The Summer Day, by Mary Oliver

Who made the world?
Who made the swan, and the black bear?
Who made the grasshopper?
This grasshopper, I mean- 
the one who has flung herself out of the grass, 
the one who is eating sugar out of my hand,
who is moving her jaws back and forth instead of up and down- 
who is gazing around with her enormous and complicated eyes.
Now she lifts her pale forearms and thoroughly washes her face.
Now she snaps her wings open, and floats away.
I don't know exactly what a prayer is.
I do know how to pay attention, how to fall down
into the grass, how to kneel down in the grass, 
how to be idle and blessed, how to stroll through the fields, 
which is what I have been doing all day.
Tell me, what else should I have done?
Doesn't everything die at last, and too soon?
Tell me, what is it you plan to do
with your one wild and precious life?

Lorien in Black and White

I started going out the Great Salt Lake last winter. I had returned from London a few months prior and more often than not I found myself stranded in my thoughts and activities. So when I didn't know what to do, or where to go, I came here. Out to the sand and to the salt, out to the water. It became my refuge and my sanctuary. An empty space to empty my mind even when it was seemingly numb. I started taking photographs of my trips, capturing the nuances and the moods of that wonderful and mysterious landscape. Somewhere along the way I edited a photo in black and white. A friend asked to buy a print. Then the idea for this gallery was born; strictly and respectfully black and white photography of the beautiful Great Salt Lake.

This week I am focusing on opening my online shop where you will be able to purchase prints of my photography from my IG accounts: @lorieninblackandwhite, @lorienhall. My friend, who requested that print a couple of months ago will finally see it arrive in the post, and if you would like one to arrive in the post as well...very soon that will be a possibility!

A sampling of my feed. (See the entire gallery and follow along for new Great Salt Lake photography through my Instagram account: @lorieninblackandwhite  )

No Alarms

I don't set an alarm to get me out of bed in the morning - something I quit doing about a year ago. Starting my day with an alarm is stressful and annoying to me, and the stress starts the night before when I set and check, and later double check my alarm, to make sure I didn't select PM instead of AM. So unless I have to catch an early flight or a meeting, I trust my body and brain wake up when they're ready, which usually, is pretty early (though not so much if I go to bed unreasonably late). In fact, I sometimes talk myself through that trust of waking up early the night before.

That trust of body and mind carries over into the design world...trusting in yourself and your ideas...that you can and will create something wonderful and interesting if you continue the pursuit with awareness. That's partly what these little paintings are doing for me - a moment where I am learning and willing to trust myself and what can emerge if I just sit down and do. 

Third Thing In The Morning  Watercolour and watercolor pencil, 4x6", 2015

Third Thing In The Morning Watercolour and watercolor pencil, 4x6", 2015


July 9th

This morning's creative output.

Getting Up Late,  watercolour and coloured pencil, 2015

Getting Up Late, watercolour and coloured pencil, 2015

Boundaries, Editing, Identity

Today, and other days, I have been thinking about boundaries, editing and self-identity. 

A Tamp Over My Head , watercolour and coloured pencil, 2015

A Tamp Over My Head, watercolour and coloured pencil, 2015

First, boundaries.

I think as a self-employed creative, you have to set boundaries for yourself. I know I do. If I don't, I am always working, but with no set routine or clear definition, day and night. Work, work, work. There's never a 'shop is closed' sign, physically or mentally. Sometimes I allow my work to become a crutch or an excuse as well. I don't commit to events or activities as I should because I am always working.  

This year I have made specific effort to close down the studio at 5:00pm (Uh...breaking that rule right now...5:23!) And unless I'm working on an install or a frantic deadline, I try to have my evenings off from work and do something social, active, or decompressing. I find as I do this, sleep at night is deeper and work hours during the day become more productive, all of which creates a happier me. 

Second, editing.

A very important part of my work is editing. It's crucial, actually. Once a design has been created, and especially when you think it's complete - is when you need to go back and with scrutiny - see what you can simplify or delete. It's a difficult process, letting go of certain ideas, concepts, perennials, trees, and whatnot. But if you really focus in on what you are aiming to achieve and the story you are trying to tell, you will probably realize there are several side acts that don't need a stage. This lengthens out the design process, adding more hours to your project - but I believe it results in a more focused and purposeful design, one with a definite identity. 

Reduction and perfection have been the main goals for both craftspeople and inventors because avoiding the irrelevant means emphasizing the important.
— A Danish architect

This quote is fabulous. I love it. And it reminds me why I need to make a concerted effort to edit each design project I undertake. Avoid the irrelevant, emphasize the important.

Third, self-identity.

I have been through several identity crises as a designer. I have had various business names, various business cards (I currently don't have one, I was so tired of always needing a new one), so many websites, shifting purposes and goals. It seems I was/am always trying to find myself and my purpose - my values and ethos. My year in London was immensely vital in helping me realize and clarify who I am as a designer. I feel like London set me on a more defined life-trajectory. But it's a continual process and I still find myself reaching to find that place I feel most resolved, and most relevant. 

