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Experience Nature Vicariously Through An Artist

Jordan and I drove up to Duluth, MN and visited sites all along the North Shore over Labor Day weekend. If you’ve never been there, I highly recommend going!


If you asked Jordan about his favorite part of our trip, he would tell you that he enjoyed the High Ropes Course. For him, this activity was new, a little bit dangerous, just the right amount of scary, and a physical challenge he was thrilled to overcome.


For me? It was fun until we moved from Beginner/Green to Intermediate/Blue level… Once we were on the blue level I was petrified. We were up in the air another 15 or so feet and I was having anxiety through the roof!!! I even had a full blown panic attack with literal tears. Jordan, my amazing supportive soul mate, was unfortunately ahead of me at this time and unable to move backwards in the course. Despite the distance between us, he nodded his encouragement to me and reminded me to take control of my breathing. He told me later how much his heart ached to have to watch my anxiety from a distance and the uncertainty he felt with how to comfort me.


Behind me, was another couple, gaining speed and about to discover my insecurities. Overwhelmed with shame, fear, and a will to pull myself together and overcome my panic attack so that I could accomplish the next task. I was able to pull through and the sigh of relief I felt as my feet finally hit the solid earth again was so full of gratitude and deep relaxation that it was as if I’d been holding my breath for hours. It felt as if I hadn’t been able to release that angst within myself at that exact moment, I might have passed away from the built up pressure inside every cell of my body.


If you asked me what my favorite part of our vacation was, I would have a hard time narrowing it down. How does a 7 mile hike to the top of a waterfall compare to the view of an expansive lake from atop a cliff? How does snuggling with a loved one to stay warm in a summer tent not well equipped for 30* weather compare with sitting around a bonfire with siblings I rarely see due to the distance between our homes?

The truth, is that I enjoyed Minnesota’s North Shore through a variety of lenses, and what I’ll share with you today is the artist’s lens.

Something I love to do, is discuss with Jordan what we notice when we are surrounded by nature because he and I view the world through our own unique lenses. We enjoy sharing our experiences and our views of the world with each other so that we can better understand and appreciate each other. In doing so, we learn to love each other more deeply and intimately.


Jordan typically notices wildlife, or signs of wildlife that was nearby recently, and the size of the trees. Together, we enjoy finding the largest trees, guessing how old they are, debating the possibilities of the life these trees have lived and what storms they might have weathered.


I TYPICALLY PAY ATTENTION TO NATURE AS IF I WAS PLANNING TO PAINT IT.


While in Duluth, I studied the colors of the trees as they slowly and subtly began to change colors due to the crisp fall temperatures that came unseasonably early.

I studied the shadows of the rocks so that I could emulate consistency and accuracy in my future paintings.


I took time to notice the way that moss lay across the uneven surfaces.

I studied the local vegetation and watched the thousands of bees pollinating yellow flowers in Gooseberry Falls.

I studied the ripples that boats made as they floated across the expansive Lake Superior.

And then contrasted them with the ripples that waterfalls made in the natural pools at their feet.

I contemplated the depths of those pools beneath waterfalls and wondered what life lived in those caverns.

I studied the paths that went “off trail” and questioned why we chose to wind down the hillside in such a manner, in such a herd mentality that there is now a trail to follow.

I took photographs of the rocks and agates that I came across so I could reference their natural perfection, their coloration, and overall their beauty to be used in ways I haven’t yet considered.

I contemplated if I preferred the view from the top or the bottom of this vast and wondrous landscape.

I tried to take it all in with my minds eye in such a way that I might be able to make these moments last a lifetime.

Soon I’ll create my visions on a canvas. Until then, enjoy these photographs and imagine what I might create.

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