Tag Archives: trees

Finding My Zen

In the midst of all the hate-filled rhetoric and fear going on right now in this country I have found a greater need to spend time out in nature in order to ground myself and find peace.

My goal is to share the beauty of nature with others so that they too might find that same peace and be encouraged get out and commute with nature themselves.

So, here are a few of my favorite Zen moments from my journeys.

All photographs ©Tracy J Thomas, 2016. All rights reserved.


Fall Colors

It has been quite some time since I have posted on my blog. I have been very busy teaching and exploring. I decided it was past time and wanted to share some of the beautiful fall colors I found while on a hike in the Sierras the other day.




Little Cabin in the Woods

  
At the outer edges of my noisy world exists a little cabin in the woods. A place where my soul can go to rest and reconnect with Nature and all of its beautiful gifts. 

 Whenever I go there it’s as if my soul does a giant exhale. A spewing out of all the damaging stress to make room for peace and healing.

   

“Heaven is under our feet as well as over our heads.” ~ Henry David Thoreau

   

“The clearest way into the Universe is through a forest wilderness.” ~ John Muir

  

  
 

“All that live must die, passing through nature to eternity.” ~ William Shakespeare

 

“Spring has returned. The Earth is like a child that knows poems.” ~ Rainer Maria Rilke

     “Those who contemplate the beauty of the earth find reserves of strength that will endure as long as life lasts. … There is something infinitely healing in the repeated refrains of nature — the assurance that dawn comes after night, and spring after winter.” ~ Rachel Carson

  
 

**All photographs and videos were taken on my iPhone. ©Tracy J Thomas, 2016. All rights reserved.**

______________________

Purchase a copy of “Zen in the Garden: Finding Peace and Healing Through Nature” here.

img_4339-2


Timber Men

  
The Timber Men. The burly men. The axe and chainsaw wielding men. The arbiters of a healthy forest.They prune and lift and fell when needed, like surgeons with their trusty tools.

  

  

  
  
At times they climb trees like Spiderman with their lengthy webs of rope. Just a little bit slower, and a lot more cautious. they face danger without much pause. 

 

  
Determined, they continue their dance towards the top.

  
  
Like Goliath, they possess a super human strength…

  
Whatever is taken, is given back , in order to enrich the cycle of life…

  
The Timber Men. The burly men. The axe and chainsaw wielding men. The super heroes of a sustainable forest.

   

______________________________________

Pick up a copy of Zen in the Garden here:  


Thanks – You Are Steller!

  
Just a quick post to say thank you all for your support for my recent post about my favorite mobile storytelling app Steller. My Steller story “Pow Wow” has received over 24k page views and yesterday it reached the #2 position of Most Viewed on Steller.

Now let’s see if it’s possible to double that! https://steller.co/s/5EeDxX32fH6

If you have already had the chance to view “Pow Wow,” here is a link to check out my latest, “Timber Men.” https://steller.co/s/5FwPcK3KhyH

 


Birch Bark – The Gifts of a Fallen Tree

  
I adore Birch trees. The light coloring of the Western Paper Birch with its unique peeling bark and lenticels catch my eye immediately when wandering the forest. Their foliage turns a brilliant yellow during the Fall and the leaves make a beautiful rustling sound in the wind. These trees can grow up to 70 feet tall and 1-2 feet in diameter over 80+ years. 

The Native Americans utilized the Birch tree for a number of things. They used the outer bark for the skin of their canoes and to cover their wigwams. They made bark containers for collection and storage of food as well as for cooking. The wood of the Birch was used to make musical instruments, toys for children, and hunting and fishing gear. The bark was also woven into baskets and incorporated into their beadwork. 

  
Birch bark can be used for tinder to start a fire (even when it’s wet), as paper to write on, and can be woven into a hat or a pair of shoes if you find yourself lost in the forest. The sap from the Birch tree can be made into wine or beer and the leaves and inner bark can be turned into a detoxing tea or medicinal cream for issues with the skin.

