Inside Look at Fire, Water, Wind

Inside Look at Fire, Water, Wind: 2022 SAQA Quilt Exhibition: WILD! Brigham City Museum of Art & History
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2022 SAQA Quilt Exhibition: WILD!
Brigham City Museum of Art & History

Kodachrome Reflections Quilt Art Copyright Kimberly Lacy Courtesy Mary Heers Kodachrome Reflections
Quilt Art Copyright Kimberly Lacy
Used By Permission
All Rights Reserved
This Image Courtesy Mary Heers

A Terrible Beauty, Quilt Art & Image Copyright Sara Lamb, Photographer & Quilt Artist All Rights Reserved, This Image Courtesy Mary HeersA Terrible Beauty
Quilt Art & Image Copyright Sara Lamb, Photographer & Quilt Artist
Used By Permission
All Rights Reserved
This Image Courtesy Mary Heers

The Untamed Wind Quilt Art Copyright Jeannette Schoennagel, All Rights Reserved This Image Courtesy Mary Heers The Untamed Wind
Quilt Art Copyright Jeannette Schoennagel,
Used By Permission
All Rights Reserved
This Image Courtesy Mary Heers

One of the most important lessons I learned during last summer’s long hot afternoons was that the best place to appreciate Utah’s natural beauty can sometimes be inside an art museum.

As I stepped off the blistering hot sidewalk and through the doors of the Brigham City art and history museum, I breathed a sigh of relief. Not too hot, not too cold. Just right. A magical place where I could go inside to commune with nature. I had arrived at “Wild,” a juried quilt exhibit featuring some of the best work of fiber artists in the Intermountain West.

A quick glance around the room and I was immediately drawn to a silhouette of a mountain cabin Sunrise I thought, with the brilliant yellow and orange sky. Each quilt came with a typed note from the artist about the piece. I started to read. This was her cabin in the woods. Then came the shock. She had watched the breaking news on tv as wildfire licked the edges of her cabin and then engulfed it in flames. Suddenly the velvet strip running along the edge of the piece looked red hot. The bits of black yarn hand stitched off the nearby tree practically crackled with heat.

Somewhat cautiously I approached the next quilt. What looked like a kaleidoscope of soft sunset colors on a quiet pond turned out to be just that. I breathed a sigh of relief. The freehand swirling of the stitching made the water ripple. The setting sun bathed the air and water in deepening shades of pink. I actually had to resist the urge to run home, grab my fishing pole, and cast my line into the quilted watery pool.

Making the final turn around the room, I saw the piece I liked the best. Here was a tree with a painted white bark with bits of confetti leaves flying off. The rolling waves of stitching created a windy look that practically breezed through my hair. This piece was festive – the leaves dancing their way from one season into the next.

Fire, water and wind. I had felt the presence of these three cornerstones of the natural world inside this cozy museum.

But before I could get too comfortable, I heard a warning cry from one last artist. Her quilt was a strange patch of peacock blue in the middle of a rubbly hillside. Puzzled, I read her story. She loved to romp with her dog up and down this hillside close to her home. Then the patch of blue appeared. She approached it and discovered it was not an exotic bird. It was a stake driven into the heart of the hill. Within weeks the bulldozers and front end loaders arrived and ripped the earth apart.

As I stepped back into the hot outside world, I shouted out three small cheers for all the art museums that help us savor the natural beauty of our open spaces – and remind us to keep working to preserve them.

This is Mary Heers and I’m Wild about Utah

Credits:
Photos: Courtesy Mary Heers, Thank you to Kimberly Lacy, Sara Lamb and Jeannette Schoennagel for permission to display their artwork on this site and upr.org
Featured Audio: Courtesy & Copyright © Friend Weller, Utah Public Radio upr.org
Text: Mary Heers, https://cca.usu.edu/files/awards/art-and-mary-heers-citation.pdf
Additional Reading: Lyle Bingham, https://bridgerlandaudubon.org/

Additional Reading

Wild About Utah, Mary Heers’ Wild About Utah Postings

2022 Quilt Exhibition: WILD! Brigham City Museum of Art & History, June 25-September 17, 2022https://www.brighamcitymuseum.org/2022quiltshow
Tel:435-226-1439, museum@bcutah.org
Address: 24 North 300 West, Brigham City, UT 84302

