Garden photographers look to capture beauty with a camera. Poets use words.
My friend, the poet and occasional garden writer, Hazel White recently led a hike as part of her artist in residence program at the Headlands Center for the Arts where she seeks to “create a series of site-responsive sonnets, each of which is 14 forays, or lines, of thought on the liaisons between landscape and language”.
This is artists’ speak for probing beauty of place, which is what she asked us to consider as she led a hike into the marshes near the Center. In consideration of beauty, do we find it ?, or does beauty find us ? Hazel gave us each a simple four foot garden stake as a physical probe to extend our own physical space into nature around us, as we went exploring for beauty. What would we find ?
She ran out of stakes for the group, so I picked up a stick for my probe, my liaison to the landscape. The stick became a divining rod. I was dowsing for beauty. I probed the trail and marsh giddy, drunk with a new tool, waving it madly like a wizard expecting wonders from his wand.
Indeed it was magic. My probe gave me an ethereal sense of the landscape as I reached into it.
I was quite actively engaged with my environment, seeing, sensing my own physical presence. Probing beauty. I loved being a partner in the creation of beauty, nature unobserved until my probe pointed to it. Did the beauty find me ? Did I find it ? Nay, it was a collaborative process.
My camera, following my hand and probe, compounded the pleasure. Not only did the stick give me the obvious compositional tool, it forces you, the viewer to see me as I probe. The creative process revealed here is the act of looking itself, not the results of nature found. The person, the photographer is interacting with the landscape; you see it, the process. It is raw and engaging even if the subject is “ordinary”.
You are invited to see what I see. You are joining me as beauty is considered, we walk together, we delight in the magic that is nature.
The beauty now is newly defined by we. The photos become linguistics, visual poetry asking you to think, to participate in this probing.
Thank you Hazel for this exercise, this epiphany, this way to extend my own physical engagement with nature, and open new doors of communication.
After the hike the participants were left to to discover on their own. I went to the ocean with another friend, garden writer Evelyn Hadden who was visiting from Idaho while giving a presentation at the Less Lawn garden symposium.
It was a cold and extraordinarily windy day at the beach. Evelyn, a resident of Idaho, does not feel cold and probed the ocean barefoot .
I am so glad she was wearing red.
And glad too I was that I kept my probe
Pointing back to the marsh and Headlands Center. Beauty is found wherever you look.