Archive for the ‘nature’ Category

art is art is art …

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In your first year of art school, most often there is something called a foundation program. In FOUNDATIONS, students are exposed to a little bit of every major the school has to offer, from ceramics to painting. By experiencing the basics of all the arts, you get to see what medium best suits your creative voice and leanings. By your sophomore year it is time to declare a major and your corse of study becomes an intensive in that area. I hated making that choice. I was loving everything still, including photography. But choose I had to, and I majored in painting with a minor in printmaking and still loving everything else. What I have learned over many years of art making, is they are all connected, all wonderfully related, and I did not have to ever choose one over the other. I do not profess to be a learned photographer by any means, but when you see the world through an artist’ eye, how you choose to portray it, is secondary. Some famous artist once said this about MONET.

“He’s just an ‘eye’. But what an ‘eye!”

This is how it is with the arts. Your viewpoint, your eye is what best tells your story. Draw, paint, photograph, sculpt, build… how you create, and what you create is secondary to what you uniquely see. Make it your own.

This photograph I have featured was honored for the director’s award at the A Smith Gallery , in Johnson City, Texas. I took it on a trip to Florida a number of years ago, and entered it in this show that had a ‘travel’ theme.

The juror was Alison Wright and I could not be prouder to have the piece both accepted in the show and honored by the gallery directors, Amanda Smith and Kevin Tully. The A Smith Galley exhibits the work of both professional and amateur photographers. See the entire show on line at their website (

walking heart…

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I read this recently and was so moved by how beautifully these words were both chosen and written. How much of our days are spent attending to the most mundane activities that eat away time. I myself, spend an inordinate amount of time worrying about health and health matters. This could be time worse spent, for sure, but then there is the question of balance in one’s life. Attending to our heart and soul. The needs of our heart and mind.

I have the luxury of being in very close proximity to the woods of northern California, where within 45 minutes I am so far removed from the mundane activity of modern life, that I have occasion to enjoy this type of walk in the woods with my heart. It’s not about the exercise, though I am grateful my legs still carry me so, it’s that effort it takes to recognize how much our heart needs to be pampered and constantly healed and nourished by things like, ‘the magic whispers of old trees’ ; trees that have been here so very long before generations of us, and will still be here growing ever bigger after we are long gone. We need their silent whispers in our lives, as well as their old wisdom to put us in our place and humble us, and remind us of  how we choose to spend our days. We can race around believing much of what we do matters, or we can respect the fact that much of what we really have to learn, we learn in silence… and the whispers of old trees.

when life gives you peaches…

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It’s the end of summer and I can already feel it in the morning air. Mostly I sense it in my head. The change of seasons tends to throw me off my usually steady countenance. Pretending it doesn’t just makes it worse for me as I look for ways to avoid the rocky , unsteady way it makes me feel.

I stared at this lovely, perfect peach for 2 days now waiting for it to hit that point where when I walk past it, the smell becomes  so heady, that I knew today was the day. I will eat this peach today and celebrate the end of the summer season and the coming of the next one. The change of seasons seem to affect me differently than other people, and I’m not sure why. They are like ‘little deaths’. I know that sounds strange and sort of dark, but perhaps that is why I like a climate where it feels like a never ending summer.

Time creeps on us all, and while we wait for the calendar pages to go by, always waiting for the next thing, we should not let those magic moments slip by too fast. Those moments when you can smell the peach in it’s perfect ripeness, and look forward to nothing else for the entire day, wherein you finally get to eat it. In another moment there will be only a pit, and I just might have to shed a tear of joy for how wonderful it was, and then one more for the fact that just like summer…it’s gone.



Light my fire…

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Where I grew up , in upstate New York, if you were lucky enough to be a Girl Scout, you went to Girl Scout Camp Thunderbird for two weeks if you had sold enough cookies to qualify.

I loved, loved, loved Girl Scout camp. It was two weeks of heaven. I never got homesick, and came home looking and smelling like a small woodland animal.

I’m fairly certain that Girl Scout Camp gave me my love of camping, which I have only recently rediscovered. I am amazed to see how quickly the campgrounds fill up. In fact they are practically booked solid through August already. Young , old, singles, families, everyone is out there. It occurs to me it’s the most democratic recreational activity we share in this country.

Camping is still as popular today as it ever was, and if  you have not been in a while, I am here to encourage you to rediscover it . If for no other reason than the best part of camping – the campfire. It’s the very best part of the day, as it gets cool, dark, and everything revolves around the fire. You hunker down in your chair, cozied up to the smoke and flames as night surrounds you in a giant hug. And every camp site around is doing the exact same thing, having a similar experience. Sounds get quieter as voices and activity gets less and less till only the sound of crackling wood and flickers from campsite to campsite are left. Children have passed out from exhaustion and fresh air. Adults are in charge of nothing more than a stick to poke at the flames and wood and watch the fire as hours pass and embers die down.

If you are lucky, the stars will come out. If you are very, very lucky, you will have timed your trip during a full moon. The fire will be hypnotic.  The moon light is in fact, silvery. There will be a lovely comforting sense of order and whatever silly worldly troubles that consumed your day will burn away in the red coals of the campfire. It’s the cheapest therapy on earth. A bundle of wood and a match.