International Art Quilt Exhibition and Layered Voices Exhibition, Now Playing Utah, Utah Cultural Alliance, https://www.nowplayingutah.com/event/international-art-quilt-exhibition-and-layered-voices-exhibition/

WILD! (SAQA Regional), Studio Art Quilt Associates, Inc, Jun 25, 2022-Sep 17, 2022, https://www.saqa.com/art/exhibitions/wild-saqa-regional
View WILD! on ISSUU, Jun 20, 2022, https://issuu.com/saqaart/docs/wildfilp1-compressed/

Dunetts, LaVonne M, Wild!: SAQA CO/UT/WY, May 31, 2022, https://www.amazon.com/Wild-SAQA-CO-UT-WY/dp/B0B2WLQG4C/ref=sr_1_1?

Brigham City Museum of Art & History on FaceBook: https://www.facebook.com/BrighamCityMuseum/

Desert Desserts

Desert Desserts: Sacred Datura Moon Flower Courtesy & © Shannon Rhodes, Photographer
Sacred Datura Moon Flower
Courtesy & © Shannon Rhodes, Photographer

Prickly Pear Cactus Courtesy & © Shannon Rhodes, Photographer Prickly Pear Cactus
Courtesy & © Shannon Rhodes, Photographer

Mormon Tea (Ephedra) From Comb Ridge Courtesy & © Shannon Rhodes, Photographer Mormon Tea (Ephedra) From Comb Ridge
Courtesy & © Shannon Rhodes, Photographer

Limestone Crinoids Courtesy & © Shannon Rhodes, Photographer Limestone Crinoids
Courtesy & © Shannon Rhodes, Photographer

My proofreader’s eye has often spotted “dessert” misspelled as “desert,” and to some, those two concepts couldn’t be more dissimilar. During my three days in and along a short 27-river-mile stretch of Utah’s San Juan River this month though, I marveled at the menu.

Terry Tempest Williams captures what she calls “small devotions of the desert alphabet” in her book “The Illuminated Desert.” She lists lizards languishing in desert heat, ravens and rattlesnakes amid the red rocks. A fascinating one, the Sacred Datura, blooms only at night and attracts pollinators like the hawkmoth with its showy white blossoms in the moonlight. If it is food you are after, however, avoid this poisonous temptation. Instead, try a juicy prickly pear cactus pad once you have removed the long, sharp spines. Some say it tastes like watermelon, but it tastes like a banana to me.

Along the path to San Juan Hill atop Comb Ridge, I also find ephedra, a shrub that carries out photosynthesis in its green branches, that has traditionally been said to have been used medicinally and brewed, hence the common name Mormon tea. Some, like Brock Cheney who has researched the claim that Brigham Young advocated drinking tea made from boiling the stems, argue that Young’s “composition tea” was not made from the Mormon tea plant, and once you try it, the bitterness will tell you why. Having not ever had a sip myself, I can say that the Mormon tea shrub does sprinkle brilliant green to the landscape like a garnish.

“Lie down on your backs and try to feel what is special about this place.” That’s the challenge in Joseph Cornell’s book “Sharing Nature with Children,” but it is equally rewarding to do as an adult. Lounging in the raft as another rows, I look from the sediment-laden river that reminds me of watery chocolate pudding thanks to recent rainstorms, to the great blue heron standing as a guide, flying ahead and waiting for us to catch up, just to fly ahead again. I watch with wonder as the western tanager males, songbirds with yellow bodies and black wings, heads aflame with red-orange, flutter among the salt cedars.

This oasis offers a promise of quiet away from the commotion of my city life as the desert bighorn sheep nod from the coyote willow. Even after studying the scorpions in the sand illuminated by flashlight, I stretch out and nibble at the buffet of constellations above me in the sky.

The crinoids encased in the limestone boulders along the riverbank the next morning remind me that this place was once for millions of years, actually, an ancient inland sea. I find deliciousness here in the dry heat, the muddy grit, as a guest who will return, hungry for more.

For Wild About Utah, I’m Shannon Rhodes.