I find that as I understand myself better, I understand my projects better. A clearer vision, a more focused purpose...a solid platform with a story and concept to back it up. That's what each project I create needs. That's what each project I create will have. 

 

Recovering and Moving Forward

For the past few months I have either been so physically exhausted that my brain stopped functioning, or so mentally drawn out that my body shut down. I am just now becoming stable on both fronts. 

I am taking the next 10 days off. Kind of. I still have projects and clients to attend to, but I am not accepting any new work until the middle of next week so I can get caught up on everything and everyone I have neglected since the middle of May. It will still be a busy and productive week and a half - but also a restorative one, I feel. 

Life is going well here in the studio - I have several Studio Works (non-commissioned conceptual designs) started which I am excited about. It could be several weeks before these ideas make their way to the public realm, but with persistence, they eventually will.

Other than that, I have no earth-shattering news to share. I look forward to each new day, each new week, each new idea. I think about what could be possible if I just keep going and moving forward with my thoughts and dreams. Hopefully what could be possible is better than anything I ever could have imagined. 

 

 

Elymus elymoides | Bottlebrush Squirreltail

You can tell when I am working on planting plans...and this Bottlebrush Squirreltail looks a lot like the Foxtail Barley...more clarifying research to come...

Though most of the grasses I have posted are not making the final cut.

Someday, Bottlebrush Squirreltail, someday.

End Goal: An Experience

Last month I was chatting with my architect/landscape designer friend. The conversation briefly included something of what is our drive behind how we choose to design a space? Why do we do the things we do as we move through the design process? What is the end goal? He shared his thoughts, which I appreciated, while I muddled along in mine, not really being able to clarify with certainty at that point what my own view was. My brain was under pressure from a project or two and I was in a bit of a haze. 

I thought about it during the ensuing days and came to the conclusion which I have come to before. For me, it's all about creating an experience for the participant. That's the most important factor driving my designs. What will the client experience in this space? Everything is a result from that. Axis, alignment, pattern, form, color, texture, views, corridors, photo ops, etc...all those principles and elements are secondary for me, and are tools I use to create the experience I want others to pass through, linger through, and wonder through. 

Wonder, I love that word and I love places, people, and experiences which make me wonder at the world, however large or small. I think it's the curiosity and exploration that gets me. And it's that curiosity that motivates me to keep going and push through...because I am just as curious as my clients are about what the outcome will be.

Design Inspiration: Allegiance to Denethor | LOTR

Inspiration for design comes from anywhere at anytime.

I was driving home from a project - winding my way down the canyon, listening to The Return of the King, The Complete Recordings (as I do). I was going through some of the tracks I normally don't listen to when I came across 23 seconds that I had to repeat - then repeat again (and again, again....).

It is such an impressionable 23 seconds for me as a designer...I am sure what it taught me will end up in one of my landscape or garden designs somewhere, sometime soon. Listen to the instrumentation...the melody line is carried by a flute and then the phrasing is so wonderfully completed by a horn. It's like the horn was finishing the sentence of the flute, so naturally...like when you have that really great connection with someone. It's effortless.

Can I translate this into a perennial flower design? Maybe a grouping of trees where one species fades into another...to complete the composition...subtly, yet effectively.

Foxtail Barley...

...with a dash of Western Wheatgrass.

I am in love with this. It is now my desktop background so it can consume me every time I hop onto the computer. 

I am not sure if this grass obsession will ever end.

The 18-36-54 House

Researching plate steel and this comes up in the image search.

Rad.

I love the exterior profile. Very unexpected...wonder if I would love the inside just as much. Or rather, would I love living on the inside. Huh.



That Time of Year

It's that time of year where I come home covered in dust everyday. Feeling filthy, ready for a shower and a shampoo. Always a bit of laundry to do.

It's that time of year where I get various suntan lines all over because I forget to wear adequate sunblock and my neck and sleeve line is different from day to day. And the part in my hair leaves the top of my head fried. Ouch. (When am I finally going to get that hat!?)

It's that time of year where I live and work out of my car and eat on the go. So many miles, such random meals. 

It's that time of the year where I start sleeping closer to my projects just to have more time on site. (I am in a cabin now. I have a view of the lake and the elk on the wall has a view of me).

It's that time of year where my social life consists of contractors and clients; beautiful eves are spent more and more with plants and less and less with people. 

It's that time of year where I am constantly reminded why I love what I do - even amidst the constant wrestle of resolving design dilemmas. The kind of pain you love.

It's that time of year where there's a 25' tape attached at the hip. Constantly.

I rarely have photos of me working on site. This one was snapped by my sister who was helping me set out walls for a project with garden stakes and hot pink string. We decided to get a view of our progress from an interior loft and I was looking out the window to the landscape below when she took it.

I wouldn't mind a few more photos taken as the years pass on and I age with them. I probably only have 1 or 2 and I have been in the profession for 10 years now. Which is kind of a bummer (the 1 to 2 part, not the 10 years, 10 years!!). After all, it's that time of year where I completely dissolve into my craft, my obsession flares and flames again and...a few photos to document, "that time of year" (which lasts for 8 months), wouldn't be such a bad thing.

Piet Oudolf

Piet Oudolf is one of the most influential garden designers of our time. And I would imagine even those who do not necessarily resonate with his style still respect him and his gardens. For those unfamiliar with the man and his work, he is responsible for the planting design for the NYC High Line. 

Here is a wonderful documentary teaser about Piet. I am excited for when the full doc comes out.

Character

I listened to a brief interview on NPR a few days ago. It was with David Brooks, author of, The Road To Character. Did you catch it?

I haven't read the book - so I can't vouch for it, but the title is interesting enough. The interview starts out with the idea that career success ultimately does not make you happy - and then moves through several more note-worthy examples and themes.

I wanted to follow up and complete my "WORK" post and my "PLAY" post with this "CHARACTER" post because no matter what we work at and how well we work at it, and no matter what we play at and how great we play at it...it is our character which brings a greater source of self-fulfillment, happiness, and meaning to our lives and those we interact with.  

I definitely have plenty to develop in this area, but I am happy to realize it.

Stipa tenuissima

Now here's a grass I ENVY. Where is my warm-weathered garden when I need one.

I have always been taught that this grass is Stipa tenuissima. But in my recent searches I am discovering that botanists have changed it to Nassela tenuissima. Hmmm...I prefer the original.

Sorghastrum nutans

Indian Grass, a wonderful grass.

I am determined to know about all the grasses that can be grown here in Utah. All of them.

Play

.

It is a happy talent to know how to play.
— Ralph Waldo Emerson

My last blog post was about work and the value of work in your life. But as they say, all work and no play makes Jack a dull boy and Jane a dull girl.

I think it's easy to underestimate the value of play. Play for children, but also play for adults. 

We live in a society that sometimes over-values work and working hard, values a career-oriented life. Now I do love a good work day and I can fall into the working-too-much camp just as much as the next workaholic. But as time tic-tocs onward, I am feeling that a life which doesn't include regular and hearty play has less dimension and richness. And maybe even less effective work.

I played a lot as a child. Sure I had school, homework, and chores. I was involved with organized sports as well, but I still had plenty of time for pure, unstructured play. Time for imagining worlds and living a million other lives. Spending my afternoons in nature where I touched dirt, leaves, tree branches and watched the clouds take and change shape. But somewhere along the way that lessened, and then lessened a lot more. I guess it's what we call growing up and being responsible. The bills must be paid.

Though, I think maybe we, or rather I, need to change my definition of what being responsible means. Because I think a responsible life probably includes plenty of play.

I have been hearing many reports recently about the high-quality education that Scandinavian countries achieve - and in all said reports, a big thing was lots of recess...much more than American schools allow. Could there he something to it? I think so. Definitely. 

Work

There is a well-known quote that goes like this:

Choose a job you love, and you will never have to work a day in your life.
— Confucius

When I started working on my own as a landscape designer I would reference this quote regularly. I was doing something I absolutely loved, and having a great time doing it. I had solid projects, wonderful clients, and I was my own boss. And because I was doing what I loved for my job, according to Confucius, I must not be working. Which, apparently, was a good and definitely, a cool thing.

That was 2007. Now it's 2015 and I have decided that this famous quote isn't such a great way for me to live nor view my life.

Work is a wonderful opportunity and a choice we all can make. Work is a positive thing. Work builds character and causes personal growth, especially when we push through a difficult task and see it to the end - even, and especially when we don't want to.

For me, when I work well, I feel a great sense of accomplishment - this in turn makes me happy. Sometimes I love my work. Other times I don't love it as much. But I am always grateful for it. It's a means of living a productive and fruitful life, and contributing to the greater good in this world. 

It is the working man who is the happy man.
— Benjamin Franklin
Without ambition one starts nothing. Without work one finishes nothing. The prize will not be sent to you. You have to win it.
— Ralph Waldo Emerson
Laziness may appear attractive, but work gives satisfaction.
— Anne Frank
Action may not always bring happiness, but there is no happiness without action.
— William James
Once you start a working on something, don’t be afraid of failure and don’t abandon it. People who work sincerely are the happiest.
— Chanakya


Muhlenbergia

Sometimes a plant captivates you and it's all "WOW." The frothy fall texture and color of Muhlenbergia does just that - it's a bit unexpected. 

Muhlenbergia is hardy to Zone 6. Which means it may have a tough time in Northern Utah. Someday when I have my warmer garden...Muhly Grass will definitely make the short list.

***News Flash: Apparently there are some varieties of this grass that will indeed survive a Utah winter! Let's give it a go!