You will find something more in woods than in books. Trees and stones will teach you that which you can never learn from masters.
– St. Bernard
We are walking in the woods near Julie Brown’s home in northwestern Wisconsin. It is raining buckets. Our feet squelch in the mud. The raindrops create complex polyrhythms on our raincoats. Skirting around mucky patches and ducking branches, we discover thousands of mushrooms scattered across the forest floor.
The heavy rains this summer have called them into the light in a profusion of form and color. Glossy white undulant shelves along an oak log. Tiny crimson caps among the leaf litter. Striated white, tan, and lavender turkey tail fungus layered like phyllo pastry. A brilliant yellow foot-tall pile in the middle of the path. A cheerful convocation of little brown buttons atop slender stalks.
They are everywhere and Julie is – well – reading them.
She points to the fluted underside of a broad mushroom that was flipped upside down. “I wonder who passed by here and kicked that? Probably a passing deer.” As if to confirm her theory, our eyes catch the tawny movement of a whitetail leaping off the path into the trees.
Walking in the woods with Julie Brown brings the woods alive. They know her well. They reveal things to her watchful eyes that yours and mine might miss. Sometimes she brings her camera along. And then the wonders the woods reveal to her keen eye become visible to us.
After the rain stops, Julie returns to the woods with her camera to catch the visual symphony of the mushrooms. I jump into my car and return home to the city.
By the time I get home, there are images in my inbox. Intimate, shining portraits of treasure we discovered in the rain-washed woods. Even though I was there myself and saw the very same mushrooms, Julie’s photographs show them to me in a completely different way. These are Julie’s gifts –paying attention, seeing deeply. She has found a way to harness her camera so that it captures and shares the marvels she sees.
Most of the photos she posts on her gorgeous Tumblr site are taken a few steps from her home. They are drenched in a sense of place. Julie grew up near here and knows this place in her bones. It knows her as well and shows itself to her as to a trusted friend.
Her cousin once called her “a poetic photographer.” It’s a compliment she treasures – and it couldn’t be more accurate. Every day she posts an astonishing image along with a poem or quote. What I see reflected in those photographs is reverence, patience, practice, and deep, deep gratitude for the miraculous ways Life expresses herself here on Earth.
You can visit and follow Julie’s Tumblr site here:http://julesofnature.tumblr.com
And watch a beautiful short film about her work created by our mutual friend, Lucy Mathews Heegaard here: https://studio-lu.net/2015/09/25/jules-of-nature/