Credits:
Images: Courtesy & Copyright Shannon Rhodes, Photographer
Audio: Courtesy & © Kevin Colver https://wildstore.wildsanctuary.com/
Text:     Shannon Rhodes, Edith Bowen Laboratory School, Utah State University https://edithbowen.usu.edu/
Additional Reading Links: Shannon Rhodes

Additional Reading:

Cheney, Brock. 2009. Mormon Tea! Plain but Wholesome: Adventures in Mormon Pioneer Food. http://pioneerfoodie.blogspot.com/2009/02/in-news-mormon-tea.html

Cornell, Joseph. 1998. Sharing Nature With Children. DAWN Publications. https://www.sharingnature.com/sharing-nature.html

Eldredge, Sandra. 1992. Geologic Resources of San Juan County. Department of Natural Resources Utah Geologic Survey. https://ugspub.nr.utah.gov/publications/public_information/PI-14.pdf

Larese-Casanova, Mark. 2011. Amazing Adaptations of Utah’s Desert Plants. https://wildaboututah.org/amazing-adaptations-of-utahs-desert-plants/

U.S. Forest Service. Sacred Datura. https://www.fs.usda.gov/wildflowers/beauty/Sky_Islands/plants/Datura_wrightii/index.shtml

https://www.fs.usda.gov/wildflowers/ethnobotany/Mind_and_Spirit/datura.shtml

Utah State University Extension. Salt cedar and coyote willow. https://extension.usu.edu/rangeplants/shrubs-and-trees/Saltcedar

https://extension.usu.edu/rangeplants/shrubs-and-trees/CoyoteWillow

Williams, Terry Tempest. 2008. The Illuminated Desert. Canyonlands Natural History Association. https://www.amazon.com/Illuminated-Desert-Terry-Tempest-Williams/dp/0937407119

Purple Wildflower Poetry

Purple Wildflower Poetry: Manti LaSal Majesty Courtesy & © Shannon Rhodes, Photographer

Manti LaSal Majesty
Courtesy & © Shannon Rhodes, Photographer

Shooting Star Courtesy & © Shannon Rhodes, Photographer

Shooting Star
Courtesy & © Shannon Rhodes, Photographer

Larkspur Courtesy & © Shannon Rhodes, Photographer

Larkspur
Courtesy & © Shannon Rhodes, Photographer

Scorpionweed Courtesy & © Shannon Rhodes, Photographer

Scorpionweed
Courtesy & © Shannon Rhodes, Photographer

There are two lines in the patriotic hymn “America the Beautiful” that really sing to me. One is “Who more than self their country loved,” honoring history’s heroes, and the other I exclaim each time I stumble upon an alpine meadow in bloom. Decades ago my friend Amberly and I borrowed the phrase “purple mountain majesties” as we gazed at the larkspur dotting our way to Emerald Lake, and it has been a common exclamation for me ever since. The purple aster, bluebell, clover, monkshood, penstemon, and silvery lupine also complement the evergreens and azure skies in a way that takes my breath away, begging to be captured by camera, paint, and pen.

This fourth of July I compose this piece sitting not too far away from the Colorado mountain peak where Katharine Lee Bates sat in 1893 as she penned the first draft of her poetic “Oh beautiful for spacious skies” stanzas. She had traveled from her post teaching English at Wellesley College in Massachusetts, visiting Niagara Falls, Chicago’s Columbian Exposition, and Kansas grainfields on her first trip west to Colorado Springs, where she would be teaching a summer school session.

She and her fellow instructors took a “merry expedition” to an overlook on Pikes Peak and were immediately struck by the beauty. “It was then and there,” she wrote, “as I was looking out over the sea-like expanse of fertile country spreading away so far under those ample skies, that the opening lines of the hymn floated into my mind.”

Two years after setting the manuscript aside as busy writers often do, she revisited her notebook scribblings and published what she described as “a more literary and ornate” version than we now know it for that fourth of July. In a letter dated October 8, 1919, acquaintance Robert Frost wrote to Miss Bates his sentiment that “free rhythms are as disorderly as nature.” I will admit that most of my poems, Mr. Frost, do not follow strict rules of rhyme and meter like yours and Katharine’s do, but just the same I admire the higgledy-piggledy scorpionweed’s violet bottlebrush clusters and haphazardness of the larkspur petals standing before me.

Frost’s third poetry collection titled “Mountain Interval” inspires me to record the explosive colors of the wildflowers I see as I watch fireworks spatter and scatter against the silhouette of the Rockies, mimicking the shootingstar flowers with their purple petals swept backwards that punctuate the path. Bates wasn’t writing about wildflowers as much as she was the geologic wonders and expansive views from 14,000 feet, but I can feel poems emerging from both.

