Nature Photography: Coexistence (No. 62) – Across Time

29 June 2020


“Across Time;” All Rights Reserved 2020 Sally W. Donatello

Click onto image to enlarge. Let me know your response to this photomontage. Prints are available upon request.


Day 111: Days I have stayed-at-home since the onslaught of the pandemic; my first task each day is to write my thoughts as they appear; they plot my mind’s meanderings by first light. Sometimes it’s phrase or sentence. Others writings are multiple paragraphs.

I awake and know that I’ve earned another day. Light fills the room with thoughts of how to spend the next few hours. Already my agency has allowed a half hour to disappear, thinking about the mixture of responses to the implosion and explosion of action and inaction from winter’s chill to summer’s heat.

Over the last three and a half months some family and friends continue to shop safely for groceries and other necessities. But I’ve remained tethered to my home and gardens. In my mind’s eye uncertainty has become even more uncertain, tugging at my heartstrings. Still, some anxiety has eased, only to be replaced by others.  I cannot easily turn on past external routines, except gardening and walks in nature. Each day works to pull me closer to acceptance and understanding about how to navigate within my own boundaries. Small transformations are appearing.

I’m adjusting day by day. My circle visits in my backyard, following my state’s recommendations, being sensible as science leads us, not desire. Now the great outdoors, which has always been an essential part of my life, is tantamount as an extension of home. And I’m fortunate to offer a quiet place for visitors, including wildlife. Since time is friend and foe, I embrace my ability to map days and nights.

Our inner and outer worlds are woefully filled with heightened awareness. I remain vigilant as others seem to enter the world as though turning on a light switch They act as though wearing blinders is the better choice, better than the proven use of a mask. How do they live with the knowledge that they can infect others as well as themselves? Risky behavior to be sure. And while I’ve earned another day, I am determined to make it a meaningful one.

Truly, I hope that this post finds you adjusting to the changing landscape of our lives. Some of you have continued to contribute to your blog, and I applaud those of you that are diligent and inspired. Clearly, I am not ready to return with consistency.

I am following my instincts, my heart, floating through these difficult times with an eye to how time’s gifts can best be used. I’ve been image-making and writing, just not sharing them online.

While time continues to bemuse me, its hold on my mind also remains. Its power quickens and recedes, always its movement or stagnation astonishes.

In the Lens section is my ode to time’s grasp upon me. It seems apt that a white lacy flower from a native climbing hydrangea is the basis for this photomontage. It grows at a glacial pace and its timeless floral beauty longs for attention and understanding. The blossom of this flower and its various stages exemplify the life cycle and its relationship to time.

As I continue to adjust to protecting others and myself, the gift of a day offers each of us the choice to use the creative process to enliven and inspire. These past few months have redefined and re-imagined how to honor the preciousness of time. While some are on pause, others are producing new bodies of work.

That notion is not new to human’s reaction to change, what is new in my lifetime is the number of intersecting crises: economic, health and human rights injustices. This combination challenges our thoughts about the past, present and future.

These crises pierce our notion of the world as we naively thought we knew it. Or I knew it. They challenge and force confrontation, they enlist us to persist in the dark and light of uncertainty. They encourage a new way to see others and ourselves.


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Nature Photography: Coexistence (No. 61) – Earth Day 2020 (50th Anniversary), Celebrate Humanity and Nature

22 April 2020


“Seeing the Planet through Our Own Lens,” Earth Day 2020; All Rights Reserved 2020 Sally W. Donatello

Click onto image to enlarge. Let me know your response to this photomontage. Prints are available upon request.


Happy Earth Day, fifty years ago a worldwide effort was launched to preserve and protect our spinning planet. We have not met that promise. But I am confident that if good can emerge from the devastation of the pandemic, it is greater awareness that reduction of pollution over the last weeks has clearly made a difference. Countries have seen air quality improve, it’s brings pause that a health crisis could give such hope for change.

