“The tree which moves some to tears of joy is in the eyes of others only a green thing that stands in the way. Some see nature all ridicule and deformity… and some scarce see nature at all. But to the eyes of the man of imagination, nature is imagination itself.” William Blake
“We need to imagine a planet with clean air to breathe and clean water to drink, not how to buy a new expensive car.” Sandra Ingerman, Medicine for the Earth
This month I entered one of my photos of the hawk that perches on the fence near my cottage in an art/photo show sponsored by the Indiana Forest Alliance. The exhibition is titled “Finding the Urban Wild,” and is on display at the Interchurch Center at Gallery at 1100 W. 42nd Street, Indianapolis, from June 29 through the end of August. As part of the show and opening reception, artists and photographers were instructed to create an artist statement. The following is the statement I wrote, plus additional information about my experience photographing hawks in my neighborhood:
Hawk’s Message: “May you rise upon divine wings, Soar to wiser vision, Speed to greater love for Nature’s dreams in wild places.”
I live a short walk from a Sycamore tree-lined path along the White River near the Owen Meharg Indiana Classified Forest and Wildland, a sanctuary of towering trees, small saplings and a dense undergrowth of roots, thorns and fallen branches. During my hikes, I photograph nesting turtles, monarchs, dragonflies, hawks, herons, woodpeckers, vultures, spiders, bees and raccoons in this protected spot.
Just a mile north, 86th/82nd street crosses the city from east to west, a 16 mile heavily traveled corridor of shopping malls, corporate buildings, and parking lots jammed with cars on both sides of the street. When I first moved to Indianapolis, this area was mostly forested.
Henry David Thoreau writes in Walden: Or, Life in the Woods, that we need the tonic of wildness.
The message of the hawk reminds me to view our precious forests from a higher perspective without losing sight of important details. The energy of the hawk awakens my appreciation of the wild places, where the miraculous spirits of Nature grace our city with an unexpected voice and immeasurable hidden presence.
The story of my relationship with a stern-eyed hawk is told mostly through my photographs of her. On mild breezy days when she perches on a nearby fence her eyes seem to widen in recognition as I approach her. Then she turns her head so that only one eye is visible. As she rotates around, I notice her backside is layered with sleek feathers that slip into a long sculpted tail with horizontal stripes.
I have taken so many photos of this bird that sometimes I believe she is more than one. Perhaps she is! For in some photos she appears to be a Coopers Hawk, Marsh Hawk, or Sharp-Shined Hawk, and in others she looks like one of the 16 recognized sub-species of the beloved Red-Tailed Hawk, known to some also as the “Chicken Hawk.”
My encounters with the hawk have been a tap on the shoulder, advising me to take a closer look at things, to see beyond the obvious, to observe situations around me with a clearer focus, and to view the world from a higher perspective without losing sight of important details. More importantly I have been prompted to take personal steps to help preserve, protect, and restore our wild habitats and forested lands for the generations that follow.
Special Note: The mission of the Indiana Forest Alliance (IFA) is to preserve and restore Indiana’s native hardwood ecosystem for the enjoyment of all. By leading a coalition of citizens, organizations and decision-makers, Indiana Forest Alliance will establish, protect, and restore forests for future generations. Participating artists may choose to donate any percentage of art sales to IFA. IFA has been a leader in saving Crown Hill North Woods from destruction, and rallied 800 citizens at the State House in support of protecting Indiana State forests from logging. To learn more visit their website, or follow on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram.