, my pet name for Piscataway NP’s hidden Moyaone neighborhood, just south of DC. The mild summer temperatures have made outdoor art a pleasure, and my students and I have been taking advantage of this.

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New Mexico ©2013 Neil W. oil on canvas

Meet Neil, Accomplished Oil Painter

At the ripe old age of 15, Neil is quite handy with a brush. He and I have worked together for about 2 years now, and I’ve had the joy of watching him gain mastery over this ancient technique.

Neil loves the landscape; he’s a hiker and a camper, active in Boy Scouting and soccer, so for him, plein-aire painting is just another outdoor activity – one he really enjoys.

Bumpy Oak Road, ©2013 Neil W.
Bumpy Oak Road, ©2013 Neil W., oil on panel

We’ve worked on-site and in the studio, in fast-drying oils on paper, canvas and panel in a variety of sizes. Neil has a great sense of composition —the fundamental arrangement of shapes within a painting — a tough skill to lear, or teach. He’s learned a great deal about the nature and science of color, pigments, and how to mix colors that create the illusion of space and shape.

Neil will be exhibiting in his first show, the Charles County (Maryland) Arts Alliance Fall Art Show, a multi-media public exhibit, to be held at the Waldorf West Library, 10405 O’Donnell Place, Waldorf, MD, from October 2 to December 30, 2014. 

A “Meet the Artists” Public Reception will be held on Saturday, October 4, from 2:00 to 4:00 pm, at the  Gallery to honor all the artists participating in the fall show.

For more information on the Waldorf West Library Gallery or the Charles County Arts Alliance, call the CCAA office at 301-392-5900, or email info@charlescountyarts.org.

For more information about art lessons contact me with a comment here or email patrisehenkel@gmail.com

Depression: Not that Simple

In light of the very public death of Robin Williams, and in the spirit of Blogging for Mental Health 2014, I wanted to reveal some of the really challenging things that depressed people live with. (I’ve bolded the ones that have been particularly pernicious for me.) Many of these symptoms and tendencies seem innocuous or unimportant, but they can add up to an unbearable life.

Things Nobody Tells You
About Being Depressed

Reach out, in what ever way you can, to a friend, professional, clergy, online. The headline above links to a wide variety of resources.

A Post for Peace – please spread it around

Yesterday morning a Facebook friend posted this, and I thought this sentiment should spread far and wide, so I am attempting to make it a meme.
Please help me sent these thoughts across the multiverse. Reblog, rewrite, use the Fairy Gardens or add your own image of peace and healing, and please, please invite others to share.
I’m tempted to say something about Gaza, the children at the Mexican border, Ukraine/Russia, Ebola. No matter my opinion or point of view, it would only add to the rancor, bitterness and outrage that’s swirling, swirling. What a tangle. I will not contribute to the toxic energy.No. Instead of a rant, here are some lovely fairy gardens made with broken pots. That’s the best I can do.
May the situations at hand unwind without spinning out of control. Please. Thank you.
Please reblog and share everywhere. Have a peaceful day. love, Patrise

Alive Inside, the Power of Music

When my father was in Hospice in has last three days of life, he relaxed, grateful that no one was forcing him to eat or go to appointments. He dozed, phasing in and out of awakening. He heard a wisp of something and asked me:

nanaGoldy“What is that beautiful song?”

I listened, and heard the strains of The Godfather’s haunting theme, floating in from someone’s tv down the hall.

He began to sing  “Dah, dada da, da dah,” very softly.

Inspired, I went to his home, got a portable music player and grabbed some cassettes from the car. They were the filled with the theater pipe organ music he adored, and I hurried back. When I tucked the light headset around his ears, his eyes flew open and he beamed at me, grinning with delight. For the next 2 days, he smiled and dreamed and hummed along to his favorite tunes.

Later that day I went to the meditation garden and heard a song come, not on the breeze but into my mind. It was Greensleeves, my mother’s favorite tune. I shivered, then welcomed her gladly. She had been gone nearly 9 years by that time. I felt as if she walked with me back to his bedside for those final hours.

Last night’s concert (see previous post)was a heart-overflowing event where the music community showed love and support for its own. But what about that which they offer us? What is the value of music?

There’s a new film coming called Alive Inside, that may help answer that question. It’s about the work of social worker Dan Cohen and his Music & Memory™  program.

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Terry with her mom, 94

Music & Memory is a non-profit that brings personalized music into the lives of the elderly and infirm, training nursing home staff and elder care professionals to create and provide personalized playlists to enable those with memory and cognitive disorders to reconnect with the world.

My dear friend Terry Nicholetti, a DC actor, has known about this power for years. She cares for her 94 year old mother, who long ago lost her capacity to remember or even speak, the result of Alzheimer’s disease. Terry takes her guitar to of the nursing home and plays old-timey songs for the Memory-Care patients, most of whom do not speak or even interact. They often will respond with enthusiasm, some even singing along. Their musical memory is intact when other pathways may be long gone.

“American culture is wrong: there is actually life beyond adulthood. The aging we experience holds very important learning and lessons.  Theres the opportunity to live and grow and become elders. No pill does that.”

from Alive Inside