Collaborating with Nature

Collaborating with Nature

I’ve been making leaf faces for several years. Initially it was a lark. Everything starts as a lark, a lark being a carefree episode, something of no importance that is surprisingly enjoyable. The thought crossed my mind to make a face in a leaf and I acted on it. I get a kick out of visiting the leaf and watching it change over time. It takes a while for the cuts I make to scar over. Other alterations occur as well, things I can’t anticipate,like shifts in color and spider webs. Living things are always in flux. I dig that my initial creative contribution is just the starting point. The “art” would not be complete until nature had a pass.

I do it pretty regularly and now have quite a collection of leaves. At some point in the process I press them flat between paper in a big book and put some heavy weight on it. There really is no finish point as they are fragile and evolving towards dust, no matter what I do to slow that process. When I get around to selling prints, which I hope to be doing soon, I am going to include a leaf face with every purchase.

Laurel Sumac

I was hiking in Runyon Canyon, noticed these beautiful reddish stripped dried leaves, picked some, soaked them in water, scratched in faces and pressed em. Fun!

Magnolia Petals

These are delightful to play with as you can make a face just by pressing them with objects. They bruise up almost instantaneously. Very satisfying. I wish there were more magnolia petals laying around. I am not going to pluck them off the trees. But they don’t dry out well. The whole petal turns brown and you can barely see the face.

Orchid Leaves

I have several orchid plants, my kid and husband like to buy them for me for Mother’s Day or my birthday. So lovely! The flowers last for at least a month. They are wonderful gifts. I am not an ace green thumb but I do keep everything watered and I’ve had several orchids bloom more than once. The second bloom feels like a miracle, like a victory of the forces of good against evil. How I love it! But I’ve never managed three blooms and eventually most of them die. Who knows why, the leaves just start to yellow and one day you see a leaf no longer attached, lying beside the sad plant. Oh dear!

This happened recently. The orchid had no more blooms to give. Its leaves are very plump with water, much thicker than most plant leaves. They take more than 24 hours for the bruised part to start darkening. But they do change eventually and it’s enjoyable to watch.

I think these are sort of the opposite of painting in oil. They don’t preserve well, deteriorating almost instantly, they’re impossible to control and too delicate to hang on a wall. But they are appealing enough to entice theft! Just as art museums have cat burglars, I have had leaf faces plucked from ivy bushes before I took my final photos. Now I try to keep them hidden. They may be ephemeral, but they have power, an ode to the transmuting mysteries of life force.

Get Out Your Fancy Beach Shoes!

Get Out Your Fancy Beach Shoes!

I always find the best opportunities when I am not looking for them and don’t want them. Actually, is it ever the case I don’t want them? Hard to say. Take this one for example. My son and I went for a long beach walk. I made a face in the sand while we sat and talked but it was so similar to a recent sand face that there was no point taking a photo. I don’t like to be redundant. I was fine with not getting a new face because I was more focused on our conversation and being together. 

We were happily trudging back towards pavement when I came across this shoe. It’s instantaneous for me. I HAVE TO MAKE A FACE! It doesn’t feel like a choice. All facial items were located in the circumference of a squat within 60 seconds. Need white? How about two tiny broken clam shells? Need black? Here’s two small pebbles. Need a mouth? Try this dried bit of plant matter. If it doesn’t look good laid down flat, jab it in sideways and make a shadow. 

Man oh man I like him! And so did my son. Being a fancy woman’s shoe he should be a lady but I think he’s a rescue pilot having a good day which means someone was found and retrieved. Hurray! Or maybe she’s a female pilot, or a nonbinary pilot. Who knows?! But they just saved someone and looked fabulous doing it! 

Thank you abandoned shoe for being the momento of my lovely day with my lovely child.

What Should I Do With These Sticks?

What Should I Do With These Sticks?

Sticks are so useful, I never have enough. Sometimes I get frustrated and gather a lot at once. As I cleaned out my overstuffed dog walk bags on my desert retreat, I discovered I did actually have enough. Way more than enough. I needed to let some go. I needed to throw them away.

No! That doesn’t feel good. I will not divest before giving them a chance at the big time. I personally selected those sticks and carried them around for months. They will have their 15 minutes. Here goes.

Check him out. He’s determined!
Can I use this fake fly as an ear?
Yes. Works so well, now he’s demanding a cap.
Next time you are in Target perusing the cookie sheets you’ll think, that would be perfect for sorting my sticks.

Even though this was the first face I made in the desert and the first post I wrote after returning home with my newly cleaned out bags, I am posting him last. He sums up the process nicely. I picked up some sticks, I arranged them into a face, I threw them away.

Seth Godin says: There’s a hackneyed expression, which is what would you do if you knew you could not fail. I find that completely unhelpful because it’s basically a genie question; You want control and you’re never gonna get it. Here’s my question. What would you do if you knew you would fail? What would be worth doing even though it’s not going to work?

I can say I will make faces out of crap on the sidewalk no matter what. I mean, what outcomes are even possible? It’s not an activity with a known outcome. And maybe that’s why I love it. It’s just a fun, joyful thing to do.

The problem, because there is always a problem, is that I collect stuff and then I am saddled with stuff. Then I have to agonize over choices. Keep it or chuck it? Keeping objects is a sign I believe in their potential, or maybe that I believe in my potential, to turn them into something that could make me smile. But is it worth the burden of having all these grubby, difficult to store objects? I really don’t know. Even as I write, all the stuff I let go of in the desert is in a plastic bag under the drawing table in my office. I haven’t thrown it away! Just in case I think of something I might need in there. Have I learned nothing? Or have I learned everything?

I do think I will throw it out, probably once the Christmas decorations rear their multitudinous heads. There won’t be room for everyone. The fact that it’s sorted in a single disposable container means it will be much easier and faster to get rid of then when it was spread over multiple bags and mixed with treasure. Processes are time consuming. If I knew how to make them not that way, I would tell you.

I think going forward I will be more choosey about what I pick up, I will try to make the face right away and when all else fails I will not berate myself for having tangible signs that I was interested in something. Better to be interested than apathetic. So, I will tell myself this: Self! If you have some junk laying around waiting to become a face, don’t get so upset. Something wonderful is sure to happen.


The Seth Godin quote comes from the Time Ferris podcast of October 26th, 2020: Seth Godin on The Game of Life, The Value of Hacks, and Overcoming Anxiety (#476). It is fantastic and I highly recommend it.