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.


Wednesday, April 28, 2021

Pink Moon

 During the second Silent Walk on the Full Moon at Black Rock Forest, the leaves were only just starting to emerge from their buds. April's green was not yet gold, but no worries. The moon was pink.  

   Once in the woods, the trees provided shelter from the chill breeze, and the low sun set their branches on fire. Peepers, a few water thrushes, and one very relaxed duck kept us company. It was an hour of shifting color, from the spectrum sunset to the intense glow of the year's first super moon. By turns their shadows and light marked our path.

Thank you to everyone who walked and witnessed.

The following are optional comments offered by some of the participants along with photographs taken during the walk. These serve as reminders, but nothing beats the actual experience. Join us! Reserve a space in the May 26 Silent Walk through the BRF events page.


I was amazed by all the different ways light interacted with the environment. From the sun highlighting the tops of the trees, the light like fireworks on the water, the sunset reflected on the mountains, to that super bright moon! 

Shadbush/Serviceberry blossoms along the path

The sunset to the left and the moonrise to the right--no words

Textured "tree star"

The experience made me feel at one with nature and the group. It made me appreciate the wonder nature provides us and how we have a responsibility to take care of it.

It was a wonderful to take a moment to be inspired and connect with nature and my mind.

 We were alone and together.

Because we were silent, I really noticed the distant highway, birdsong, and the breeze as it approached.


 My sincere thanks once again to the amazing staff at Black Rock Forest, especially Brienne Cliadakis, Susanne Vondrak, Aaron Culotta, and Matt Brady. 
Interested in supporting a nearly 4000 acre living laboratory of research and education? 
Thanks as always to the Silent Walks photographer, Thom Munterich.  

Tuesday, March 30, 2021

Silent Walks on the FULL Moon at Black Rock Forest: The Clear Light of March


Last night 17 people participated in the first of three Silent Walks on the FULL Moon at Black Rock Forest.  After the wind and rain of the previous days, we welcomed a chilly, clear evening. We moved through the twilight with deliberate silence. As the light faded, our senses opened to attune to the smallest shifts of perception--smell, sound, sight, and we became aware of these woods on this night.

Ripples of life under the water's surface, the wind made visible as a luminous shimmer across the reservoir, the echoes of geese, and of course, the loud slapping of the beavers, were magical, but they did not happen for us. We simply were able to bear witness. In fact, the forest's indifference to our presence felt like grace.

At the end of the walk, participants had the option of writing a few words about the experience. They are included below. Photographs are inadequate, but we offer them as a reminder of what it was like. My thanks to Thom Munterich for documenting this and all the Silent Walks. 

My sincerest thanks to Black Rock Forest, especially Brienne Cliadakis, Aaron Culotta, Susanne Vondrak, and Matt Brady. 



Entering the Quiet Zone

So Calming. Love the changes in light and sound. Perfect time of day for transitions.

I love Black Rock at dusk. Great light and peaceful.

The beavers were awesome, slapping their tails. Not talking was weird but great. It was like meditation. Cool to see the stars so bright. It was great to be in the woods in the dark and not feel afraid. Loved it!

๐Ÿ’šThe fallen tree trying to follow the stream

๐Ÿ’šThe first reservoir like a crown

๐Ÿ’šThe piles of rocks a reminder of childhood play

๐Ÿ˜กannoying steaming up of glasses because of mask

Aleck Meadow Reservoir

I find I'm either listening to music, or, in times of silence, hearing music in my head. ๐ŸŽถ THANK YOU for this experience!

The wind made beautifully complicated ripples on the surface of the reservoir. We saw and heard two beavers. Thanks you!

 Quiet gave space to listen to frogs, trees and birds! Loved seeing the way different trees capture light.

Light's eventide. Bonnard

Water rushing in streams, quite loud, then fading away.
THE BEAVERS As destructive as they are they were glorious. That splash! The deeply eroded dam like a stairway up to an ancient pyramid. The stars kept multiplying.

To walk in silence in the forest at dusk is a magical experience. For me the highlights were the glow of the sunset at my shoulder; the ripples on the water at Aleck Meadow reservoir—interrupted by the geese; the sounds of bigger, more ominous animals than encountered in the daylight lurking in the dark woods; watching beavers leap and play in the Upper Reservoir; and finally, seeing the starlit sky above.

Thanks again to all the participants! The next Silent Walk is on April 26.

Registration is required. 

 Sign up now through Black Rock Forest's event page.