On Watch

photo(21)On Watch © 2013 Bo Mackison

A lake is a landscape’s most beautiful and expressive feature.
It is Earth’s eye, into which the beholder measures the depth of his own nature.
~ Henry David Thoreau

Skies hint of purple,
the sun withdraws.
Winds calm in the heavy summer air.

A tumble of rocks deep
disappear in gray shadow.
Ghost carp glide under the dock.

The spirit trembles, shaken, then
regains its equilibrium
On watch for the first star.

Autumn, Overlooking Madison

Autumn, Overlooking Madison

Autumn, Overlooking Madison © 2012 Bo Mackison

“Autumn is the eternal corrective. It is ripeness and color and a time of maturity;
but it is also breadth, and depth, and distance.  What man can stand with autumn
on a hilltop and fail to see the span of his world and the meaning of the rolling
hills that reach to the far horizon?” ~ Hal Borland

I stood on a hill-top this morning overlooking a prairie remnant, then a line of ash trees dressed in the brightest of yellows, next a small woods touched with a variety of color – dark greens, yellow greens, yellows, oranges, reds. Beyond the woods, the blue of Lake Mendota in the early morning contrasts with the city of Madison that rises from the shores to the gently rolling hillsides. I could see the University of Wisconsin and the State’s Capitol building in Madison’s downtown.

It’s a sight that made me pause, filled me with a deep joy that Sherpa and I had decided to settle in Madison nearly three decades ago. Madison in autumn with the change in the weather to pleasant days, cooler nights; Madison in autumn with its glorious colors — Madison is at its best (in my opinion) from mid-September through mid-November.

Viewing Madison, and a bit of the surrounding countryside, from the top of a hill is one of those perfect autumn moments.


Bo Mackison is a photographer and the owner of Seeded Earth Studio LLC.  Since autumn’s cool weather arrived, she’s been spending many an early morning at a prairie remnant just north of Madison — wandering, thinking, and taking a few photographs, too.

Discovering My World

Watching Lake Mendota

Watching Lake Mendota © 2011 Bo Mackison

Your work is to discover your world and then with all your heart give yourself to it.  ~ Buddha


John and Ruth Pew House, A Frank Lloyd Wright Design

On the Shore of Lake Mendota

On the Shore of Lake Mendota in Madison

The Pew House, designed by Frank Lloyd Wright and built in 1938-40, is seldom available for public tours, so it was with great enthusiasm that I explored this home, inside and outside, during the Wright and Like Tour held last June. Even dodging rain drops for most of the day didn’t dampen the spirit of the day. It was a good day for photographs – no bright mid-day sun – but the home is positioned neatly over a ravine on the shores of Lake Mendota, and taking any kind of photos requires gymnastics and compromises. To get a lake view, I hiked down the path towards the dock, but could never really take a photograph that truly captures the lines and beauty of this structure. There simply wasn’t enough space to get a photo of the entire home, even with my wide angle lens, and vegetation partly hides the part of the home I was able to shoot.

Hidden from View

Hidden from View, Lake Side

Not much of a view from the dock, or from Lake Mendota. The view from a boat would give you no clue that a Wright home was tucked into this hillside.

The home is a two-story Usonian design, unusual but delightfully compact and full of Wright’s built-ins. In one of the small bedrooms, tiny in size, the room worked well because everything was built into the room – bed, desk, storage. No photos were allowed of the interior of the house, but it is full of charm typical of Wright’s style.

I read a delightful story about an interview with Ruth Pew who voiced unhappiness with the home for the first two years she lived there. It seems she felt that Mr. Wright did not take her wants and needs into consideration when he designed the home, and she was nearly ready to put the home on the market. Instead, she decided she would “give the house a year without struggling with it.” And in that year, she discovered that the home had been built not for the woman she was, but for “the woman I could become.” Talk about self-discovery!

View from Deck into Living Room

View from Deck into Living Room

The Pew House is referred to as a “poor man’s Fallingwater,” because it was built straddling a ravine (instead of Fallingwater’s stream) and on a tight budget with salvaged materials. According to a docent on the tour, one of the windows in the living room had to be replaced because the faint logo of a local establishment became evident after the house was inhabited.

The Wright and Like Tours are held annually, in a different Midwest city, each June. 2010’s tour will be in Racine, Wisconsin. If you are a Wright fan, it’s a great opportunity to see a half dozen or so buildings designed by Wright and his contemporaries.

Sailboats, Evening Rest

Lake Mendota

Lake Mendota

Bobbing sailboats, moored for the night, in a natural harbor on Madison’s Lake Mendota. The last vestiges of the sun before it disappears beyond the horizon gives the water a shimmery appeal. Summer evenings can be a bit of heaven when there’s an easy breeze off the lake and time enough to relax and appreciate the end of a good day.