I am grateful to those followers who have sent messages to ask about me. It’s Day 42 of sheltering at home, and it’s a continual roller coaster of emotions. It is extraordinary to be on this journey with every other human being. And as many of you some new tasks are exhausting: will I have to be vigilant the rest of my life, careful what and who I touch; will certain aspect of our lifestyle be forever gone and rearranged in ways that are counter to our instincts. And so it goes. These are times my inner philosopher reigns.

I have not been present on my blog since March. I’ve been busy—from constant connection with family and friends to daily gardening to a virtual class to journaling to reading to creating mew work and on an on—to bridge this extraordinary moment in all our lives. My attention has been focused, but time has been redefined, giving new meaning to decisions made and executed.

I continue devotion to nature as my muse. She is always on my mind, and my stewardship is pledged as always in my garden. When the pandemic hit my small university town in February, it became the epicenter of cases in my state. And those I know began planning.

At that point I had been meeting weekly (for months) with a dear friend who is an artist. We decided to continue by phone, and use this shelter in place as space to do projects that will push the boundaries of our work. We have different visions through different media and color palette, but our philosophies melt in symbiosis. The result is pushing our sense of self- expression and encouraging boundless ideas. That work is being held tight, and some of it will eventually appear on my blog.

For now I placed in the Lens section an image that is meant to show how we each see nature and the world through different lenses. Mine is very much the glass full and even at times spilling over. But this global crisis does give pause for lifestyle and the world to come, the unknown life in the aftermath. The images explodes with hues of hope.

While I will return with weekly posts, my inner compass will determine when I will. It will be relatively soon (maybe May or June).

Please support all the brave and courageous people placing their lives at risk for us ( this Saturday is a nationwide effort to thank them with signs: I’m also placing flowers near my mailbox). Where I live my neighbors are respectful as we take daily walks; compassion, empathy and respect are necessary now.

Each of us must find ways to navigate this unique personal and global challenge. Take a moment and feel the sun on your face, go out tonight and star gaze, thank Mother Earth for giving us life and breath. Plant a tree. Plant a container garden of herbs.

Cheer yourself with small acts of compassion to others and yourself. It matters more than ever.

There are so many ways to honor the earth. I hope that you connect, discover or reconnect with nature today and everyday. She is a healer and provider of optimism. Celebrate her, because in doing so, we celebrate every human that walks the earth.

Mostly, please take care of yourself. There is a light that shines ahead, and we will be better for it.

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Nature Photography: Coexistence (No. 60) – Walking on Cracked Ice

09 March 2020


Walking on Cracked Ice; All Rights Reserved 2020 Sally W. Donatello

Click onto image to enlarge. Let me know your response to this photomontage. Prints are available upon request.


“Walking on Cracked Ice” is my latest image that envisions my deeply felt concern for the planet and the global environmental crisis. As cracks reveal a cascade of predictions a figure carefully stands on warming ice. It casts the net of today and tomorrow with a quiet beauty of nature even in its labyrinth is destruction. And now the pandemic is added to the global mix.

An apt descriptor, which exemplifies the malaise and tension of the here-and-now in the human (and non-human) journey, is fragility. No matter where we are located, our spirits have been deflated and infiltrated—infiltrated by outside forces that are beyond much of our control. We can respond with informed action, and the notion of complete safety emotionally and physically continues to be out of reach.

When will these multiple lessons striking humanity jolt the response needed? Whether it’s climate crisis, political crisis or health crisis, a trio of fragility hangs over me, over us. So I turn more and more to distractions, any way to keep my mind free of the onslaught.

I’m working at a balance between informed and retreat. Distance is a double-sided answer to our current world order, especially in America. Distance to get perspective about how to cope with so much knocking against our well-being.

And so I welcome spring’s early arrival with greenery and blossoming flowers and rain and blues skies and ground hogs running through my gardens and foxes awakening me in the middle of nighttime and bluebirds flitting around the bird feeders and hellobores with delicate flower heads nodding in the breeze. These visual treats of Mother Nature comfort with their reality and symbolism of renewal and rejuvenation.