It is never a good idea to peel the bark from a live, standing Birch. It can leave the tree vulnerable and sometimes it will die, especially if some of the protective inner bark is cut and removed during the process. It is best to remove bark from a fallen tree. Where there are Birch trees there are usually several that have fallen due to disease, high winds, or snow load. Occassionally a larger Birch may become a hazard tree and segments begin breaking off of the top and falling onto whatever is below. If the hazard tree is near a home or building or in an area with a frequently travelled trail, then it should be removed. 

While on our recent trip to North Idaho, a large Birch needed to be felled since it was close to a cabin and had lost several feet from its top, most likely due to disease.

  
As much as I do not like to see trees cut down for the purpose of encroaching on the forest for development, I do understand certain trees need to be removed when they become a hazard to people and other things in their surroundings. 

Although no longer standing, this lovely tree still had many gifts to give. We decided to collect the bark to use it for jewelry and other crafts. The trunk will be cut into slices to create beautiful side tables for the cabin and the main log will be milled into lumber for later use. Some of the smaller sections will be used to heat the cabin and the rest will decay over time on the forest floor to provide shelter to small animals and insects and nutrition for new seedlings to grow.

Below is a series of photographs illustrating the process we used for the Birch bark removal. You can use a carpet knife to score the section of bark you want to remove then use the same knife to carefully pull away the edges from the inner bark. Once the outer bark begins to release, slowly peel the sheet from the log. Store the sheets flat or use water and a heat gun later to flatten any curled pieces. And of course remember to thank the tree for its beautiful gifts :).

   
               

Here are two examples of pieces of jewelry I have made from this bark over the past few days.

The first is a necklace where I used pieces of bark that had lichen growing on them and incorporated it with earth-toned beads and silver wire.

  
The second is a pair of earrings I am still designing that mixes bark with metal and alcohol inks.

  

****************************************

** Click to purchase Zen in the Garden: Finding Peace and Healing Through Nature on Amazon. **


Lost in the Woods

  

I just spent ten glorious days “lost” in the woods of North Idaho. This was my first vacation in over two years since dealing with West Nile Virus and then treatment for skin cancer. It felt so good to get far away from the house that had become my hermit’s cave and sanctuary during my illness and treatment. The beauty that surrounded me in Idaho seemed magnified tenfold and I couldn’t stop exclaiming “It’s so pretty here!” As those who have read my book “Zen in the Garden” know, I have always found peace and healing through nature. Following my recent struggles, that desire to reconnect with the earth for a bit of healing has been foremost on my mind.

  

It was so nice to sit in a quiet place void of the noise pollution of an urban environment for hours at a time. The sound of birdsong and of the wind as it rustled through the pines created the perfect symphony for my tired soul. Each day I could feel my body relax even more than the day before as the stressors of everyday life became nothing more than a fading shadow inside my reawakened mind. I felt present. Mindful. Embraced by what truly matters in this life. I felt alive and happy as I touched the earth and opened my eyes to its simple yet elegant gifts.

  

As we wandered the woods that surrounded our little log cabin I knew without a doubt that this was where I belonged. It all seemed so familiar to me. It was as if a piece of myself had spent my entire life wandering under that beautiful, peaceful canopy while the other parts had struggled to exist in the chaos of a world quite foreign to my soul. My childhood was spent in an environment similar to this place but I chose to leave it at the age of 18 to pursue a college degree and make my way out in the “real” world. That world has proven to be both rewarding and cruel. I have often felt myself struggle to fit in when my heart keeps telling me to run back into the woods where I belong.

  

This trip into the woods healed me in more ways than I can explain with words. It brought me peace and it brought me hope. It provided me with a renewed sense of motivation. The wheels are now in motion to make my way back into the woods for good where I can embrace nature for the remainder of my life. No matter how long it takes to reach that goal, I now know it is going to happen. I can’t wait…

  

*********************************

** Click to purchase Zen in the Garden: Finding Peace and Healing Through Nature on Amazon. **


Zen Moment 4 – The Wisdom of Trees

  

I have been a tree lover since I was a child. During summer vacations we spent hours building tree forts in the field behind our housing tract with scavanged boards and nails from a construction site. The trees were a combination of old gnarly Oaks and towering Cottonwoods that offered much needed shade to a herd of cattle and a few horses that grazed in the field.

