Nature’s Art: Cedar Breaks National Monument Photography Field Course

Below is the description of a photography workshop at Cedar Breaks National Monument sponsored by the Zion Natural History Association (ZNHA) that I pasted in from their website. We signed up for the workshop in the spring so am not sure whether they still have any open slots but it’s worth a try if you are interested in learning how to better photograph wildflowers and landscapes. Michael Plyler is the Field Institute Director and is well-qualified to teach us how to better use our cameras.

ZNHA hosts several workshops throughout the year as well as daily walks/talks with visitors through the Field Institute. If you don’t yet have a love for nature it is probably because you lack the understanding of the systems at work. The field institute walks are a way to learn in “baby steps,” just little bits of one thing or another (e.g. why are there water birds in the desert? Oh THAT’S a wild turkey! Which animals do we not see in the daytime? etc.) Small groups, maybe even just you, get to talk to someone who really knows and understands the environment and ecosystem. It’s a lovely thing.

Plan a Summer Get Away at Cedar Breaks National Monument

Beat the Heat, See the Wildflowers, Take a Field Institute Course

Cedar Breaks WildflowersEvery summer Cedar Breaks is treated to a spectacular display of wildflowers. Early bloomers such as cushion phlox, kittentails, and aspen bluebells emerge in late June. Displays peak in mid July as countless other wildflowers bloom: scarlet paintbrushes, Colorado columbines, little sunflowers, elkweeds, and many more fill the forests and meadows with color.

Cedar Breaks celebrates this colorful show with an annual Wildflower Festival. This year the festival will be July 8st- July 22th. (Notice the date has changed due to late Spring conditions.) To read more about the festival click here.

The Zion Canyon Field Institute offers several extraordinary workshops in partnership with Cedar Breaks National Monument. The first offering is, Wildflower Photography at Cedar Breaks on July 8th, 2011. Next, Cedar Mountain Wildflowers on July 9th, 2011, is a tour of plant life on Cedar Mountain. Wildflower Journaling at Cedar Breaks on July 11, 2011 is great for everyone, even if you have no previous writing or drawing experience. All workshops have a limit to the number of participants so book early for what is sure to be a wonderful experience.

For more information or to register call Michael Plyler @ 435 772 3264 or click here for more information online. Michael can also be reached by email at plyler.zcfi@yahoo.com.

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Head-On Collision

Recently I’ve developed a little crush on Bruce Springsteen.  I suppose it started with the way he looked at me from his place on the front door of my previous apartment.  That place was so tiny that I was constantly in the living room/kitchen simply because there was nowhere else to go, so we looked at each other a lot.  But he has good music too.  (I have since moved apartments where his picture now hangs in the bedroom, take that as you will.)  We’ll often sit down together in the evenings, Bruce on lead guitar and vocals and me in the rocking chair.  Sometimes I’ll join in with backing vocals, but for the most part we’re content with him taking the lead.

Sensitive, serious, at times unforgiving, but always sincere, Bruce talks from the heart and we understand each other because even though he’s never lived my life, he somehow has the right words for significant moments of my life.  I’ve never met a man who can rock as hard as he does and still bring me to tears.  Like most friends, we hit hard times, but push through them.  Occasionally I get upset with him.  How can you say that? I ask.  How can you know that’s how I feel?   And I’ll silence him or else storm off to my bedroom, which doesn’t help much either since he’s there looking at me.  But he’s patient; he knows I’ll come back.  And I always do.

So we sit together, Bruce taking the lead, me in the rocking chair.  He sings and sometimes I’ll sing with him.  Together we cheer each other on.

Have a listen to Badlands.

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An Unspoken Hunger

An Unspoken Hunger, by Terry Tempest Williams

I recently read An Unspoken Hunger by Terry Tempest Williams and now wonder, what should I do?  She calls to women to join the “Home Stand Act,” a proposal modeled on the Homestead Act in which we set down roots and protect the lands that we inhabit.  I like the idea of a movement, a coalition, a joining of minds and holding of hands such as this, and agree that each human being  who inhabits space on this beautiful Earth should participate in the conversation, the dialogue, regarding the well-being of our particular corner, our place.

Even though Williams’ explicit call is to protect that place we inhabit, I think her implicit hope is that our concern and action not be limited to that particular corner, as our understanding of our place in the larger earth system is essential.  The Earth was created to interact as a body, not a collection of limbs and organs independent of other parts.  Just as a human soul cannot inhabit a lifeless body in which the systems have been disrupted, the Earth’s parts and organs are equally necessary to its continued function and survival.  We need to understand the connectedness just as the blind man needed to know, as he examined his specific part of the elephant, that the other men, as blind as he, were also each defining the same elephant according to that directly beneath their fingertips.