I accept her gifts with praise and wonder. I accept their exhilaration even with questions about what tomorrow will harvest through my spirit.



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Nature Photography: Coexistence (No. 59) – Lifting the Curtain to See Nature

24 February 2020


Stepping into Layers of Nature Photomontage; All Rights Reserved 2020 Sally W. Donatello

Click onto image to enlarge. Let me know your response to this photomontage. Prints are available upon request.


Winter 2020 has produced a season that will undoubtedly leap to the forefront of memory.For me it’s a grave example of our future; that is, unless we act. With less than a month until the official arrival of spring we’ve already seen renewal that signals spring’s performance. Just in the last few weeks I’ve seen the completion of naturalized crocuses in my backyard, buds of daffodils readying to bloom, trees budding, unseasonable temps, birds flitting in and out of birdhouse on the search for nesting opportunities, one short snowfall, mostly temps in the 30s and 40s. We’re in winter but the weather is not in any way meeting its description.

This current awakening of the earth is so troubling, because my region of the Mid Atlantic has not had its much-needed weeks of inches-deep frozen earth. Without that hard freeze the ecosystem is off center, not able to control the imbalance that undoubtedly will surface. For an entire season to be set askew is to mourn human’s lack of attention to our greatest threat: the climate crisis.

And so my heart is ablaze with action. I’ve been buying seeds and planning more wildflower gardens. For twenty years I’ve been turning the majority of my property into wildlife habitats. Certainly, this passion has its rewards.

And as every gardener knows, it’s a never-ending story: the assessment and reassessment of a season and its progeny. For me it’s a combination of intuition, education, planning and selection. My goal has remained: reduce grass and return the land to its wild state. Within a small university progressive town my neighborhood is blessed. There are mature trees that are perfect habitats for all sorts of wildlife, red-shouldered hawks overhead, raccoons, skunks, opossums, a myriad of birds, groundhogs … It’s a glorious balance in a non-rural setting.

While it’s usual for me to garden for much of the four seasons, it’s late February and I’m gardening as though it’s early April. The earth is workable and I’m weeks ahead in preparation for spring planting.

Do I temp my eagerness to plant? No, I steady my patience and use my years of experience to hold tight.

The act of being able to spend hours out in my gardens suffices. Most importantly, that immersion keeps my mind occupied and thinking of the joys ahead, even as analysis continues.

In the Lens section is my latest tribute to Mother Earth and the world that we long to inhabit, at least I do. It’s a tribute to the vital planet that gave us abundance, fertility and majesty. Such splendor is being threatened every day and tears at the heartstrings.

Recently, I learned about the well-respected nature writer Barry Lopez’s essay “A Literature of Place (2004).” Here is a quote that touched me deeply, and started my thoughts meandering across space and time with nature at the forefront.

“If you’re intimate with a place, a place with whose history you’re familiar, and you establish an ethical conversation with it, the implication that follows is this: the place knows you’re there. It feels you. You will not be forgotten, cut off, abandoned.” As humans our connection with nature provides (he continues) “a fundamental human defense against loneliness.”

Lopez was primarily describing how the relationship with the land shapes our inner landscape. Animals, wild and domestic, also do this. Maybe if people spent more time in nature, a bubbling reverence would emerge, and it would become the single driving force to save the planet.


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Nature Photography: Coexistence (No. 58) – “There is a Crack … in Everything” Photomontage

10 February 2020


“There is a Crack in Everything” Photomontage; All Rights Reserved 2020 Sally W. Donatello

Click onto image to enlarge. Let me know your response to this photomontage. Prints are available upon request.


The lyrics from Leonard Cohen’s “Anthem ” inspired my photomontage in the Lens section. At the heart of his words, which were released in the 1992 album of the same title, is a warning about the imperfections of the human condition. His entire poetic song is nine stanzas; each speaks to the power of hope — the crack that lets the light radiate inward and outward. The song took him a decade to complete, and it is as relevant in 2020 as it was over twenty-five years ago.