The tree fort was my favorite place to sit and daydream. It also served as my escape from a not so pretty home life. I remember the feeling of freedom it gave me to sit up high, lost in the cover of this massive tree. I felt safe and protected by its branches. If I sat still long enough I could hear what sounded like a chorus of ancient voices drifting through the leaves as they rustled in the wind. 

Trees are truly amazing gifts of nature. I have often pondered the thought of their longevity and wished they could tell us the stories of all they have seen over time. Some have been silent witnesses to centuries of history. Others, like the Ancient Bristlecones, have been on this earth for more than 5,000 years. Oh the tales they could tell.

Trees provide shelter and shade for birds and mammals. They help to cool the earth, remove particulates, and provide oxygen for us to breathe. Studies show that hospital patients who are in rooms with a view of trees heal faster than patients who don’t. Also, communities that lack trees have a higher crime rate than those that have them.

I proudly consider myself a “tree hugger” yet I do have a balanced understanding of the need for a percentage of trees to be cut and utilized for human needs. But I become saddened at the thought of our rainforests being decimated with abandon and cringe when I hear about large trees being removed for a development in my city.

If only the trees could impart on us the wisdom they have absorbed over time. Maybe we would understand the need to treat nature and other human beings with more kindness.

** Click to purchase Zen in the Garden: Finding Peace and Healing Through Nature on Amazon. **


Breathing My Way Into Spring



This morning I decided to heed my words from my little book “Zen in the Garden: Finding Peace and Healing Through Nature.” Being self-employed, tax season is always a stressor. Add to that the demands of work I perform for clients and my attempt to self-promote the launch of my new book and you have the perfect recipe for a potential meltdown.

But if I have learned anything on this journey it is the importance of placing a damper on stress, or at least the way my body reacts to it, before it has a chance to impact my life and most importantly my health. Today I woke up with a long list of to-do’s in my head. Not a good way to start the morning. I didn’t even take a moment to say “Hello world!” My first mistake. But since I have a forgiving heart, I gave myself a hug and decided to go out on a walk at a local nature trail for a quick attitude adjustment.

“Ahhhhh…” 

The minute I stepped out of my car and placed a foot onto the trail I felt relief spill over me. I could breathe again. There was a cool breeze that placed a kiss on both cheeks and the morning sun warmed the top of my big floppy hat. Whatever stress I carried when I left my house was instantly replaced with a calm peace as I began to notice the beautiful Spring blossoms that had begun to grace the trees. I felt a smile begin to creep across my face. This is how life is supposed to be. We are meant to be happy and to experience the joy And beauty of simple things.

As my day continues forward I carry that peace I found this morning and feel a renewed sense of groundedness and the ability to focus on my tasks. Do yourself a favor. When you begin to feel stress creep in take yourself out on a walk and find at least one thing you think is beautiful along the way. Take a mental picture, or if you have a camera take a photo and revisit that image throughout your day.

You can still download “Zen in the Garden: Finding Peace and Healing Through Nature” for free on Amazon through tomorrow.


Breathing in the Landscape

Happy New Year!

I love spending time in nature. It always grounds me and helps me to remember the important things in life. During the last two months of the year I was able to refuel my soul with a visit to some beautiful places. Of course I am never without a camera, so here are a few of my favorite landscapes that came out of those journeys. All four of these photos were shot and edited on an iPhone 5.

"Tidal Plane Sunset" - ©Tracy J. Thomas, 2013-2014. All rights reserved.

“Ebb Tide at Sunset” – ©Tracy J. Thomas, 2014. All rights reserved.

"New Melones Sunset" - ©Tracy J. Thomas, 2013-2014. All rights reserved.

“New Melones Sunset” – ©Tracy J. Thomas, 2014. All rights reserved.

"Lonesome Oak" - ©Tracy J. Thomas, 2014. All rights reserved.

“Lonesome Oak” – ©Tracy J. Thomas, 2014. All rights reserved.