In Nancy Churnin’s picture book biography “For Spacious Skies,” Katharine Lee Bates says, “Most glorious scenery I ever beheld,” and each wildflower cascading lavender from its sparkler-wand stem molds the makings of other poems celebrating the majestic allure of this land.

I’m Shannon Rhodes, and I’m wild about Utah.

Credits:
Images: Courtesy & Copyright Shannon Rhodes, Photographer
Additional Audio: Courtesy & © Kevin Colver https://wildstore.wildsanctuary.com/collections/special-collections as well as J. Chase and K.W. Baldwin https://upr.org.
Text: Shannon Rhodes, Edith Bowen Laboratory School, Utah State University https://edithbowen.usu.edu/
Additional Reading Links: Shannon Rhodes

Additional Reading:

Bates, Katharine Lee. ca. 1925. Falmouth Historical Society’s Museums on the Green. Massachusetts. https://museumsonthegreen.org/wp-content/uploads/Katharine-Lee-Bates-describes-how-she-wrote-America-The-Beautiful-after-1922-signed.pdf

Churnin, Nancy. 2020. For Spacious Skies: Katharine Lee Bates and the Inspiration for “America the Beautiful.” Park Ridge, Illinois: Albert Whitman and Company. https://www.nancychurnin.com/forspaciousskies, https://www.nancychurnin.com/thekidsareallwrite/2019/8/3/happy-birthday-wishes-for-katharine-lee-bates-poet-of-america-the-beautiful

Author, Nancy Churnin, reads her new book For Spacious Skies! https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cXyANvok7sE

Frost, Robert. 1919. Letter from Robert Frost, Amhurst, Massachusetts, to Katharine Lee Bates: autograph manuscript signed 1919, October 8. Wellesley College Digital Repository Special Collections. https://repository.wellesley.edu/object/wellesley31310

Frost, Robert. 1916. Mountain Interval. New York: Henry Holt and Company. https://www.gutenberg.org/files/29345/29345-h/29345-h.htm

Kratz, Andrew. Nuttall’s Larkspur. U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Forest Service. https://www.fs.fed.us/wildflowers/plant-of-the-week/delphinium_nuttallianum.shtml

Flowers in the Aspen Groves, Rocky Mountains, Utah, U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Forest Service. ​​https://www.fs.fed.us/wildflowers/beauty/aspen/flowers/utah.shtml

Ponder, Melinda M. 2017. Katharine Lee Bates: From Sea to Shining Sea. Chicago: Windy City Publishers. http://www.melindaponder.com/the-book.html

The Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History. America the Beautiful: 1893: A Spotlight on a Primary Source by Katharine Lee Bates. https://www.gilderlehrman.org/history-resources/spotlight-primary-source/america-beautiful-1893

Westervelt, Eric. 2019. Greatness Is Not a Given: America the Beautiful Asks How We Can Do Better. NPR’s American Anthem. https://www.npr.org/2019/04/04/709531017/america-the-beautiful-american-anthem

A Tale of Green Inspirations

Green River Courtesy & Copyright Shannon Rhodes, Photographer
Green River
Courtesy & Copyright Shannon Rhodes, Photographer

Leopard Frog, Lithobates pipiens Courtesy & Copyright Shannon Rhodes, Photographer Leopard Frog, Lithobates pipiens
Courtesy & Copyright Shannon Rhodes, Photographer

Wolf Lichen, Letharia vulpina Courtesy & Copyright Shannon Rhodes, Photographer Wolf Lichen, Letharia vulpina
Courtesy & Copyright Shannon Rhodes, Photographer

In one of my first childhood books I met a washerwoman hedgehog named Mrs. Tiggy-winkle who lived on a hilltop higher than the clouds that had a spring, peculiar rocks, and mysterious footmarks. Its author had studied and recorded both in words and watercolor detail in her sketchbooks everything from bird eggs and bees to caterpillars and cornflowers to water lilies and Flopsy Mopsy rabbits with naturalist precision.

What if children’s book author Beatrix Potter would have known Utah the way she captured interesting elements of places she visited while on her family holiday outings in the English Lake District, North Wales, and Scotland? I wonder how her mind might have played with our minty Green River, sometimes in Utah’s history known by the names Rio Verde and Seedskeedee. What would she have done with its Gates of Lodore or Desolation Canyon?

