Living on the edge of the prairie offers an escape to a place of wonder. Wendell Berry, author and bioregionalist, says, “If you don’t know where you are, you don’t know who you are.”

The largest remaining stand of tallgrass prairie is found in the Flint Hills of Kansas and Oklahoma. The Flint Hills Discovery Center Foundation has created the Maps in the Schools project. The maps will hang in the schools of the Flint Hills showing their particular location and, depending on the grade level, speak to some special aspect of the place, the life, the history and/or the science.

Some (and definitely not all) of the folks working on the project are Emily Connell – Director; Annie Wilson – Project Coordinator and High School Program Educator; Pam Collinge – Middle School Educator; Molly Wold – Elementary Educator; John Dunham – Mapmaker; Laura Zimney – Graphic Designer. If you are interested in knowing more about the project, contact the Flint Hills Discovery Center Map and Education Program.

High School Flint Hills Illustration

The Flint Hills Maps in the Schools, High School Illustration

  • Original Artwork – Oil on Ampersand
  • 31” x 17.25” illustration
  • Copyright by The Flint Hills Discovery Center Foundation
    and Nancy Lehenbauer Marshall
Flint Hills Maps in the Schools, High School

The Flint Hills Maps in the Schools, High School Map

  • Print on Paper
  • 31” x 17.25” illustration size on a 48” x 48” map
  • Copyright by The Flint Hills Discovery Center Foundation
Flint Hills Maps in the Schools Project, Middle School

The Flint Hills Maps in the Schools Project Middle School Illustration

    •  Original Artwork – Oil on Ampersand
    • 31” x 17.25” illustration
    • Copyright by The Flint Hills Discovery Center Foundation
      and Nancy Lehenbauer Marshall

There are over 50 things to identify in this Middle School illustration. An ID chart will be available in the educational materials that accompany the maps.

Flint Hills Maps in the Schools, Middle School Illsutration

The Flint Hills Maps in the Schools, Middle School

  • Print on Paper
  • 31” x 17.25” illustration size on a 48” x 48” map
  • Copyright by The Flint Hills Discovery Center Foundation
Flint Hills Maps in the Schools Project, Elementary Illustration

The Flint Hills Maps in the Schools Project, Elementary Illustration

  •  Original Artwork – Oil on Ampersand
  • 31” x 17.25” illustration
  • Copyright by The Flint Hills Discovery Center Foundation
    and Nancy Lehenbauer Marshall
Flint Hills Maps in the Schools, Elementary

The Flint Hills Maps in the Schools, Elementary

  • Print on Paper
  • 31” x 17.25” illustration size on a 48” x 48” map
  • Copyright by The Flint Hills Discovery Center Foundation

If you would like to support this project, please contact The Flint Hills Discovery Center Foundation.

Marines in a blasted forest

Marines in a blasted forest

  • Oil on Ampersand Gessobord
  • 11″ x 14″
  • In a private collection

This painting and another painting titled “Vietnam Warriors” have me thinking about war and the hell that it is. Here sit four youths in a bomb crater surrounded by a splintered forest during a day of fighting. Despite the devastation,  Carl Bennett found beauty in the place expressed in this  poem, “Vietnamese Morning”.

VIETNAMESE MORNING
Before war starts
In early morning
The land is breath taking.
The low, blazing, ruby sun
Melts the night-shadow pools
Creating an ethereal appearance.
Each miniature house and tree
Sprouts its, long, thin shadow
Stretching long on dewy ground.
The countryside is panoramic maze,
Jungle, hamlets, hills and waterways,
Bomb-craters, paddies, broken-backed bridges.
Rice fields glow sky-sheens,
Flat, calm, mirrored lakes
Reflect the morning peace.
The patchwork quilted earth,
Slashed by snaking tree-lines,
Slumbers in dawn’s blue light.
Sharp, rugged mountain peaks
Sleep  in a soft rolling blanket
Of clinging, slippery, misty fog.
Effortlessly, languidly, it flows
Shyly spreading wispy tentacles out
To embrace the earth with velvet arms.

