Artist and naturalist Michelle Louis has a vigorous curiosity about the natural world. Her abstract landscape paintings document life, well-spent, in wild places.
©2020 Michelle Louis All rights reserved. Content and images are property of the artist.
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Our puppy is closing in on the 5 month milestone. We've completed 2 levels of puppy classes, receiving the "Family Dog Extraordinaire Award" which the certificate says signifies "an impressive level of canine cunning and homo sapiens smarts." Enter adolescence. At around 37 lbs., he's officially a sassy teen. Suddenly deaf to our simple requests, even "sit" can become a test of boundaries. It began with the loss of needle-like puppy teeth a couple of weeks ago-- woefully, he's managing to hang onto his sharpest baby canines-- the worst offenders.
He and I were recently exploring the woods, just after dawn, on the Ice Age Trail. As usual, exuberance had his lanky legs tangled in the leash. I was bent over, untangling him, when three yards in front of us a healthy, young red fox leapt out and began to race down the trail away from us, looking back, seemingly cajoling the pup into a game of chase.
Rhombus took the bait, charging after the fox, leash flying, waaaaay faster than I could possibly run. My brain went numb with thoughts of losing him. I resisted the powerful urge to shout and chase after them, knowing that would make the whole game more exciting. I turned away and started to run in the opposite direction, using a musical, happy voice repeating come, come, come, and clapping- just like I had been trained in all those classes.
Miraculously, Rhombus turned to see what fun (and goodies) he might be missing. He made a choice. He came to me, trotting, panting, and smiling. Showering him with praise, I emptied a pocketful of treats, grateful for the human-training I'd received. It is about schooling the homo sapiens.
Five minutes later, in true teen style, he played dumb when asked to sit while I tried to tie my own shoelace. It's never too soon for the next level of human/canine classes!
Exploring wild places with my young companion is a considered part of my daily art practice. It cultivates a rich palette of experience, movement, color, and form ready for my brush. What each piece becomes in the studio emerges from the doing and the paint and the moment. My senses kick in- I paint touch, scent, sound, sight, even taste. I make things up. I remember, and I project.
PS- The writing of this post was interrupted by record-breaking rain and flooding here, bringing another aspect of Climate Change to our own front door. We are "high ground" inhabitants at the top of a tall ridge- at the lowest risk for flooding. Our yard is on the literal watershed divide between the Black Earth Creek and Lake Mendota watersheds. Flooding is the last thing we expected. The sheer quantity of downpour overwhelmed. Like most of our neighbors, we've spent days getting the slop and mess out of our basement. We were lucky. Our basement will dry, we'll replace baseboard and drywall, do some re-grading, and we didn't really need most of what we lost. Not so for many of our neighbors who lost homes, vehicles, businesses, crops, and most heart-breaking, a loved one. Since homeowners insurance doesn't cover flooding, monetary donations are being accepted for devastated Mazomanie Area residents here. Cross Plains Area residents here. The Red Cross in Dane County has three shelters set up with donated supplies and food to help those impacted by the floods. They ask that you donate through their website.
"Whether we and our politicians know it or not, Nature is party to all our deals and decisions, and she has more votes, a longer memory, and a sterner sense of justice than we do." -Wendell Berry