"The Fallen" - ©Tracy J. Thomas, 2014. All rights reserved.

“The Fallen” – ©Tracy J. Thomas, 2014. All rights reserved.

As a New Year’s gift to all my followers, here is a 40% discount code that you can use through April 30th to purchase my work. Just enter AUARGP in the “Discount Code” area at checkout. Here is the link to my store: http://tracy-thomas.artistwebsites.com/. These are direct ship prints so if you would prefer a signed and/or limited edition print, instead of purchasing through my store you can email me through the contact form on my website and we can work out the details. (http://www.tjthomas-iphoneart.com/#!contact/c175r)

Here’s to a beautiful new year!


Fall Colors

I began my career in photography as a nature and wildlife photographer.  Over the years my work has morphed and touched just about every genre imaginable in the craft.  Lately I have found myself drawn back into nature, focused primarily on landscape photos.   In the past I shot most of my landscapes with my DSLR, creating moody High Dynamic Range images.  This time around I have been shooting exclusively with my iPhone and feel drawn to a combination of apps that create a more painterly effect on the final image.

Here are some of the recent landscapes I have shot during the Fall color change in the Sierra’s.

"Nature's Symphony" - Fall colors at Independence Lake, Tahoe National Forest, CA.  ©Tracy J. Thomas, 2013. All rights reserved.

“Nature’s Symphony” – Fall colors at Independence Lake, Tahoe National Forest, CA. ©Tracy J. Thomas, 2013. All rights reserved.

"The Change" - Fall colors at Independence Lake, Tahoe National Forest, CA.  ©Tracy J. Thomas, 2013. All rights reserved.

“The Change” – Fall colors at Independence Lake, Tahoe National Forest, CA. ©Tracy J. Thomas, 2013. All rights reserved.

"Into the Woods" - Fall colors on a grove of Aspens, Independence Lake, Tahoe National Forest, CA.  ©Tracy J. Thomas, 2013. All rights reserved.

“Into the Woods” – Fall colors on a grove of Aspens, Independence Lake, Tahoe National Forest, CA. ©Tracy J. Thomas, 2013. All rights reserved.

Below is a photo I shot last year that was recently part of “Creatives Rising” and was projected onto the 42-story Linc LIC building in New York City as well as part of the See Me exhibition on Long Island.

"Soliloquy 9" - Fall colors in the Sierra Nevada, CA. ©Tracy J. Thomas, 2012-2013. All rights reserved.

“Soliloquy 9” – Fall colors in the Sierra Nevada, CA. ©Tracy J. Thomas, 2012-2013. All rights reserved.

 

 


Soliloquy Continued…

so·lil·o·quy noun \sə-ˈli-lə-kwē\: a dramatic monologue that represents a series of unspoken reflections.

It is in nature where I cleanse myself from the constant drone of the city and absorb the quiet beauty all around me. A deep breath of fresh air and my lungs open to capacity, free from the exhaust and toxins spewed out hourly by the bane of a “civilized” society. My feet do a happy dance as they touch the raw earth beneath them. It is much more forgiving than the asphalt and concrete of everyday life. I feel connected to the core.

Surrounded by an infinite wisdom that transcends the exterior casing that houses my soul, I walk. I listen. I see. I discover. A swarm of white gnats gathers next to my cheek. I am amazed by an almost silent, collective “whoosh” created by their tiny wings. They move in unity with barely a space in between. Somehow they know to move left or right or up or down as one, without impeding the flight of another.

I continue my walk and contemplate. Hours go by and I feel refreshed, renewed, ready to move forward through life. The fall air lays its final kiss across my skin and once again the evening comes to slowly bid adieu…

“Soliloquy 9” – ©Tracy J. Thomas, 2012. All rights reserved.

“Soliloquy 10” – ©Tracy J. Thomas, 2012. All rights reserved.

“Soliloquy 11” – ©Tracy J. Thomas, 2012. All rights reserved.

“Soliloquy 12” – ©Tracy J. Thomas, 2012. All rights reserved.

More Soliloquy here.