A Promise Comes Back For A Visit.

Bad Boys of The Arctic by Thomas Mangelsen

Recently, I got together with girlfriends for a potluck meal, which I knew would be delightful, but didn’t expect it to be magic.

After a tour of our host’s artsy home, all of us were in awe of her various collections. As we settled in for the meal, we could have talked about the usual what’s-going-on-in-your-life questions.

But we didn’t.

Instead, the hostess asked, “What were you doing in the 80’s?”

Each of us told a story about those years of our life, which, as you might imagine, was surprising, touching, and randomly hilarious. I learned so many things about my three friends!

At the end of the evening, we felt especially inspired, as if gifts about each other had been unwrapped one by one all evening long.

On the way home, the most delicious thing happened: a promise I made to myself long ago regarding art began to rise up inside.

Fueled By Inspiration

Arriving home, rather than closing my eyes for a good night’s sleep (which would have been a reasonable thing to do given the hour) I googled this promise from my past.

I’ll explain.

In the mid to late 70’s, I took a ski trip out west somewhere, and during that trip, I visited a gallery of wildlife photographs. These photographs had impact.

Mentally, molecularly, essentially — they changed me, as if someone shot an arrow (of love, awe, reverence) into my heart and there was not one thing I could do about it.

That was forty years ago.

The gallery was filled with breathtaking photographs of wildlife by someone whose name I couldn’t remember, in a ski city … oh, gosh, where could I have been traveling?

Here’s what I did recall.

I remembered the feeling of being with his photographs, and the reverence I felt for the animals. I remember vividly that his photographs were living, breathing prayers for the beauty, strength, and importance of animals and our beautiful Earth home.

I remember the privilege it was to stand in a room surrounded by one-in-a-thousand shots. The skill and patience required to get even one of the photographs — the amount of waiting alone — was beyond me. (And photoshop didn’t exist then. They were honest photographs.)

I wondered about the man behind the camera. I wondered who he was.

Catch of the Day by Thomas Mangelsen

I remember that the photographs were large, well-lit and perfectly framed. One was a red fox. There was a tree full of waxwing cedars. A wolf portrait. Tiger eyes.

And, to me, the most stunning of all — a massive print of an eagle flying out of a dark forest, a once in a lifetime shot. I stood quietly for a long time in the presence of that photo.

At the time, I didn’t believe I should spend (that much) money on art, and believed I couldn’t afford the large photographs I really wanted. But I remember making a silent vow to buy some of his work “someday.”

When I could, I would fill my living room with the places he had traveled and the animals he knew. I imagined which photos I would choose and how it would feel to take them home.

On Sunday evening after this magically artsy girlfriend dinner (and an focused Google session) I found the photographer.

By now, you know his name is Thomas Mangelsen.

Out of the Darkness by Thomas Mangelsen

There’s a story about this eagle of course.

From Mangelsen’s website: “In this dramatic aerial display over McDonald Creek in Montana, a mature female bald eagle, with wings locked, glides out of its dark roost into the first rays of dawn to pluck a landlocked kokanee salmon from the water’s surface. But there is more to the story. Somehow, the avian had lost a talon, likely to a muskrat trap, which could easily have spelled its doom. Mangelsen observed the injured female for days, admiring her perseverance and will to live. Waiting to capture her in all her glory, he succeeded with this photograph that was one of his most sought-after ever, popular especially among the veterans of military families.

On the morning this picture was taken the bird plunged like a fighter jet emerging from its shadowed roost into the auspicious hope of sunlight. Her frame being pulled into the frigid current as she tried to hoist the heavy payload, she struggled, eventually lifting off again and her wet head feathers carrying a frosting of ice. To all who witnessed the bird’s indomitable spirit, as she clutched the salmon in her lone talon, it was—and remains— unforgettable.”

Thomas Mangelsen Traveling Museum Exhibition coming to Asheville!

In 2021, his work is coming to Asheville. Mangelsen, by the way, is known as much for his animal conservation efforts as he is for his photography. Check his website for details. For a schedule of other cities on the tour, go here.

May 15, 2021 – September 5, 2021
North Carolina Arboretum

100 Fredrick Law Olmsted Way, Asheville, NC

ncarboretum.org.

You never know when a long lost promise will come back for a visit. I feel strongly that a collection of wildlife photography is in my future.

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A Light Story To Soften Your Day.

The day was winding down.

It had been overcast until the last few hours when the sun re-appeared to add its touches to the evening. I had just finished my dinner in the room with sky-high windows. Taking the last bite, I turned toward the mountains for a fuller view, dessert if you will.

The landscape had been scrubbed clean from the last few days of downpours. Now, with a bright nod from the setting sun, the colors below and beyond the mountain ridge turned especially dramatic.

But something felt different than usual…

There was, yes, the standard backdrop of mountain midnight blue, deepening as evening approached. And tonight the blue was so strong, I closed my eyes to invite the depth of that blue into the center of me.

This is the blue I welcome when I most need reassurance and strength. Confidence. A strong foundation.

