This blog has moved to my new art/creativity site (Mouse House BLOG). The new blog is also about getting you connected with nature for creative expression, along with my art, workshops, and my personal journey.

Please feel free to explore past posts here, some of which will re-appear for encore showings in Mouse House. Let nature be your muse...

Thank you for visiting Your Nature, and if you like what you read here, be sure to follow my blog at its new home, to continue to receive creative fun and inspiration in your mailbox!

Monday, March 22, 2010

Moved By Water / World Water Day

As long as species have inhabitated this beautiful planet, water has given life. We are quite aware that simply put, without clean water, we would not survive. The water cycle is an ancient, continuous cycle that has kept the planet alive since the beginning of earth's time. Since man's appearance, water has blessed us with life, natural forces, and inspiration. Today is World Water Day, learn more here.

In honor of World Water Day I thought it was appropriate to revisit an older article about water in our lives.

Moved By Water

Living in a desert reminds me all too often of the precious resource water is in maintaining the delicate balance of life in a seemingly harsh environment. How often can we relate to this in our own lives? How much do we rely on our emotional resources to maintain a delicate balance during difficult times? Like every individual, water can be very powerful, it can give life, cleanse, reshape the landscape, even carve rock. It goes with the flow, so to speak, yet carves an unmistakable path...

One of my favorite pastimes is exploring the deep canyon washes leading up the many alluvial fans that form our valley edges. These canyon washes have been shaped and reshaped by 100-year floods throughout the geologic past.

A particular wash became a source of comfort for me during a very difficult time in my life, over a decade ago. I frequented this canyon wash, tempting the elements on some days by hiking deeper into the canyon with the smell of rain in the air. A narrow wash is not the place to be when it's raining somewhere in the desert-flash floods fed by cloudbursts miles away can swiftly fill these natural outlets with a powerful surge of rushing water, rocks, boulders, and trees. I guess this was my version of rebellion against the turbulence in my life at that time. But it was the scars of past floods that drew me to this particular canyon in the first place. I cried so much during that time in my life, I felt I could relate to the historical floods that were repeatedly unleashed against this beautiful canyon.

The walls were carved and scarred from these ancient, watery flows, boulders were strewn about and out of place, pushed up against each other, and blocked narrow gaps along the wash. Palms were stripped of their native skirts or missing up to half of their trunks as they held their ground against an unstoppable granite boulder slowly moved along by a thin cushion of water during a past deluge. I felt I had experienced every one of these events personally.

As my explorations became more frequent, I noticed my favorite wash was becoming crowded and overgrown with not-so-native plant life, debris from recurrent wind storms, and rocks brought down from decades of seasonal smatterings of rainfall. Non-native species where beginning to choke out native plants, stealing precious water hidden below the surface. I was annoyed when my second attempt around some boulders was blocked by more plants and plant debris. Similarly, I was getting to a point in my life where I was wondering how much longer I was going to allow others to block my progress and steal away with my happiness, my confidence, my strength and energy-my precious resources! My core was crowded with pain, negativity, anger, fear, and feelings of failure. I needed a mind cleansing (or maybe just a machete, for the plants).

Weeks later, days of rain graced the desert landscape. I remember going outside and doing yard work as an excuse just to be out in the rain. After about 20 minutes, I was soaked and I felt the long-stoked fire of anger and self-pity within me quietly hiss and pop until the rain had washed it away. Then I cried. I felt better than I had in a long time.

I visited my beautiful canyon retreat as soon as the clouds broke. But this time it was different. It smelled good--that unmistakable scent of wet soil, creosote, and steamy rocks.  Clean earth smell. The ground was still damp, both firm and spongy. There were new etchings in the soil, beautiful little riverlets everywhere creating fractal-like patterns along the wash, each watery branch, branching yet again. The canyon walls were clean and rich with desert colors of earthy minerals deepened by moisture. Instead of a scarred wall, I saw a beautifully carved, smoothly sculptured surface shaped by water. The boulders hadn't moved, but instead remained gathered around each other in timeless support wherever they touched- removed from their original source, but not alone. I secretly named each one in honor of my family and close friends who blessed me with their unwavering support throughout my ordeal.

Many plants had been removed, their bent and soggy stems clung to the strong and sturdy bases of the palms, whose enormous fronds were now incredibly green and shiny, their trunks a striking contrast of a deep brown, slightly spongy to the touch. Those soggy stems would soon dry out and blow away I thought. I noticed too, that it wasn't so crowded anymore-I had walked right around, and easily climbed up and over the family of boulders. So, the rain had also cleansed my favorite little canyon-or was it just me? Just days before, water flowed through there, taking plants with it, creating new contours along the way, cleaning away years of dirt. Debris was washed away, life became more vibrant, obstacles turned into stepping stones, everything was clean, fresh and ready for a new beginning.

The parallels struck me as I sat on top of one of the boulders and breathed in deep enough to taste the water that still lingered in the air. I realized how far I'd come and how much was still ahead, but I felt renewed by nature herself. It was incredibly empowering for me to reflect upon the connection between myself, a little rain, and my canyon refuge. I thought about the power of water that brought me to that moment. My tears, my inner storm, the desert rain, the flooding, the mud on my boots, the dampness on the rock-it all blended together to reshape my experience, my outlook.