Cannonville, a lovely little town

I grew up in the red rock country of southern Utah, part of the desert described by Williams.  My own education of the Earth was nurtured by everyone and everything around me– mother, grandmother, family, community, schools and life experience.  It would have been easy to stay in that valley, that isolated corner of the world, but I left.  I moved to northern Utah to seek  education, married, stayed.  I am still, however, within manageable reach (three-four hour drive) of the canyons and rocky desert country of which I am a part.  University professors with a love of the land expanded my understanding of the interconnectedness in this world and deepened my love of the earth and appreciation of the systems that make it habitable.  I have spent the years since then, with the attached life education, reaching a point where I have more confidence to speak up, speak out, to act, and so now I ask again, what should I do?

A “Home Stand Act” can provide a point from which we speak and act.  This can be from the security of one’s home and family through letter writing, phone calls, visiting with neighbors and friends.  It can be the joining with others in physical events and gatherings of any kind, it can be in virtual gatherings through web groups and blogs.  We speak for our local lands, our corners, our places.  We support each other in this common Home Stand through articulating our passion, our beliefs, and sharing what we know.  There will be those who tell us that we don’t really know, that we’re wrong.  We do know.  And we need to keep telling that which we know.  We are surrounded by those we love and who love us in return, we speak of things that touch our hearts, and we are supported by strong fact and faith-based information that we are ready to share. Williams is asking us to find the courage and resolution within ourselves to speak for the land.

It is inevitable that speaking for the land will become political. Williams quotes Claudine Herrmann’s Tongue Snatchers:

The beauty of the world, the health of its creatures, the emotion of love, and the thirst for justice are sacrificed every day to the will of power, and it astonishes me that all political systems, no matter how different they appear, end up with the same singular result: that of placing life last among all their preoccupations (Williams, 134).

The very thought of being involved in politics is intensely distasteful to me.  The land that I love, however, is at the mercy of those with power– economic and political.  I must, therefore, step into the political landscape because I have a voice, I am a steward, and I will join with those who are speaking for the land and all life.

So to answer the question what should I do? I say, I will take my “Home Stand.”  I will speak and say to those with political power who are shaping the world–  the whole world, every corner– “Life” first.  This is a living earth.  If politicians and policymakers focus on profits, revenues or deficits, and on the political “win” rather than on Life, the Earth as a wondrous living body loses.  All life, every single one of us, loses.

 

 

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Sunrise, Through the Trees

Spires of needle and bark, black against lightening sky,
The majesty of waking – I feel it coming.
Touch of snow, burning frost on flesh –
naught but pines greeting their sire with smiles beckoning.

Ah, single repose!

Time to stir, time to wake,
But not without stunning silence
Steeped in pink, orange, gold –
every moment another touch of Nature’s master brush.

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New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival

New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival

Talk about Art and Place — it doesn’t get more spot on than New Orleans and Jazz! Just walking down the street any ol’ day in that town is a musical treat! But holy smokes, folks, this is a fest-i-val!  Music from an unbelievable lineup from April 29-May 8.  Gotta be a way to get there!

What a lineup!  I’m not going to try to list them all but will post just a few:

New Orleans’ own:  Irma Thomas (sweet lady and oh so sweet voice), Allen Toussaint (behind more of your music than you have any idea), The Neville Brothers (The family of families), Ivan Neville & Dumstaphunk (relation? You bet!  Aaron’s son!) .

Others Comin’ to Play:  Cyndi Lauper (looking like, well, Cyndi Lauper!), Jimmy Buffett, Arcade Fire (yes, Canadians can come, too), Robert Plant (yes, it’s true.).

Click here for the Music Schedule page for April 29 just to see what’s available but be sure to give it a listen, too.  Not all artists have a “listen” option when you hover but many do.  For example, at the bottom of the page, about two-thirds to the right, from 6:00-7:00 on the Jazz & Heritage Stage, the New Orleans Nightcrawlers have a “listen.”  Click there and then just let it play while you browse the rest of the page and schedule!  Your own jazz sampler! Groove, funk, traditional, blues, oh yeah, it’s all gonna be there!

The Festival sponsor is Shell (guess they’re trying to improve their image) but don’t let that stop you.  You don’t have to buy their gas, just enjoy the sweet, sweet music they’re payin’ for!

Side note:  I won’t even start on the other New Orleans Art that will be available, the FOOD, but it’s all there.  Going to The Big Easy for the festival you get the best the city has to offer–music and food!  Oh yeah, Life is Good!

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Lessons From the Tang

On Retirement
Meeting, we dismount from our horses and drink wine.
I inquire of your destination.
You answer that you have no interest in this world
And are retreating for rest in the Southern mountains.
I would not ask you again—
For in leaving behind the trouble of riches and the
cares of state
Your joys like the white clouds will have no end.
—Wang Wei
This poem comes from Images in Jade, a collection translated by Arthur Christy. I first encountered ancient Chinese poetry during my junior year of college when I took an Asian Humanities class. When I first read this poem, standing in the aisle of the Harold B. Lee Library, I knew this was the beginning of another journey. To quote Edward A. Burger in his 2005 film Amongst White Clouds, “Those ancient [poets] knew something I wanted to know.” They had an almost spiritual connection with their surroundings and they wrote about their experiences in what is now known as the rivers-and-mountains tradition. What struck me most about these ancient poets, especially the great Tang poets, like Yan Wang-Li and Li Po was their ability to capture single moments in such few words. They often lived as recluses, exiled to various places in China’s vast wilderness, or, as Wang Wei describes, simply retired from “the cares of state.”
As a reader in the 21st century and one bred on the Western poetic tradition, the style was very unfamiliar but the message resonated so strongly that I devoured more and more books to satisfy this new vein of curiosity. The Tang poets showed me that you can create beauty even of the most seemingly insignificant moments. Small moments – moonlight on the windowsill, water dripping from the eaves, a fly warming itself in the sun – are not “mere” moments. With a heightened awareness to your surroundings, small moments are not easily cast off. Thus, the ancient Chinese poets taught me to be more aware of my surroundings, even the mundane. Though I have read many books of Chinese poetry, Wang Wei’s beautiful insight into a meeting with his friend still remains one of my favorites for the understanding it shows between friends and the longing people feel for certain places.

