Saturday, June 18, 2022

The Sounds and the Silence

In Arctic Dreams, Barry Lopez suggests a way to experience a wild place " approach with an uncalculating mind, with an attitude of regard. To try to sense the range and variety of its expression—its weather and colors and animals. And to be alert for its openings, for that moment when something sacred reveals itself within the mundane, and you know the land knows you are there.”  

On this June evening at Black Rock Forest, we each translated the mundane into the sacred in our own way, if at all. Yet this is very much the ethos of the Silent Walks. At our best, we let go of expectation and adopt an "attitude of regard." The still air let the water offer a perfect reflection of trees, laurel and sky. No breeze meant a clarion chorus of frogs, birds, and bugs--including a deafening gray tree frog at Aleck Meadow and later a delightful barred owl. Starting with evening sun, we had the whole walk to observe the fading light, the green deepening to black, the lost contours. At the end, June's strawberry moon rose in a haze of yellow, casting our shadows to guide us back. 

Thank you to everyone who walked and watched and listened and shared. A special thanks this month to Diana Mangaser, Director of Ann Street Gallery, for her enthusiastic support of linking this Silent Walk with my installation for the 1x1x1. It was wonderful to have some Ann Street friends on the walk!

The following are brief impressions shared by several walkers and photographic documentation. Click any image to enlarge, and check out the short video for sounds. To be sure, nothing compares to the consciously aesthetic experience of being part of the landscape.  Join us!

Entering the quiet zone

Silent walking, meditating on what? Footsteps, frogs, owls,

 Every step an intention, falling behind the head, two swallows dance above the water.
This Silent Walk was so peaceful. There were so many moments where I became very introspective, but the sounds of nature would bring me back to the present moment.
It was wonderful to just listen to all the noises. Usually, I am rushing when I am here, but this was an opportunity to just be.

Ethereality--an experience that was both other worldly and right in the moment. 
One symphony of sight and sound.

Humbling to hear the chorus of so many creatures' songs--they are all around--and we are insignificant.

A leaf breaks the mirror of water.
Reflections of flowers and trees, rippling
perfect lively silence

Lovely to watch the transition from evening to night and I saw a strawberry beneath the strawberry moon!

Silent, Lovers, Friends

I couldn't tear myself away from the moon! Loved seeing huge rocks split by tree roots.

Black Rock Forest is such a special place. Thank you to the many people who work hard to make it the hallmark of advancing scientific understanding of the natural world through research, education, and conservation. My particular thanks to Brienne Cliadakis, Susanne Vondrak, and Aaron Culotta for their support of the Silent Walks.

Become a friend of the forest!


Special thanks to Emmett Munterich, the photographer for this month's walk.

Sunday, October 31, 2021

A Nocturne for October


     How lucky we were having a Silent Walk on this perfect October night. We added this because we wanted a Silent Walk in the fall, different but consistent with the spring. The evening sounds and smells, and especially the moon rise, gave us a chance to recalibrate to forest time.

checking in

     The light was already fading as people arrived. We started in near total darkness, and witnessed a shy moon finally rise above the clouds. Walking tonight was moving through an impressionist's nocturne. Every edge was blurred, every color a soft glow. Pungent smells of decay, the constant rasp of katydids, and too many airplanes revealed the industry around us. We contain multitudes.

    The following are photographs taken by the Silent Walk photographer, Thom Munterich. Included with them are comments written by several of the participants. They offer a sense of the experience, but nothing compares to going on the walk.

Jupiter above us
Every time my head said, "Where am I?"
my feet said, "Right here."

Watching the moon clear the horizon made me weep involuntarily. The beauty had to be acknowledged. It was hard to turn away and continue walking.

With my eyes adjusted to the dark, when the moon rose...for a second it seemed as bright as the sun.

A curious beaver at Aleck Meadow quietly swam over to check us out, then slowly swam away, giving us a thin white wake to follow across the water's glass.  Not so the beaver at the Upper Reservoir, who startled me with each slap. Takes all kinds, I guess.

On the Silent Walk, I notice the transition between thinking and sensing. 

I noticed: How the air moves over the surface of the skin, the pockets of warmth, the smell of still water, how air thickens, the thin layers of fear and bravery when I walked by myself, how time moves differently in the woods

I was silent but never quiet.

 At first it was like watching a stage curtained, a slow reveal, a patient audience; and then it was like watching, waiting for a lover to disrobe, full of anticipation, and once revealed, you couldn't look away.

What hit me so hard at first-the various walks (of human history) and 

All the ways in which we walk 

To our death

To live/nomadic at first

For pleasure

In exhaustion

In unison


Katydids made the walk different than the spring.

I liked the feeling of different textures underfoot.

Beautiful, peeking moon.

Magical walk in the dark! Can't believe how much you can see. The trees were silver!



Thanks once a again to Black Rock Forest for supporting The Silent Walks.  Special thanks to Brienne Cliadakis, Susanne Vondrak, Aaron Culotta, Angie Patterson and Matt Brady for all the ways your work has helped the forest and those (like me) who love it. 

Please support Black Rock Forest by becoming a member.