Decision makers in our government were not satisfied with destroying land and people one bomb at a time, but resorted to the defoliating herbicide, Agent Orange. Their poor judgment destroyed the lives of the local folks, soldiers and the place.  In “Young Men” Curt Bennett writes about being a Vietnam soldier:

YOUNG MEN
In quiet dignity they trudge
With only the slurping sounds
Of jungle boots sucking mud
As they carry their burden
Of expendable youth at war.
There is a poise about them,
A quality not found in peers,
A bearing common only
To young men in combat.
There is a stoic resignation,
A façade of wary acceptance,
A weariness in their movements
As they slowly walk the war.
Struggling with all its elements,
And inside, struggling with themselves,
For just below the surface,
They keep the well-known secret,
The haunting cowardice common to all.
Twenty-four hours a day they walk the line,
Living up to the reputation,
Assuming the swagger, the hard line,
Their casual indifference to death
That masks that deep seeded fear of dying,
The overwhelming urge to break and run,
The paralyzing instinct to freeze or hide!
Praying silently in secret
That whatever happens they won’t look bad.
And that is why they are at war,
Where they would rather be
Then face the shame of not going,
Of being accused of not having “it”,
To uphold that fragile concept of honor,
With their reputations on the line.
And they proudly carry their reputations,
For that is all that remains of their dignity,
Even if it means they must die for it.
GOOD MORNING

They shuffled down in noiseless file,
Gaunt apparitions whose hollow eyes
Stare blankly out from sunken sockets,
Whose swollen tongues crack scaled lips,
Scab sores ooze pus and swarming flies,
Through dirty, soiled flak jackets.
Assholes flame dysentery, brown fluid trickles
The crouchless trousers where jungle rot
Reddens, chafes and burns with each step.
Ripped jungle boots ring-bleached salt-sweat
Through rotting socks encasing fungus feet
They endlessly plod, gray ghosts of dawn.
Silently they pass, eternal warriors
Towards their unknown, to their death and hell.
Whispering shadows blending with the foggy light
In the ancient ritual of men marching to battle,
Quietly they slide away merging in the bush,
Disappearing into the mist of time.
Copyright, Curt Bennett

Today, many leaders in the US government have forsaken statesmanship for being party politicians, acting on behalf of the party funders rather than to the benefit of the citizenry, the land, the water, the earth as a whole. The big picture which includes the interrelationship of earth’s species and systems is ignored. So we must do what we can, consume less, recycle, grow a garden, plant a tree, study the night sky, breathe deeply, make friends, make peace in our time.

Last Cigarette

October 9, 2009

Last Cigarette“Last Cigarette”

  • Oil on Canvas
  • 12″ x 16″
  • In private collection

Inspired by another lonely and desolate blues song by Patsy Cline, titled something similar to this. The phone dates the piece. A phone my grandchildren would not recognize as one.
This is a poem I wrote to accompany the painting.

Last Cigarette

You could get along nicely without me, you’d said.
Let’s forget this day ever happened, I replied.
You’d left for one of those long walks
you take when you want nothing close.
I sit in this hazy low lit room
down to my last cigarette,

….waiting.

A Blues Story

September 30, 2009

One Cig
One Cigarette in the Ashtray

My husband is a fan of the blues. We’d been to hear k.d. lang singing Patsy Cline tunes while I was working on a series of blues paintings. This three part painting was inspired by one of her cigarette songs.  Cigarettes and depression seem to go hand in hand in blues tunes.

Following is poem inspired by this painting. Feel free to submit your own.

One Cigarette in the Ashtray

Late at night
I comfort a friend
by love abandoned.

We light two cigarettes.

Drinks and stories shared
in smokey haze

coerce my heart into
a lover’s daze.

Suddenly,
two cigarettes in the ashtray
turn to three.

Old love appears
and begs to stay.
I witness metamorphosis
as the heartsick is steered
from sad to gay.

Transformation complete,
a look of thanks
and they’re gone.
I sit alone__
sipping coffee, bittersweet,

one cigarette in the ashtray.

by Nancy Marshall

Or a second version:

One Cigarette in the Ashtray

Late, I comfort one abandoned by love.

Our depressions match hand in glove.

Stories shared in smoky haze

Hearts drift into a lovers’ daze.

But the old love appears, begs to stay,

sits that cigarette in the ashtray.

Metamorphosis witnessed, the lovers agree

to try again for harmony.

A smile, a thanks, a brief goodbye,

I sip my coffee and stare outside.

Flint Hills Revery

June 14, 2009

Approaching Storm
Revery in the Hills

  • Oil on Canvas
  • 22″ x 22″
  • In the collection of B/S N

Last night the Kansas City Symphony Orchestra (Symphony in the Flint Hills) played on the Upper Turkey Springs pasture between Florence and Cedar Point, KS. Thousands of us sat among prairie grasses and flowers listening to compositions that complemented the land and sky. The work of composers such as Copeland (the Red Pony), Dvorak (In Nature’s Realm), Bernstein (Theme from the Magnificent Seven), Barry (Dances with Wolves Suite) created a wonder filled evening.