Here are the first and last stanzas, which through repetition echoes the significance of the other seven stanzas that comment on humanity’s ability to create chaos and wonder. Cohen’s work was greatly influenced by his reverence and study of Zen Buddhism, whose philosophy and tenets were a mix of how light sustains life and recognizes that human animal never will reach perfection.

“Anthem” first and last stanzas:

“Ring the bells that still can ring                                                                                                     Forget your perfect offering                                                                                                             There is a crack, a crack in everything                                                                                             That’s how the light gets in                                                                                                              That’s how the light gets in                                                                                                                                            That’s how the light gets in.”

The image on the left in the Lens section is a trio of floating feathers. They represent the environmental crisis and the imbalance it is creating: the loss, for example, of one million birds at the mercy of death by plastic that is found in the oceans (Sierra Club magazine, January 2020). The image of egg shells on the right represents life and its fragility due to human intervention; the egg births life and also provides sustenance for many creatures. In the center is the dawning of bright light that gives power to what can be possible: cracks in the proverbial world that produces civilizations that thrive and inspire the  longevity of human ingenuity.

This winter has made it clear that climate change and chemicals are severely affecting the bird population. I am witnessing that decline in my backyard. Usually, I use three large bags of birdseed by mid-winter; to date I’ve used half of one bag. And family and friends have experienced and noticed this change.

To recognize the “crack in everything” is to recognize the history of human existence, and the light sustaining our continuance.




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Nature Photography: Coexistence (No. 57) – Spring Births Clarity and Confusion

03 February 2020

Spring Births Clarity and Confusion; All Rights Reserved 2020 Sally W. Donatello

Click onto image to enlarge. Let me know your response to this photomontage. Prints are available upon request.


Spring is accelerating its arrival. Temps are forecast to waiver between 40s and 60s throughout the week, clearly unseasonable. Daffodils are growing skyward. Birds are scouting birdhouses. It’s extraordinary. January is usual our coldest month, but this year it was mild and at times toasty warm.

This winter bird sightings have diminished, piercing my heart and mood. Today at least the sunlight will reign. And I plan to submerge myself in a walk at a local park. Then I will continue to work in my upper gardens, where I will trim grasses and widen more gardens.

Every year I reduce grassy areas, and celebrate another plot to plant native species or wildflowers. I’ll do anything to give back to wildlife its habitats, and encourage the wild’s staying power.

Most days I hear the hawks overhead and their songs expand my emotions, giving them a moment of both calm and exhilaration. When I submerge myself in nature, I reduce the inner chatter and concentrate on tasks. My mind is bathed in a mini-sabbatical.

In the Lens section is a photomontage that represents the clarity and confusion that Mother Nature and human nature undoubtedly are experiencing. This winter is a prime example.

While some areas of the world have extreme reactions (drought, fires, hurricanes, extinction of species) to the piercing of the nature world, here in the Mid-Atlantic of the USA spring seems to have arrived. It feels great, but also terrifies. In my lifetime (many, many, many decades) the four seasons have existed in a rhythmic pattern. With the climate crisis that syncopation probably has evaporated forever. And so it is both clarifying and confusing. We know the score; we must act on the confusion and pain that the clarity has given us.

The image’s foreground is meant to show winter’s leafless trees, and the background exemplifies life that soon will burst forth. Spring will return a force of energy to the landscape. While its essence is being altered, reactions must follow. The question remains: How much confusion and pain does it take to energize humanity, to understand that our very existence is being changed in plain sight?

Still, encouragement comes from Britain’s step to fight the climate crisis. Here is the link to view the announcement:

“Reshape economy to fight climate crisis, says Prince Charles;”

Here is a quote:

“Climate change, biodiversity loss and global warming are the greatest threats humanity has ever faced, he warned, adding that capital needs to be properly deployed in order to tackle these threats.”


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Nature Photography: Coexistence (No. 56) – Coexistence and Survival

27 January 2020

Coexistence and Survival; All Rights Reserved 2020 Sally W. Donatello

Click onto image to enlarge. Let me know your response to this photomontage. Prints are available upon request.


27 January 2020

Our fragile planet succumbs to its assaults by human intervention. As a result there is a daily surge that pierces our psyches and thoughts. And so we march forward seeking ways to be. The constant invasion of “news” that dishes out truth and variations on lies creates an atmosphere to “just say no.” This constant pollution of noise places us in a state of uncertainty. At least we can curtail listening to and reading the verbiage. My formula to cope is to spread hope and optimism, which seems almost beyond the sight lines.

In the Lens section is a photomontage that links the results of the climate crisis to renewal. The background represents the increase of many examples of invasive acts upon nature and thus human nature. For instance, the ongoing devastation of fires tilts our sense of reality. But Mother Nature will begin to heal with the buds of new life.

It’s incomprehensible that the tipping point has not been realized by those that can change the trajectory of the damage to the wild, to humanity, to life as we know it. BUT I believe strongly in (literally an metaphorically) on-the-ground action.

Did you know that if 350,000 people were vegans (giving up dairy and meat) for a month, the result would be the reduction of carbon emissions by 45,000 tons (The New York Times, Pledging to Go Vegan, at Least for January, by Alyson Krueger, 18 January 2020). This movement to join Veganuary, the “campaign was started in the United Kingdom in 2014 … According to Veganuary, 750,000 people from 192 countries have joined the pledge, with about half signing up for 2020.”

I’ve been a vegetarian for over forty years, but I do love cheese. And I adore my recent switch to oat milk, having given up soy or almond milk for specific reasons (medical and environmental in that order). I definitely will pick a summer month (when my garden is at its most productive) to “go” vegan. At least to see how it affects my everyday meal choices.

This reassessment of selection of ingredients reminds me of my early days as a vegetarian: how availability was minimal and what was available was not always palatable. Vegetarian cooking has been a magical journey of, well, magic in choices, flare, taste and more inclusive public acceptance. It’s a lifestyle that I inhabit with complete enthusiasm each and every day.

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Nature Photography: Coexistence (No. 55) – Nature’s Resilience Inspires Photomontage 2

21 January 2020


Mother Nature’s Resilience Inspires Photomontage 2; All Rights Reserved 2020; Sally W. Donatello

Click onto image to enlarge. Let me know your response to this photomontage. Prints are available upon request.


On a day forecast for our first measurable snow thoughts of spring and my gardens hover with wonder. Gardening, especially native plants, is a critical act to honor the planet and my love of nature. As a steward of the land for decades, I have sought to exchange swaths of grass for gardens filled with flowers, plants, trees and vegetables.

To return the land to the wild is to fight the climate crisis, and I’ve been at it since the 1970s. The rewards are monumental for one’s emotional and physical well-being, even for those that observe the transformation.

And the winter continues with temps that kept yesterday’s original forecast from snow to inches of rain. Temperature and weather have become part of daily concern and consideration. They have entered our bodies and minds with an invasive force, being a constant topic of conversation.

In the Lens section is another salute to planet Earth. The earth has the ability to revitalize the soil and thus the air we breathe. Carbon monoxide is not our number one enemy: humanity is. But the balance between the carbon monoxide released into the ether by green things and oxygen taken in by human beings is the equilibrium of interdependence needed for us to survive.

The image blends these ideas. Small globes represent the release of carbon monoxide from the soil into the air where we take the oxygen to sustain our bodies. The growth of plant life within the globes is the result of the symbiosis between nature and humanity. It gives me pause, and I wonder why others do not accept this truth of interdependence, what we need to sustain life on Earth.