Tuesday, June 29, 2021

June: The Dark Walk

     The final Silent Walk of my residency at Black Rock Forest brought together the usual suspects of artists, nature-lovers, and the curious. At least 5 of the 23 were first time walkers, but we felt like old friends, chatting and laughing to get it out of our systems before starting. 

     We then walked together released from conversation, and like herd animals, only paid attention to each other's movements. The forest drew our focus.

     Along with the meditative calm one might expect, the walks require patience. To be still for so long takes self control, but offers a chance to notice the subtlety of the night--a turtle's head peeping up from the water, the circular flight of mayflies, the fading silhouette of trees on the far shore.  We are left with the memory of what we noticed, an aesthetic frame unique to each person.

     On this June night, the evening breeze kicked up texture on the water and carried bullfrog calls across the Upper Reservoir. Even though we missed the super moon, our late start meant we walked in the primordial thrill of near total darkness. Once finished, we drank a toast to Black Rock Forest, the end of the residency, and the Silent Walks. I am truly grateful for everyone who participated and for the pristine landscape we witnessed together.

     Participants have the option of writing brief thoughts about the walk, which are shared here along with photographs and videos taken by the Silent Walks photographer, Thom Munterich. Click on a photo to enlarge.

waiting for everyone to arrive

I loved seeing the last of the sunlight filter through the trees.

Since this was my third walk, I noticed some things I hadn't before, like the low water level, and the abundant greenery along the road.
toward Aleck Meadow
Last bits of sunlight on leaves as we started out,
Fallen, deteriorated trees with sharp branch remains pointing upward,
Sounds emanating from the woods across the lake,
A flight of fireflies on the walk back,
Champagne and chocolate.

chestnut oak (thanks, Angie)

the color of water

My favorite part tonight was all the sounds--birds on the way up and frogs and insects on the way down.   

 One thing that struck me was the abundance of birdsong that accompanied us on our walk as it was in stark contrast to our silence and much easier to hear and enjoy because of our silence. When we stopped, I watched the subtle color changes across the sky and hypnotic waves of water. As we walked back through the dusky light, I noticed the contrast of tree trunks that had changed from pale purple to deep purple as the sun disappeared.

I enjoyed listening to birds, bugs, frogs, wind, and the crunch of our feet.

My thoughts rising and falling like breath, getting lost in the movement of the water.


 The forest in the dark-so cool!


    I sincerely thank the staff of Black Rock Forest for their support, advice, and professionalism throughout my residency, especially Brienne Cliadakis, Suzanne Vondrak, Aaron Culotta, and Matt Brady.

Black Rock Forest is a living laboratory for field-based research and education, encompassing native terrestrial and aquatic ecosystems that are increasingly rare in the region. Interested in supporting the scientific understanding of the natural world through research, education and conservation? 

Become a Friend of the Forest.

One more thing....
Special thanks to Thom Munterich, the Silent Walks photographer and the oh-so-important "sweeper." He accomplished both tasks with his characteristic thoroughness and calm.

Sunday, May 30, 2021

The Color and Canopy of May

     Even with a late start, we still had plenty of light to guide us through much of the Silent Walk. The noticeable differences since April were twofold. First, the trees had fully leafed out, creating corridors of deep green filtered with the slanting red light of the sunset. Their shadows darkened the forest path, adding a sense of privacy within the canopy. Each time we emerged from the trees the light had changed--from the clarity of a late spring evening to the softened ember glow of sunset to the lost contours of darkness.
     The other noticeable difference signaled changes outside the forest. The coming holiday weekend and the long awaited opportunity for people to travel added airplane and road traffic to the evening sounds. Lucky for us, the frogs, birds and insects made themselves heard.
     Thank you to everyone who came out tonight! 
Our walking with deliberate attention to all the forest offers is where the art happens. 
     Several participants shared written comments, included below. Thanks to our photographers, Thom and Abby Munterich. Click on a photo to enlarge. 
The photographs and videos provide a reminder of what it was like, but nothing compares to being there! Please join us for the final Silent Walk on June 24. Registration is through the Black Rock Forest events page.

 It felt like a meditation and altered my consciousness.  Everything became a work of art, and I loved watching the colors shift and change in the sky.
I'll take evening bird and frog song over keening of trains any day----soothes the soul.
Profound Experience! Shimmering, perceptual magic!
Sounds and silence
Observing nature in silence was beautiful and peaceful
peaceful  meditative  magical   transition  memories
The most stunning visuals appear dead even though they held the most life

How do you paint a sound? The pink in the sky mirrored in the spillway, like the silence made me see what I wouldn't otherwise see.

I wonder what happened to the duck that walked down the spillway with the other standing guard?
The sounds were amazing! For me, not talking made me see less and hear more.
There is no single haiku
to express the joy
of the wonder of nature
Every hike is unique! This time I saw Venus come into view over the upper reservoir.
When the birdsong stopped, the frog-song started!
millipede season

 Thanks to the staff of Black Rock Forest
for their support of the Silent Walks, especially Brienne Cliadakis, Suzanne Vondrak, Aaron Culotta, and Matt Brady. Support BRF by becoming a member!
Interested in what else I have been doing during this residency? Please join me for a virtual Artist's Talk on June 22 at 1pm. Sign up through the Black Rock Forest events page.