July 18, 2004

Nature Beckons Us to “Come See!”

Filed under: Art and About Nature — admin @ 3:12 pm

I was walking with my mother-in-law one Sunday morning after she had just spent a couple of hours exploring the wonders of nature along Monterey Bay with my son. She reflected on the gift young children give us by reminding us to notice and appreciate the smallest details, like whether a flower has four petals or five.

Her comment came back to me as I viewed “Revealing Nature’s Mysteries: the Photography of Susan Reynolds,” on exhibit at the Lindsay Wildlife Museum in Walnut Creek. Since childhood, Susan has profoundly appreciated the wonder of nature, and has the artistic talent to capture it in photographs in a way that reflects the vital emotional, psychological and spiritual relationship between humans and the earth. As a fourth generation Californian, she also uses her camera as a tool for environmental activism, with the hope that every time someone connects with an image from nature through her photographs, she has won another crusader toward the cause of preserving wild and open spaces.

I was lucky enough to walk through the exhibit with Susan. Over half the photos are images taken a relatively short distance away from all of our homes. The hills, grasses, rocks, trees, clouds and sunlight are familiar to all of us, but you may have never looked at them the way Susan has. She notices the splendor of the details, and admits that even she has only recently come to appreciate some of her most local photographs. She is understandably in awe of the natural grandeur in places like Glacier Natural Park and Death Valley, images from which are also included in this show. But in re-examining the multitudes of photos she has taken on hikes beginning practically outside her back door, she found images that she calls “just as amazing and grand” in their own way. Many of these images she never considered showing until an injury forced her to slow down and she found herself noticing details that had even escaped her conscientious eyes.

While we’re speeding on the freeway past the land preserved by East Bay Regional Parks, or jogging on a path looking neither left nor right at the astounding environment in which we choose to reside, too many of us don’t stop to think about a buckeye, or an oak, or lichen on a rock. We don’t think about how the light on a California hillside is distinctly different each season, each time of day, or even from moment to moment.

I grew up here and can honestly say I never thought about Contra Costa landscape as being special in any way. Three factors have spurred me to treasure our natural environment and fight to save it. When I entered the housing market six years ago, I became profoundly aware of how much humanity is forced upon us. Suddenly, I started looking for escapes in nature to get away from people and people products.

Then I started meeting local artists, and I learned that the light and landscape of my home county is unique, which is why it inspires so much creative activity around here.

And lastly, my children make it a point to show me that some flowers have four petals while others have five.

While searching for my keys in my purse after saying goodbye to Susan, my fingers found a leaf my son gave me months ago after a walk around our neighborhood. Susan had just told me that the Iroquois Indians have a saying: “Think seven generations ahead.” I think I heard my great-great-great-great-great grandchildren’s voices when I held that leaf.

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