Consider watching this TED Talk titled “A climate change solution that’s right under our feet” in which “biogeochemist Asmeret Asefaw Berhe dives into the science of soil and shares how we could use its awesome carbon-trapping power to offset climate change.”



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Nature Photography: Coexistence (no. 54) – Nature’s Resilience Inspires

13 January 2020


Nature’s Resilience Photomontage; All Rights Reserved 2020 Sally W. Donatello

Click onto image to enlarge. Let me know your response to this photomontage. Prints are available upon request.


There is no need to reiterate the devastation being waged on Australia, on nature and humanity. Suffice it say, this horrific event is causing damage that may never replace the loss. The animal population alone is cause for great distress. It’s a horrible way to bring attention to the present and future that we have created. But crisis intervention is a known fact that forces action. Still, the Australian government has chosen not to act.

And so the rest of us must help. Here is an article from The New York Times that lists organizations that are supporting this human-made and natural destruction:  “How to Help Victims of Australia’s Fires: The deadly wildfires, fanned by wind and fueled by scorching heat, are raging across the southeast of the country,” by Christine Hauser and Laura M. Holson (06 January 2020).

If you want a quick and easy way to contribute, here’s the information: WIRES, or the NSW Wildlife Information, Rescue and Education Service Inc., is Australia’s largest wildlife rescue organization. Donations can be made online, by telephone and through Facebook and PayPal.

The escalation of climate-related disasters continues. Nature and human nature suffer in tandem, and thus our interdependence is center stage. Still, for the very short-term Mother Nature and human nature exhibit their resilience and power to forge ahead.

Fires are part of the history that heals and rejuvenates, demonstrating a pattern in natural history and science. Fire hurts everything in its pathway. Even great devastation results in rebirth in forests and on  land. But the rage in the Australian fires is beyond what we have seen in my country, and the hurt grows.

These stories of worldwide climate emergency motivate me to create some lingering optimism. In the Lens section is my interpretation of how the earth renews itself with circles of hope rolling across the earth as it heals and rejuvenates. Resilience is power.




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Nature Photography: Coexistence (No. 53): Climate Alarm Photomontage

06 January 2020


Climate Alarm Photomontage; All Rights Reserved 2020 Sally W. Donatello

Click onto image to enlarge. Let me know your response to this photomontage. Prints are available upon request.


06 January 2020

This morning continued the dawning of the year—a year that may prove to surprise even the most cynical. As the weeks fill their destiny, I will be suggesting ways to soothe our journey.

Here is an example. Last week as I made my way north about forty minutes from my home, I searched TED Talks for a presentation, preferably about climate activism and climate justice. And behold, there I found the TEDx Countdown. Since that first introduction I’ve listened to it three times and joined their efforts.

Excerpted from ” TED and Future Stewards with Christiana Figures announced Countdown: a global collaboration to turn the tide on climate change. The name Countdown refers to the necessary reduction to zero net greenhouse gas emissions called for by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), in order to mitigate the worst effects of climate change. A summit of 1,000 leaders and influencers – representing a cross-section of nations, businesses, cities, and citizens – will be held in Bergen, Norway from October 6-9, 2020. The following day – 10.10.2020 – will be celebrated as a major global gathering made up of thousands of connected local events in cities, neighborhoods, schools and workplaces around the globe—coordinated by the global TEDx community and other partners. Countdown content will be promoted by YouTube, and many YouTube creators will be invited to take part both in Bergen and at local events being held around the globe.”

Please view to read details about this collaboration and join the effort.

In the Lens section is a photomontage that reflects my feelings about this economic, environmental, social and political  crisis. It represents the intense and increasing threats imposed upon the planet by human inactions.

Candles come alive with fire, and fire can be a tool for survival or a tool for destruction. We are seeing the latter carve its way across global pathways.

Make a wish on these candles (sculpted by the wintry landscape) to stir the human spirit to put pressure on every nation, every government, every leader, each individual to get involved. And to realize that we can reverse the tides, we can avoid a dystopian future.


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