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Nature and the Metropolis


how do we find nature in a world that is overly built? And how do we convince those living in urban environments that the magic of nature is there among the streets and buildings and cars? That we have a choice to see or not to see.

We all make choices. to live fully immersed, or live a life half-way between what is built, what we build against and that which is unbuilt, that survives beyond us. We make choices to allow electronics to encircle our lives, to structure our days, and then we want to blame something that has no “legs” that it rules our lives.

Some of us just can’t cut it. Cannot take the relentlessness of humanity, its pain and joy. We cannot find the place, space, or time to recharge. To wake up happy the next day after some tumultuous previous day. Looking for some archaic purity that never really existed anyway. Because certainly in the “real” wilderness we would be hunted while hunting. Nature made calm, nature removed of its power and original struggles is nature controlled. These are degrees of the world held within our control, just a version of agrarian reality. The inability to soak into the fullness of humanity leads us to believe that we must choose its opposite, even though it might not exist anymore….

Learning to live with the wild wolf and the grizzly in spite of fear is easier for some of us than the trauma that arrives from the constancy of an overpopulated and densified piece of land we call a metropolis. But are we really learning to live with the wild creatures that are left on the planet? Or are we simply living beside them as we do in a city when we learn to tolerate the neighbors and their peculiar social activities that we cannot relate to? These are the annoyances of living.

The real issue is where do we come face-to-face with transcendence? Where do we feel at home most in a world that is difficult and risky to navigate? Where does our truth lie? Do the woods, stream, mountain and desert allow us to ignore the aspects of the world that we cannot fully come to terms with in the same way that thousands of people surrounding us on an urban street corner requires our attention more than any speck of nature that may be present at the same time and place.

believing that the urban condition reduces the presence of the natural world allows us to ignore the real work that must be taken on to retain a creative mind. Blaming the fact that we live in a dense human environment is no excuse to not daydream, to watch the moon rise or the sunset. To smell the rain on pavement. To see the green of plants growing between those things we build and then ignore.

I chose this more loosely defined, blurred environment between the built and the unbuilt, between the rural and the wild, between dogs running lose on the streets and grizzly bear swaggering down trails and mountainsides because it makes the most sense to me. This reality is the one that feels the most accurate to me, churns my mind and stirs my creativity. this place is where my god lives, where I transcend myself to something that extends beyond me. In this choice I gave up the day to day stimulation of a collective human nature, a creativity that feeds upon itself. I gave up the experience of the constantly spinning greatest cultural expressions. And I am willing to go without this, while recognizing what I lose and what I gain. This giving up is not to say that a certain great culture does not exist where I live. Great culture abounds, but it is not the culture that grows from the human intensity of a metropolis, not the culture that spins at such a high rate that change happens in the single spin of the earth.

But what I find difficult to accept is those who live in these places of great human density, where the built rivals the unbuilt, who claim that there is no inspiration where they live that comes from nature. That there is no ability to capture transcendence in their lives, in the things they make, in the raising of their children. We must all seek out the truth of the places where we live. This is our responsibility. If we do not easily find the truth then we must seek it out. Truth is us in nature, however large or small. Truth is the rain we run from on a winter day, it is the line of grass that arrives between the cracks in the concrete, it is the sun that rises on one side of the city and sets on the other, with all of the colors that come with it. Truth is the reflection of sun on our buildings. Truth, if we recognize it, is transcendence, the vastness of the world and our smallness in it.

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Living Place


I am on the plane returning from a visit to New York City. The last six minutes in the city before getting in the car headed back to the airport were a panic. Panic is not a place I like to visit. But my smart alarm was smarter than me this morning, and while I set it for 4:30 am, it was inadvertently set for Thursday and Friday. Not Tuesday. Not today. My boyfriend commented to me before my trip that smart phones are smarter than we need them to be. This experience was one instance where the phone was smarter than I needed it to be, with at least one more feature than I needed, or use. But somehow the phone was set, smartly, and I almost missed my plane. Luckily, the sun is up at 5:26am and it was the sun and birds that woke me. Even in New York the power and pull of the living world brings me around to action.

Traveling brings out the question from most people: what are you here for? They are thinking, business or pleasure…and I respond that traveling is always both for me. I believe business, that thing we do to pay the bills should be enjoyable, but mostly it is both because the different experiences of the world challenge and transform how I understand the world and understand myself. And it is these understandings that combine to create my work. Both teaching and art. I move around, and the world comes apart and reassembles like one of those prismatic kaleidoscopes. New lessons are learned and old ones are reconfirmed. The world looks the same and it has also changed. A place like New York City is the same, but dramatically different. I first visited New York in 1976. a milestone celebration for the country and the city was all dressed up in red, white, and blue. For a child, I was impressed with certain child-like experiences: the Empire State Building, the Twin Towers, Circle Line Ferry….in 1986 I moved to New York and began what is now a life-long relationship with a place, even after leaving it to move West in 1992. Visits became less frequent over the years, and I eventually recognized that I could no longer lay claim to feeling more like I belonged to New York. Instead I belonged to the West. I watch the city change and remain the same as a visitor now. I am learning the place like good friends we see rarely.

There are places I like to visit each time I go to New York, mostly to the museums to see certain artworks that captivate me – even after so many years of visiting them. But also to places that I like the feeling of, or the taste of, the smell of…and to learn new things. To learn a new sense of the place. I go for the thrill, I go to make sure that the place and all the experiences still thrill me. That the art I have fallen in love with over the years is still a thrill. I believe this is the reason to visit a place again and again. It is the reason we retain our friends and our loves. Not because they are convenient or easy but because after all the years, they still thrill us, challenge us, transform the world for us, sometimes stop us in our tracks, make the world spin or stop, inspire and encourage us, push us forward, remind us of what we have committed to in our lives.

I go to re-mix these experiences with the West, with my life I have chosen and committed to. I come home to my life, my love, the activities of my work, to weave these experiences and sensations into how I teach, how I think about making, how I make and how I live and love.