Nature Photography: Coexistence (No. 66) – The Spellbound Beauty of a Single Zinnia

26 October 2020


Summer Zinnia; All Rights Reserved 2020 Sally W. Donatello

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


Ode to a Seed

One small seed holds the universe in its soul.

One small seed brings untold bounty,

moving across time and space with tenacity, often overcoming.


Legacies come in multitudes.

The tiniest can be the bravest, the strongest, the most free-spirited.

Longevity pierces common sense, beating back interference and spreading branches of the ancestral tree.


The seeds of hope are the seeds of the past intertwined with the present.

Perfection is not the necessary response.

Continuance brings abundance for wherever it slides along the continuum of

life’s axis.

That smallest of the life cycle endures even without notice, and that not being seen

often reveals the essence of coexistence.


And as the seeds of yearly bounty float from the past, the universe takes heed

to listen and watch the treasures coincide with the present.

How long is longevity? How fierce is legacy? And when do we attend the warnings

knocking on the seasonal door of abundance?


The spellbound beauty of a crimson zinnia transcends its earthly reflection. And one small seed holds the universe in its soul.



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Nature Photography: Coexistence (No. 65) – Dried Vessels of Autumn’s Pledge

12 October 2020



Dried Bark, Crepe Myrtle Tree; All Rights Reserved 2020 Sally W. Donatello

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


The eternal promise is wavering

Unable to rid itself of

Spineless assaults.


Nature’s abstractions meditate the forefront.

Dancing with Stars and Planets to the voice of the soul.

Entwining all we thought we knew into illusion and perception.

Wishes are the backbone, results are the pledge.  ~~ Sally D. Donatello

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Nature Photography: Coexistence (No. 64) – Vessels from Nature

24 August 2020


Dried Morsels of Nature Series, #1; All Rights Reserved 2020 Sally W. Donatello

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


This summer I upcycled multiple small opaque plastic bottles (5” high x 2” wide),  stripping them of their outer cover and converting them into small white flower containers. I place single flowers in them, arrange them in groups or singular displays. They’ve become symbolic vessels of creative recycling during lockdown, isolation, when I see the world as different as it is the same.

The bright faces decorate indoor and even outdoors spaces. My wildflower gardens provide an abundance of choices. Bright cheery colors line the edges of the landing outside my kitchen, connecting my inner world to the outdoors. But a second ritual of past decades emerged with vigor: collecting leaves, flowers, buds, herbs, seeds and samples of the seasons to dry. I’ve been drying flowers for decades. But during this bizarrely strange and eerie time, it’s become a semi-obsession, observing and rescuing a small bit of nature and preserving her extraordinary brilliance.

That brilliance (in the sense of magical emotional comfort and healing) is a metaphor for life and death that has transpired over the last six months. Each element of nature’s wonder becomes a memorial to this time of upheaval and constant uncertainty. Each time my attention is mesmerized by a sighting of a fallen leaf, a floret, a part of the wild that begs to enter my small world, I must preserve that discovery. And that discovery is infinite, and becomes a lifeline to instantly save me for a second or more.

The floor of my living room is lined with panels of black or white foam core. A spring and summer’s worth of samplings rest as they change their appearance, constantly pulling my attention to their continual metamorphosis.

One singular flower can become a storyboard, a narrative of the life cycle. As I arrange them on separate panels, they have become visual poems dedicated to a horrific and strange and troubling time in human history. These tiny visual reminders of the last six months are tangible proof of time’s erasure—time that has slipped through my memory with questions about its sudden evaporation, as though it never existed.

But these samples of nature also are symbolic vessels of omnipresence and omnificence in the natural world. Mother Nature brings a singular powerful strength into my days; she gives me grace and beauty and pause to consider the positive in the negative spaces of daily existence. The moments of sheer internal bliss that surface from this awareness always result in awe and wonder.

Each flower plucked, each leaf rescued is a reminder. Each morsel has its hidden charms. Each small life brings gestures of reflexive remembrance, and simultaneously builds memories anew. What I receive from nature’s bounty and offerings sustains my emotional well being, She keeps me afloat, a true lifeline.

My adoration overflows with reverence. That feeling is a thread that sustains one day into the next. And so as I tend my gardens, I tend my swollen heart. As I care and maintain my gardens, I give thanks for the decades of immersion into stewardship of the land. The gifts of nature are boundless and my gratitude is evergreen.

Nature influences me, helping me articulate who I am. She shields me, and protects me from the world—a world that struggles between an apocalyptic meltdown, and renewal of the democratic country our founders promised.


In the Lens section is an image that demonstrates some of nature’s gifts over the last six months.  I purposely gave it a shimmering patina, because even in their reduction of full life each morsel of nature continues to reinvent itself in our eyes and their place in the natural world.


“Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.” — Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

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Nature Photography: Coexistence (No. 63) – Ode to the Day’s Watercourse

13 July 2020


Oak Leaf Hydrangea; All Rights Reserved 2020 Sally W. Donatello

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


Day 125: Living in and among my sanctuary and adjusting my anxiety day-by-day.

My Ode to the Daily Watercourse:

Stay calm. Stay quiet. Stay repose.                                                                                                        Let the morning light inspire seeing anew.                                                                                Ponder.

Mediate and meditate the possibilities.

Begin. Steer the course. Be alert.

Nourish the spirit. Nourish the mind. Nourish the body.                                                           Move onward with determination.

Bend the course with calm, with quiet, with repose, with understanding. Embrace the anxiety. Build the day, to live in the moment,                                                                                To stay calm, to stay quiet, to stay repose, to understand.

To move once again into the great unknown is to open the heart,                                                 To see with multiple lenses is to expand the spirit for change, for challenge.

Stay the course. Search for quiet rebellion. Search for calm, response.

Give this moment the attention it deserves. Give yourself the attention you deserve. Give others the attention they deserve.

Acknowledge inner and outer forces. As curves appear, continue to navigate the daily watercourse with radiant light to replace this dark-hearted moment.


In the Lens section is an oak leaf hydrangea, a gift of the early summery heat. The clusters remind me of humanity’s brilliance. We are various florets in our outer appearance and limitless in our capabilities. Now we must reach for our potential. Embrace possibilities. Use our individual brilliance for the betterment of all.


“Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.” — Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.





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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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