June: Tensas NWR

I am fortunate to have multiple natural areas within relatively easy driving distance of my home. Each has its own character, and Tensas NWR is know for Louisiana black bears. But in June of this year, what captured my eye were the patterns created by the ubiquitous dwarf palmetto.


Palmetto is not an easy plant to love. It’s spikey and kind of mean looking. Indeed, the points and edges of the leaflets when dry are quite sharp. The fans of leaflets jut out of the ground on short petioles and at odd angles to each other. I have spooked deer out of beds of grasses and leaves, but never out of a bed of palmetto.

But palmetto is also the first green to carpet the forest floor in the spring, and it is a rich green. Strong sunlight shining through the leaflets is a sight to behold. Those odd angles between leaves create patterns of light and shadow worthy of attention.

It was those patterns of light and shadow, plus the geometry of fans of leaflets layered at odd angles to each other that caught my eye on the day in June I visited Tensas National Wildlife Refuge. No bears that day. Lots of critters: a large snapping turtle, birds, a raccoon, dragonflies and damselflies, plus a flock of turkey vultures sunning their wings across the road. So my naturalist eye was busy. But my artist eye was captivated by palmetto.

Scissorhands was also invited into a juried show within a couple of weeks of finishing it. My loss of access to cities due to pandemic was pushing me to see the natural world differently. Not that I had never made images like this before, but now I began looking intently for what I have come to call my #EarthAbstracts and/or #DetailsEarth.

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