Some days the mountains offer deep sky blue or dark slate blue. Other days, Dodger blue, cornflower blue, steel blue. There’s plenty of blue in these mountains and these mountains share.

Across the valley, each blade of grass, every tousle-headed bush and tree was dressed for the evening in a favorite spring shade of green. And thanks to the generous sun, the green finery was awash in spectacular light. 

AND THEN…

As the sun slowly descended to the mountain ridge to my left, a colossal pile of brilliant white clouds moved in with unusual speed and accuracy, setting the stage for a possible grande finale, a last call for luminosity.

The process seemed faster and showier as if to say, pay attention! So I stood and waited. And watched.

There was a bright tension developing.

Cloud after cloud moved swiftly in front of the dropping sun, harnessing the light, holding it back, reigning it in, creating a light gate — one which began almost immediately to strain mightily at the seams.

There was, after all, unlimited light pushing from behind.

I wondered about capacity. Did the light gate have its limits? Would it burst? I noticed I was holding my breath.

Then, when it could hold no more, without announcement or fanfare, the light gate simply yawned. Or opened to speak, I’m not sure.

Through the gaping cloud mouth shot so much light! Over the valley it careened, worlds of light, galaxies of it — pouring, pouring — a breathtaking, awe-inspiring light slam!

The light did not spread evenly over the valley. Instead, the open gate sent one bold blast of blazing light through a single line of poplar trees, pouring so much light into them, they glowed with green fire.

The poplar leaves, light-drenched from every angle — top, bottom, sideways — became fluorescent green, radiant from within. I wondered how they felt being so loaded with light!

Taking a deep breath, I thought about humanity and how we might relate to the pouring of brilliant light. We humans can, after all, focus streams of love and light from our own eyes and heart out to the world. We can direct our light. Our love.

What if we did that — more? What if we waited to communicate until we were bursting with light? What if (then and only then) we opened our light gate to speak? What would change on the world stage? Or at home?

On other days, we’d be a poplar tree, drenched in light from another. We’d let the incoming light infuse us, inspire us, light our way.

I put my hand on my heart, running for my phone to see about a picture. But in the seconds required to reach for my other eyes, the cloud gate closed its mouth and that was that.

Light across the valley softened instantly. Tall trees relaxed. The soft greens below pulled a dark, cool sheet of midnight blue over and settled into the quiet of the evening.

Gradually, night came.

Witnessing the light shot, feeling the power of that much focused radiance has changed me. I’m not quite sure what happened to my understanding of life, or to my heart, or my soul, but I can tell you I (and those trees) will never be quite the same.

What I can say is that a deeper understanding of the power of light went into my bones. Light speak is more clear to my heart-being. My belief in our human connection to nature has never been more pronounced. Could there be a better partner for humanity than nature? I don’t think so.

That nature goes to the trouble of arranging a sky full of clouds and light to make a point, to show a truth — I’m not sure if I’ll ever understand the enormity of that kind of love. 

 

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The Wisteria Effect — Under the Lavender Spell

Biltmore Wisteria 1I don’t know what it is about Wisteria.

Seeing it causes me to stop in my tracks every time. As in, “Wow…there is nothing more beautiful than this moment before me…” Wisteria makes me breathe IN.  I slow down. Then I stop. In my world, that’s the Wisteria Effect. Because Wisteria drips… …and drapes… …and bedazzles… … and because it’s lavishly, luxuriously lavender. Wisteria seems to be lit from within.  Maybe you, too, have noticed that its loveliness — its natural color and light — seem to say,    “Here’s my lavender heart, pouring out to you.” And there’s (yet) another thing. wisteria 1j longWisteria pours down, even as hundreds and hundreds of its tiny lavender petals lift up to the sky.  Even with all this lifting up, wisteria pours down, and down, and more down. Ahhhh.  Wisteria is a waterfall of uplifting reassurance that “down” can be a very good thing. And here’s a mystery for you… It’s SO airy.  How does it DO that? To look at this lavender wonder, it’s almost as if nothing-at-all is holding it together, yet there it is, all beautifully whimsical, petals practically perched in mid-air. To acquire such lightness of being, wisteria must have feathery, floaty ideas about itself,  don’t you think? It must have plenty of room for everything, it must breathe deeply, it must certainly have the ability to suspend thought and just BE.   All while dripping from a thick tree trunk, which is rooted down, down, down into mother earth. Maybe Wisteria is the perfect advice for humans.  Perhaps something like this. 1.  Don’t hold back on your natural self expression.  It’s a beautiful thing ’cause it’s YOU. And it is uplifting to those around you. 2.  Hang more.  :–) Chill out more.  Relax more. Never mind what you’re hanging ON.  You’re the centerpiece of that Italian sofa, that beach chair, that Porsche, that herd of muddy children you know. 3. Lavender is a beautiful color. But whatever your color is, wear it often. People will probably tell you that you’re glowing  — that you’re practically lit from within. Continue Reading

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Terri Crosby

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