As I sat upon my perch, the surrounding boulders wrapped a cool blanket of humidity around me and I reflected further. Water is a part of us, it is within us, a vital part of every living thing. It helps us express our own nature...we cry, sweat, breathe water in and out-each action responding to an emotional or physiological signal reflecting everything from tranquility to turbulence in our own bodies, and in our lives. How unstoppable could we be if we were to move in some ways like water-persistent, fluid, interchangeable-whether moving beyond a difficult transition in our lives, or fulfilling our deepest dreams?

This ever-flowing, ancient cycle of water penetrates our cells and gifts us its mighty power, which we must define for ourselves. How will water move us, what will it carve away...how will it sculpt our next moment?

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Letting Nature Inspire!

I just wanted to share this post from blogger Sarah Walker (ArtShades), a lamp shade designer in England. She was inspired by a casual comment from an email she received about creating a shade design themed in "Fur and Feathers." After some thought, Sarah came up with this bold and beautiful design! Another example of how nature can inspire creative expression in ways you hadn't thought before :)
See her creative process here:
Three Takes .... on a feather - ArtShades

Friday, March 12, 2010

Nature's Palette: Chia

Here is this week's nature inspired palette to add to your creativity toolbox. I love our native wildflowers and remembered this photo, taken by Laura Huff, of a musky-scented Chia (Salvia columbariae) field near Cottonwood Canyon, Joshua Tree National Park--a favorite wildflower destination here in southeastern California!

When I first saw this palette come up, I instantly thought of how 1, 2, or 3 of these colors used in different portions together would make a beautiful office, home, or even a blog space. Then I started thinking about how these could lead to beautiful, neutral-toned shoes...and then I thought about some found art ideas! How will these muted colors inspire you?
Please share your work or ideas inspired by these posted nature palettes, or of your own nature image-turned-palette!

Click image to enlarge.

Palette generated by BigHugeLabs.com

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Creative By Nature: Sound Chamber Sings in the Wind

Luke Jerram’s artistic venture, an acoustic pavilion that sings when the breeze blows by it. The project is named Aeolus after the Greek God of the wind, and it will employ hundreds of light tubes outfitted like Aeolian harps. See the picture gallery and read more about this sculptural sound chamber that sings in the wind…

How will you be inspired?

Monday, March 8, 2010

Soul Expression

“Every artist dips his brush in his own soul, and paints his own nature into his pictures.”
 ~Henry Ward Beecher
There are many things that might inspire...an overheard joke between siblings, the glimpse of color that flashes within a chipped crystal, a cottontail rabbit nibbling on a stem of brittlebush, or the crisp night air that pulls you home after a cozy night out with friends.

Are these the same sources of inspiration that evoke the deep and personal responses that fuel moving works of art or captivate us through beautifully written words? I have found that when I've read something honest, somewhat raw, something you can feel was written from deep within an emotional place, it stays with me. I want to absorb it in and feel it--survive it in a way--in order to experience the strength of the author--could I be that strong?

I've noticed that I've also received the most feedback when I've "therapeutically" shared some deeply personal experiences on paper. Is it that others can relate to this shared experience on some level, or are we moved by the will, the authenticity we feel in someone's written (or painted or...) expression?  
  • Are we moved more by expressions of pain or joy, celebration or suffering?
  • What is it about your favorite works of art, novels, or music that truly moves you?
  • How does this resonate with your own creative process?
  • Do you need these same experiences to inspire you to create equally provocative works (shared or not)?

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Pollinating Your Creative Dreams

In addition to the wildflower season making its entrance here in the southern California desert, I enjoy sharing wildflower information with others through presentations around the valley. One demonstration everyone takes part in is the “petal pick.” I pass around a store-bought sunflower and ask each person to remove one petal. As it gets to the other side of the room, the flower is picked clean, often leaving about half the group without a petal to claim, and more importantly without any resemblance of a flower to enjoy. The whole flower represents a natural area, each petal represents a wildflower in that area. As you can imagine, it helps get the message across that with hundreds of visitors enjoying our wildflowers, if we each justify to ourselves, I’m just picking ONE flower, it can significantly alter the ecology by removing the resource and the beauty for future enjoyment.
It is exactly the same within each of us. Let a wildflower represent your personal ecology in the form of energy, a creative project, or a goal you are working toward. Just as you encounter positive elements each day, you also hit a few snags along the way. Some people (or situations) will come into your environment and it will seem as if someone has pulled off each of your petals for their own benefit. With what does that leave you? How will you propagate new ideas or attract positive thinkers (pollinators) now? How could you avoid this setback?
You might:

  •  close up and plant yourself in a protected area so this can never happen—although I gaurantee it will happen eventually.
  • have faith that your petals aren’t the only way to appeal to supportive pollinators, so no worries! (Some flowers rely more on scent or have UV patterns on other flower parts to attract pollinators, or they propagate themselves without pollination.)
  • be happy that you’ve already been visited by some great pollinators of your creative ideas and you will flourish despite those bad seeds.
Or you can respond the way you were thinking deep down in your gut—which is 99% of the time always the best decision.

Wildflowers survive by enduring extended periods of less-than ideal environments, germinating only in years that offer the best opportunities for growth. They thrive by adapting to brief windows of opportunity in nature and in most years, you can’t miss it because they put on a spectacular, colorful show! Let nature inspire your interaction with positive and negative environments. Follow her lead in endurance, adaptation, and opportunity while nurturing your creative self; allow your creative efforts to enhance your nature with vibrant color, life, fragrance, a variety of creative blessings—make a big showing!
We must preserve the natural world; for without nature, there would be no beauty to inspire us.
~Hap Hagood

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