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Humans Co-creating with Nature




I love it that what early settlers took for primeval forest here in America was, in fact, a garden. When Native Americans traveled they would gather seeds from trees and edible or useful plants and carry them back to their home territory where they would plant them. Fires were used to keep down brush and encourage the species they wanted to grow. Working with the natural world, rather than against it, they were able to create a beautiful healthy ecosystem that in turn fed them and provided them with fiber and wood. I am over simplifying, of course, but you get the idea. When I first learned of this it really captured my imagination, and inspired thoughts that led to this painting. By creating a background that almost resembles wall paper to set off the native tamarack I wished to portray, I want to convey this idea of working with nature. Think how our communities could be, if we invited nature back in and worked with her rather than banishing her to the neglected outskirts. This is happening in some areas. In many city neighborhoods gardens are appearing on roofs and on abandoned lots. They serve to provide food, slow the flow of water, and help keep temperatures cooler. Equally important they provide a green and leafy place for people to just be. In other areas the native ecosystems are being restored. Right in the heart of Chicago, for example, dunes and their native plant assemblies are being restored along the lakeshore. What a wonderful opportunity for people to see nature at work, right where they live. Who wouldn’t rather see grasses, flowers and birds than rip rap and chain link fencing as they stroll or jog along?
I hope my painting inspires you. Look around~how might your community invite nature back in, to the benefit of everyone? Can a small grocery store be inserted where people can walk to it? Could a tiny rose garden be squeezed into a parkway? Let me know what ideas you come up with. What if, instead of traveling to Europe to experience beautiful city centers, we could create them here? What if, instead of traveling to Costa Rica to experience rich forest, we could invite back our own? What if, rather than creating problems for ourselves and our beautiful planet, we created beauty?

24 thoughts on “Humans Co-creating with Nature

  1. Our town encourages natural areas. Trails connect neighborhoods, some city buildings have sod and plants on top, parking lots are permeable to let rainwater through, residents are encouraged to install rainwater retention and grey water systems, butterfly gardens, and more. The city paid for half my rainbarrel project and half my compost bin.

    1. Those are all good things.

  2. I love your painting. I’ve planted a mini meadow to attract lots more species of wildflowers, bees, bugs and butterflies into the garden.

    1. Thanks Ali! When people grow natives in their yards it can really make a big difference.

  3. One thing I love about art (including all the arts) … they allow us to capture just a little of the garden that used to be, and to learn to watch for the bits of garden that still exists.

    1. Yes, that’s what I love too!

  4. Love the painting. That red is one of my favorite shades. I am determined to ban as much of the invasive stuff we find here and replace it with the beautiful native plants that help to sustain the wildlife that depends on them. I’m finding that the initial challenge is learning what to do.

  5. Thank you Gunta! Isn’t that red delicious? I have been craving it, but wasn’t sure I could get by with it in a painting. Finally I just gave myself permission.
    I’m excited that you are tackling the invasives. When I started out, I thought it was a matter of cutting them down and moving on. I think we all thought that. What we discovered is that it is a continuing process, like weeding only on a larger scale, so don’t get discouraged. Is there a group in your area doing this? They can help tremendously with experience and tools. Let me know what plants you are dealing with and maybe I can offer advice. Some plants carry a wallop, such as stinging cells or toxic juices, so be cautious.

  6. I like this tamarack painting a lot. When I was a kid, deciduous conifers presented a problem, because we’d been taught evergreens vs deciduous as a dichotomy, and having an evergreen drop it’s greenery seemed weird, a tree that wasn’t following the rules, like finding palm trees in the Adirondacks.
    But I’ve gotten over this anarchy thing, and really like the foliage on tamaracks/larches.
    I’ve been living in various cities, off and on, for the past few years, and realize how essential the parks are – – cannot imagine living here without the green spaces. Currently in a pretty urban neighborhood, but not far from Jamaica Pond and Harvard’s arboretum – – part of Frederick Law Olmsted’s plan, they call it the Emerald Necklace, which is a bit over-the-top, but this little chain of parks makes a huge difference to the quality of life.
    There’s a community garden across the street, and drivers seem pretty good about watching out for the neighborhood rabbits, who seem to be thriving, and three times now I’ve run into turkeys, just a few miles from downtown Boston.

    1. Turkeys! Isn’t that amazing…. I remember the first time a bunch of us were out in the field and a naturalist saw turkey tracks and went mental. Now they have rebounded and turn up in surprising places.
      In one of my garden classes we learned of a man named Robert Downey (?) who put out a pamphlet about providing green spaces in neighborhood developments. He felt strongly about it, saying that people behave better when they are exposed to natural beauty. I think he predated F. L. O. but I can’t find information right now to confirm this. Kind of visionary, I always thought. Anyway, I’m glad that you have access to those beautiful spaces. That makes all the difference, doesn’t it?

  7. We are very lucky that Edinburgh is an extremely green city. One of the challenges of modern life is to stop and notice all that is around. I can hear a beautiful blackbird singing outside my window as I type – it’s a wonderful accompaniment to my morning! 🙂

  8. You are lucky to live in a beautiful city! I have heard so much about Edinburgh over the years and would love to see it someday.

  9. Oh Melissa, this is lovely and would make a beautiful textile! Upholstery fabric, wall paper, canvas for totes, or an apron.

    1. Thank you, Deborah! I’m thinking the same thing but am not sure where to start.

      1. I think it might be easier than you think. There are places you go online to upload your “own created” design and have a bolt of fabric made!

        Picking the right house to do it might take the most time in research though.

      2. Wouldn’t that be exciting? I’ll do some research and see what I can find! 🙂 Thanks for the nudge.

  10. I find it heartening that more and more of us try to work with, as opposed to against nature. It seems to be taking along time to realize that our modern approach has backfired, and I hope we still have enough time left.
    As an aside, I noticed that your headings About and Home seem to be reversed. When I click on Home, I get your About page, and vice versa.

    1. I do too.
      Thank you for mentioning my about page. I am endeavoring to create a whole new website here, that will incorporate my blog. In the process I’m hoping to correct that and other problems.

  11. Let’s hear it for saturated colors!

  12. I have a friend who actually painted her living and dining rooms in this wonderful red. She thought it might be a bit much, and some of her family thinks it is, but she says it energizes her, and I can see how it would.

    As for the fabric, you need to visit The Textile Ranger and read her post about custom designed fabrics. There’s a link in the article that lists companies that do the printing work, and other wonderful information. If you had any questions, she’s friendly and approachable, and would be more than glad to help out.

    There are so many projects going on in my area right now that are designed to increase the amount of green space I can’t even list them all: retention and detention ponds, public water gardens, butterfly gardens, and linked small native plant gardens designed to create a “pollinator pathway” through neighborhoods, including one extending from NASA to a new green space called Exploration Green — a former golf course turned flood control project.

    I’ve enjoyed following a Chicago-area blogger who visits the Lurie Garden from time to time. What a beautiful place. I’ll leave the link down below, so this doesn’t flee into the spam files.

    1. I’m thrilled with the link you provided to the textile ranger, and immediately “followed” her. Thank you!
      The golf-course remodel is very exciting. I get very excited when I see a community do something so wise with its land. It looks very beautiful.

  13. Here’s the link to Jason’s blog, and one of the Lurie Garden posts.

    1. Thanks for this. It turns out I was following him, but only in my reader which I seldom check in on. Also, I’ve realized your posts had stopped coming to my inbox so hopefully I’ve corrected both situations.
      I’m going to go practice my chicken neck calls now….

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