Green. Everywhere I look outside I see green. Perhaps that is why green is my favorite color. Nothing stops me in my tracks like chartreuse wolf lichen clinging to the bark of conifer trunks. What stories would Potter spin with that had she wandered through Utah’s forests? It is said that her favorite organism was actually fungi like the Amanita gemmata or jeweled deathcap, so much so that her naked-eye and microscope-enhanced renderings led her to compose an essay about spore germination for the Linnean Society in 1897.

The world knows her best for her Peter Rabbit tale, yet because she was such an observant nature artist, spinning fantastical stories about creatures in the wild and pairing them with companion pencil and watercolor illustrations begs little of the reader in the way of imagination.

Few may know her, though, for her beautiful nature journals. Her entry of a painted lady butterfly, zooming in specifically on the wing scales, or magnified studies of a ground beetle’s leg and elytra reveal hours she spent noticing. I marvel at how long it must have taken her to know amphibian structures and behaviors to craft a tale with such specificity. In “The Tale of Mr. Jeremy Fisher,” she portrays a frog punting like on the River Cam, fishing, and nibbling butterfly sandwiches. She draws him dipping his foot in the pond, swimming, and leaping across the meadow in his tattered macintosh. What would she have imagined the Northern Leopard frog thinking as it zigzagged through my lawn last summer? Why did it have to come from the far-away canal across concrete and road to my home before I noticed its distinctive snoring and clicking croak or learned to appreciate its tenacity?

Potter found equal perfection in “the highest and the lowest in nature,” aware and eager to capture it all with imagination and detail. As our world greens this spring, I hope we take time to sit and sketch the wonders, even if we don’t have the courage to eat “roasted grasshopper with lady-bird sauce.”

I’m Shannon Rhodes, and I’m wild about Utah.

Credits:
Images: Courtesy & Copyright Shannon Rhodes, Photographer
Additional Audio: Courtesy & ©
Text: Shannon Rhodes, Edith Bowen Laboratory School, Utah State University https://edithbowen.usu.edu/
Additional Reading Links: Shannon Rhodes

Additional Reading:

Wild About Utah Posts by Shannon Rhodes https://wildaboututah.org/author/shannon-rhodes/

Drost, Charles. Status of Northern Leopard Frogs in the Southwest. December 15, 2016. https://www.usgs.gov/centers/southwest-biological-science-center/science/status-northern-leopard-frogs-southwest

Larese-Casanova, Mark. The Call of Springtime: Utah’s Frogs and Toads. March 22, 2012. https://wildaboututah.org/the-call-of-springtime-utahs-frogs-and-toads/

Lear, Linda. About Beatrix Potter. 2011. The Beatrix Potter Society. https://beatrixpottersociety.org.uk/about-beatrix/

National Park Service. Northern Leopard Frog. https://www.nps.gov/articles/northern-leopard-frog.htm

Northern Leopard Frogs. Biokids’ Inquiry of Diverse Species. http://www.biokids.umich.edu/critters/Lithobates_pipiens/

Potter, Beatrix. The Tale of Mr. Jeremy Fisher. 1906. https://www.gutenberg.org/files/15077/15077-h/15077-h.htm

Potter, Beatrix. The Tale of Mrs. Tiggy Winkle. 1905. https://www.gutenberg.org/files/15137/15137-h/15137-h.htm

Strand, Holly. Last Blank Spots on the Map. October 29, 2009. https://wildaboututah.org/last-blank-spots-on-the-map/

Thomson, Keith. Beatrix Potter, Conservationist. May-June 2007. https://www.americanscientist.org/article/beatrix-potter-conservationist

Beatrix Potter, Author and Conservationist, Born (1866), Day by Day in Conservation History, Today in Conservation, July 28, 2017, https://todayinconservation.com/2020/04/july-28-beatrix-potter-author-and-conservationist-born-1866/

U.S Department of Agriculture Forest Service. Lichens. https://www.fs.fed.us/wildflowers/beauty/lichens/didyouknow.shtml

Victoria and Albert Museum. Beatrix Potter: Drawn to Nature. 2022. https://www.vam.ac.uk/collections/beatrix-potter

Webb, Roy. Green River. Utah History Encyclopedia. 1994. https://historytogo.utah.gov/green-river/

Wilkinson, Todd. Utah Ushers Its Frogs Toward Oblivion. High Country News. May 27, 1996. https://www.hcn.org/issues/60/1858

Woolley, Ralf R. The Green River and Its Utilization. United States Department of the Interior. 1930. https://pubs.usgs.gov/wsp/0618/report.pdf