Wrapped willow branches curve to form great bird nests of dreams. A rainbow of threads shimmers as you step into the middle where you’ve always wanted to be. Lovers touch fingers as they lie upon the carpet looking up to the ceiling draped in sensual pink and purple nets. A great cast of a hemlock tree composed of carved interlocking, recycled wood pieces, suspends horizontally the length of the grand salon. Peer inside the hollowed trunk and become the owl, the woodpecker, or the swift.

Artist Gabriel Dawe spun a rainbow of attainable beauty, yet wistful longing, too, illuminating some deep place within. Read more about him here.

Ever since my visit to the Renwick Gallery’s “Wonder” Exhibit in Washington D.C. a month ago,  I’ve contemplated the bold, brave art. Instead of walking into a typical art gallery room with its arrayed and individual paintings or sculptures, you entered one artist’s total vision of wonder.

The nine declarative art experiences offered an Alice in Wonderland kind of alternative reality. And something else,too. The artists brought NATURE to the city. For people like me who can’t live without NATURE and WILDS, I felt the power just as much. Compelling art has this way of lingering with you and stirring every imaginative bone in your body.


It’s a little different now when I hear the house wren singing away in nesting season or watch robins carrying nesting material. I can imagine what it is to be a weaver of nests or settling in on eggs or even popping up my head like a hungry little nestling with beak impossibly wide open. When a rainbow arcs across the sky, that aching desire for the elusive quality of “Somewhere over the rainbow” feels at once more intimate and yet all that much more fleeting.

Rainbow with pelicans-North Beach pt reyes
Pelicans know the wonder of rainbows….(a photo I took at Point Reyes, California, last November)

Maya Lin, the famed artist of the Vietnam Wall, replicated the entire Chesapeake Bay watershed out of translucent green marbles that spanned the floor and crept up the walls. While some artists invited an up close immersion, she gave us the eagle eye view of our life-sustaining and irreplaceable freshwater that nourishes thousands of species, of which we are only one.  At the time, I found her exhibit less accessible. You could not dance across the marbles without damaging them, yet I’ve returned to her art, too, in the way I’ve returned to the headwaters of my own life here in La Grande, Oregon.

Perhaps it’s because I’m one of those people who likes the window seat on a plane, refuses to close the shade for the movie that plays, and might even nudge the person next to me to look! look! I’m always amazed that people would rather shut out America from the skies: the intriguing mountains, plains,incised canyons, impossibly snowy and endless wilderness peaks,  cropland circles, cities and always the rivers of sinuosity, sensuality, and grandeur that’s so much bigger than any one of us. Maybe, just maybe, Maya Lin might inspire a few more people to revel from above.

“Folding the Chesapeake” by Maya Lin. Read more about the 54,000 marble installation that suggests both unity of water, fragility of the watershed, and a complexity of life reliant upon each droplet.

Where Maya Lin’s watershed sent me wondering about the big picture of life as seen from high in the air, another artist’s work took everyone  skyward into sunsets, sunrises, billowing clouds, winds and the play of light.  Janet Echelman transformed the grand salon of the Renwick with suspended and illuminated nets. I loved joining the entwined couples, the elderly, the stodgy,  and the not so stodgy  all lying on the floor without care for rumpled business suits or proper traditional gallery etiquette. There I was, lying in a meadow in the city, gazing up at a trippy sky, and feeling the melody and lyrics that always make me cry when Louis Armstrong singsWhat a Wonderful World.


And yes, that’s what it is, I realize. The “Wonder” exhibit was all about every line of that song that tells us again and again: “What a Wonderful World.”  Live it. Love it. Feel the joy and the grief. Let the tears stream down along with the lightness and laughter. It’s all about the wonder…


I see trees of green, red roses too
I see them bloom for me and you
And I think to myself
What a wonderful world
I see skies of blue and clouds of white
The bright blessed day and the dark sacred night
And I think to myself
What a wonderful world
The colors of the rainbow
So pretty in the sky
Are also on the faces
Of people goin’ by
I see friends shakin’ hands
Sayin’, “How do you do?”
They’re really sayin’
“I love you”
I hear babies cry, I watch them grow
They’ll learn much more than I’ll ever know
And I think to myself
What a wonderful world
Don’t you think Satchmo was right?
What a wonderful world
You were right, Pops

A few more scenes from the Wonder exhibit:


Wonder- TaraDonovan art