When morning comes, the smell of wood burning wakes you up, and the fire again is something to center you while coffee or tea taste a hundred times better in the fresh air than around the kitchen table. And I like how I feel after a couple days of camping- like a small animal again- closer to the earth, grounded and happy minute to minute, for the breeze to blow, the sun to rise or set, birdsong, stream rushing, fire crackling.

” Now I see the secret of making the best person: it is to grow in the open air and to eat and sleep with the earth.” Walt Whitman

do you hoodoo?

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Most people don’t know that there is a second Grand Canyon in the United States. Well, there is, and it’s in the northern panhandle of the great state of Texas.  Palo Duro Canyon,  the second deepest canyon, though nowhere near as vast as the Grand Canyon. Still, ancient and once filled with dinosaurs like it’s big brother, and home 12,000 years ago to humans.  One of my favorite sights in the canyon are hoodoos. Those crazy balancing rock formations that often resemble animals or forms that usually give way to their names – camel rock, lighthouse etc. These irregular rock pillars develop in areas of sporadic, heavy rainfall from rocks with different resistance to erosion by wind and rain. The softer layers give way underneath often leaving a cap rock of harder sandstone. They eventually disappear as they collapse from erosion. Sounds eerily like what happens to us in time doesn’t it?

Visits to these ancient places have a humbling affect on me. Knowing how much came before us, and how long it took for us to catch up with the past reminds me how small and powerless we are on this big planet. Unlike others, I find a great deal of comfort in that. I don’t mind being small and helpless in nature’s eyes. I like knowing my place. I like knowing nature gets the last word, and standing beside a hoodoo is a reminder of that.



picking favorites…

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An old friend asked me this morning,

“Of all the places you have ever lived, regardless of who you were living with or what was going on in your life, which is your favorite?”

I have lived in many places. Some for years at a stretch, some for shorter periods and have to say there are things I liked and disliked about all of them. I have discovered in all my ramblings that there is no perfect place, but there is what I call, your ‘happy’ place. And there may even be more than one.

I loved Kansas City, where I went to art school and made some of my longest lasting frienships. It was a city filled with art and culture  and a place I grew into adulthood.

I loved Vermont. There is no where on earth more beautiful than fall in the Green Mountain state.

I loved Utah, and it’s rugged beauty.

I loved Colorado and it’s  magnificent mountains and scenery.

I loved New Mexico, and always will. I rejoice when I am there, and cry every time I leave.

I loved New York – NYC – there is no city in the world more exciting.

And I love Texas … as they say …. I wasn’t born here, but I got here as fast as I could


But if a place has winter, I can’t last very long.

Winters with ice and snow that last for 6 months. It’s my lifelong burden … my abhorrence of winter. It started the first time I ever went to Florida during the wintertime in Buffalo , N.Y. I knew there was only one way out of winter, and that was to physically move away from it.

For years I lived where either school, jobs, or fate blew me. Most of those places, by life’s cruel hand were serious winter havens. Places like Colorado Springs, Colorado. Burlington, Vermont. Providence, Utah. Taos, New Mexico. Buffalo, New York. Hamden, Connecticut. Many of these places you will recognize as a skier’s dream. Not for me. I’d rather chew on aluminum foil than go skiing. So it was a shame to waste those long winters in those otherwise lovely places.

Winter and fleeing winter has been my lifelong challenge. I like to think that my discovery of Texas was meant to be, because it came along at  a time in my life when I least expected to move, or to find a partner in life again … and suddenly along came both.

Where you start out in life, may not be where you end up, so it’s wise to stay open to other places and what they have to offer and teach you. I have learned and loved things about all the places I’ve lived.  We are driven to find that ‘HAPPY PLACE”. 

   That place that says to your heart, “I was meant to be here.”

(featured image, canvas collage – HILL COUNTRY HOMAGE, by Catherine Massaro)

the circle dance…

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From Black Elk SpeaksOglala Sioux holy man 1863-1950

” You have noticed that everything an Indian does is in a circle, and that’s because the power of the world always works in circles, and everything tries to be round… the sky is round, and I have heard that the earth is round like a ball, and so are all the stars. The wind in it’s greatest power, whirls. Birds make their nests in circles, for theirs is the same religion as ours… Even the seasons form a great circle in their changes, and always come back again to where they were. The life of man is a circle, and so it is in everything where power moves.”


And so it is with this body of work, TO END IS TO BEGIN. Piece after piece was conceived and worked around circles. Circles of life changes, circles and patterns of nature, lessons hard fought and learned from beginning to end. When these  canvas collages were completed, they continued to reveal story after story, bringing me full circle to where I started – beginning again.

Man in Nature

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Man is such a busy creature.

Not that it’s always productive, or even good. We do evil things, we do good things. We try very hard to make sense of it all. But sometimes, if we walk slow enough, with an open heart and open eyes, nature reveals herself to us in ways that can teach us and guide us  and maybe make us better for having walked on the earth.

I went for a day trip with my friend Sarah to Lost Maples Park, a Texas state natural area off of F.M. 187 in Vanderpool , Texas. The maple trees were at their peak, and it rivaled anything in New England for it’s color.

We hiked, we photographed, we watched in wonder, mother nature painting on her canvas.  All we had to do was show up.

As I walked past a sycamore tree, marveling at the beautiful texture of the bark, what caught my eye was mother nature reminding me what a part of it all we really are. There was a tiny ‘bark’ figure, walking right off the tree trunk. I snapped the photo and had a good chuckle as I was remind yet again –

                                             It’s not what you look at, it’s what you see.