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This Joyous Quest

Sun and snow on hoodoos


I learned to love writing through reading.  From an early age, I enjoyed where reading could take me and I tried to recreate what I read in my own words.  I continue writing today because the thrill of creation gives my brain enough of a buzz to keep going back for more.  Though I may display misanthropic tendencies, I do, in fact, like people.  I like observing the quirks of our species, I like listening not only to what people say but how they say it (it’s not just kids that say the darndest things!), and I like seeing how people interact with one another.  True to The Doors’ classic, people are strange.  Besides people, settings in my writings are important.  Whether prose or poetry, fiction or non-fiction, the landscapes of Southern Utah keep popping up in some form or another.  My family has a long heritage of living in the valleys below Bryce Canyon and while I grew up in Orem, Utah, I spent a lot of time not only in Bryce Canyon, but throughout Southern Utah.  I currently live in Bryce Canyon National Park where I volunteer for the Interpretive Division.  Working and living at the park for the last six months has given me time to ponder this place—walking the trails, bumping over dirt roads, or simply sitting, observing, and thinking about my surroundings.The Bryce Canyon area, indeed, the wider region of Southern Utah, is instilled so deeply within me that it has cropped up in many of the stories I have started and written since a teenager.  Today, I find it both inspiring and mysterious.  I keep returning to it because it is part of me deeper than I understand, because I long for it when I am away, because I love it, because I need it.  I know I can never fully recreate this land as it was before white settlements or even represent it properly in my writings.  The land speaks for itself.  But when people don’t pay attention, when they harm it, exploit it, and even destroy it, that’s when I hope my voice can speak for the land.  That is why I write about the deserts of southern Utah – the beauty, the mystery, the peace.  Someday I hope to get it, but in the meantime, it’s a joyous quest.

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Profound Thought from Chinese Poetry

This is a quote from the translator of a book of Chinese poetry who explains that the views of the poets are molded by the three basic Chinese philosophies: Lao Tzu (Taoism), Buddhism and Confucius. In aspiring to the larger vision of things, relying on Nature as the model for process, he says:

Lao-tzu

To Lao Tzu the problem of solving the ills of human life was to do nothing, to be carried along by the mighty current of the cosmos. The way, he said, to clear the world of its dirt and muddy aspect was identically the way one cleared a bucket of muddy water. Agitation, an attempt to be rid of the impurities merely prolonged their evil influence and presence. The thing to do was to do nothing. The sediment would settle to the bottom, the water would clear itself. So with man and his world. Witha wise passivity the eternal Way would exert itself (Christy, Arthur. Images in Jade, 26).

Beautiful.

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Why art and place?

About six months ago I received a message on Facebook asking for the fifteen most influential albums in my life. Hmm…I never finished filling out the message but it got me thinking – or, more accurately, continued my thinking about why music and indeed, art in general, matters to me. The answer is a long one and a continual process. For starters, art does matter to me. So does place. So why “art and place”? I believe we are influenced, however much we realize it, by WHERE we are.  If character is influenced by environment, then certainly art, which is an outward expression of one’s soul and one’s experiences, can also be influenced by place. Thus, this blog is dedicated to the love of art in its various forms and how that love is also connected to place.

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Zion and Poetry — a natural combination

Zion Poetry Speaker Dianne Glancy

Have you heard of the 2011 Poetry in the Park Event at Zion National Park? Me neither until today! Diane Glancy, professor emeritus, publisher of books and poetry and recent filmmaker will be featured at this year’s event and what better place to talk about and write poetry than at Zion!

The workshop costs $60 unless you are a member of Zion Natural History Association (ZNHA) or Utah State Poetry Society, both of which give a 20% discount. You can register and get full details for the workshop at the link above. You’ll need to hurry though, the workshop is March 25th!

At this time of cuts at every level of governments, we need to be very appreciative of the partial funding of the workshop from the Utah Arts Council. Also, if you feel so inclined, please contact your legislators at the local, state and national levels to ask for their continued support of the Arts. I heard just today the living without the arts referred to as “living in a sterile, white box.” What would our world be without the Arts– without the creativity, imagination, beauty that makes life enjoyable? Food and water may sustain the body but the Arts sustain the soul.

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