Revery in the Hills is a prairie painting that combines plein air with studio work. The images are meant to evoke sensual romance with the sunlit picnic. This pleasant repast is obviously disturbed but there is also the exhilarating energy that comes with an approaching storm.

To make a prairie it takes a clover
and one bee…
One clover and a bee,
and revery.
The revery alone will do
if bees are few.
Emily Dickinson

Let's See What Happens

Let’s See What Happens

Today Maxx, Naomi and I fed fish in the pond, waded down Rock Creek, balanced on logs and watched a snake sunning. It was exhausting good fun. When Rob returned from taking them home, he gave me a hand drawn heart and said it was from Maxx and Nomi. I’m rewarded.

The picture: As an amateur woodworker, I’ve learned that making frames is no easy task. The beautiful mahogany came from a friend and the glass bead inserts (look hard at the frames’ bottom horizontal) are something I’m experimenting with. Nomi marbled the background paper and she and Maxx added their hand prints. The picture and story, a gift for Anna’s birthday, were inspired by a walk in the woods with Maxx and Nomi.

The story:
Let’s See What Happens.
Not far from their house
Maxx and Naomi follow the river trail
into the dark woods.

“Be still,” whispers Maxx,
A strange clicking noise
is coming from a tree along the path.
“Trees don’t click”, Maxx says,
Naomi points to a colorful
orange, black and white bug.
(Cream Spot Tiger Moth)
“I think that bug is afraid of us” Maxx
says. They decide not to move and
the clicking stops.
(Cream Spot Tiger Moths make a rapid
clicking noise to scare away attackers.)

“I know! Let’s stand here,
listen, watch,
and see what happens” Maxx says.
Naomi agrees.

Before long a fluttering sound
announces a flock of butterflies.
(Cloudless Sulphur Butterfly)
They swirl around Maxx and Naomi.
One lands on Naomi’s pink dress
while others collect on the nearby tree.
Naomi gently lifts the butterfly onto her
finger.

A twig breaks under the hoof of a passing
deer as she leads her fawn to the river to
drink.

A dragonfly darts along the trail, stopping
to hover above Maxx and Naomi’s heads.
Maxx raises his finger
and the dragonfly (Twelve-spot Skimmer) lands.
Maxx and Naomi take a close look at the insect.

A sudden splash makes them jump.
An eagle skims the surface of the river,
and lifts a fish with his talons.

“I have an idea,” Maxx tells Naomi,
“next time, let’s bring our chairs.”

artichokes-and-champagne
Artichokes and Champagne

  • Oil on Canvas
  • 12″ x 9″
  • In a private collection

A customized “Curlylocks” verse:

Oh love, oh love
Wilt thou be mine?
Thou shalt not wash dishes
Nor yet feed the swine,
But sit on a cushion
of the softest down,
eating artichokes in butter
with nere a frown
And feed upon strawberries
Soaked in champagne,
And know only happiness,
Prosperity and gain.

Beneath the Surface

May 4, 2009

beneath-the-surface-001

Beneath the Surface

beneath-the-surface-detail002

Detail,  Beneath the Surface

  • Oil on Ampersand Gessobord
  • 12″ x 36″
  • $3900
  • Limited Edition Giclée Print on archival paper, 10″ x 30″ image size – $395, plus shipping
  • Contact the artist.

This appears to be a sweet still life. There are butterflies, caterpillar, cicada, moths, hummingbirds, 12 spot skimmers, a crane fly, cosmos, pearls, sweets and companionable coffees. But just as Ry Cooder points out, there “might be trouble hidin’ round that tree” or something lurking just below the surface.

But everyone brings their own story to a painting. The following haikus were written for this painting.

Beneath the surface
a current swells and then
transcends illusion

by Linda Varberg

The fish darts
into my awareness
and out again.

by Linda Varberg

Flying above, searching
Oh, what appetite
When from below
Surprise with a bite.

by Rob Marshall

I am in awe of
Nature’s wonders, yet I grieve
for their brevity.

by Nancy Marshall

Seeking the nectar of life, discovering.
Partaking of nature’s offerings, fulfilling.
Adding to the all around beauty, enchanting.

by Trish Maher