Autumn Preview

Autumn Queen

Autumn Queen ©2013 Bo Mackison

“Fall has always been my favorite season. The time when everything bursts with its last beauty, as if nature had been saving up all year for the grand finale.”
~ Lauren DeStefano, Wither

Awaiting autumn.


Bo Mackison is photographer, book-maker, collector of stories, naturalist, curator and owner of Seeded Earth Studio LLC.  Today, once again, I walked the prairie and considered the universe.

Finding Rituals in Memories

Bench with a View

Bench with a View © 2013 Bo Mackison

“Ritual practice is the activity of cultivating extraordinary ordinariness.” ~ Ronald L. Grimes

This is the bench where I sat while I contemplated the day, my life, the world, even the boundlessness of the universe. I was  restless. Untethered. I had just finished a project I’d been pouring my soul into for the past six months. It was time to send my work, my labor of love, out into the world. And though this was a time of fruition and celebration, it also was a time of saying goodbye, letting go, even a bit of grieving. I seemed to be going through a bit of postpartum blues after birthing my project and readying my official announcement to launch my Desert Wisdom Cards into the public realm.

Realizing this is a common reaction to the completion of a beloved project — joy coupled with letting go — I sat in solitude and let my mind wander. I decided to create a ritual to both celebrate and provide a sense of closure to this part of my creative life.

I took in my surroundings. The prairie grasses were yellowing, the summer flowers had set seed. The apple trees were over laden with ripened fruit, and some of the apples had dropped onto the earth. Cracked walnuts were along the paths. Yet there was evidence of bustling life all around me. Geese in flight, meadowlarks perching in the maple trees, the autumn flowers of the prairie — showy goldenrod, purple asters, daisy fleabane — in full bloom.

I considered what was happening under the surface. This summer has been one of multiple losses. I’d anticipated that the completion of my Desert Wisdom Cards would bring fulfillment and joy. They did, but they also touched  gently upon more feelings of grief. I understood that this feeling was temporary, there were other projects waiting for my attention, but I also wanted to honor this time of transition.

That All May Be One

That All May Be One ©2013 Bo Mackison

And so I searched for a meaningful ritual, one that might bring a feeling of comfort and acceptance, of saying goodbye while looking forward with anticipation.  So I asked a few questions…

What could I use as a guide?  What components might be in a transitioning ritual? What would a healing place hold?

  • the night sky, dark, abundant with stars
  • open spaces, open minds
  • spiritual spaces, resting spaces, thinking places
  • a container that contained my curiosities, my questions, my collections
  • quiet, slow, peaceful
  • folk art, expressive art, art that tells a story, art that has heart
  • kindnesses and little gifts (When traveling it is customary to bring tiny gifts in exchange for kindnesses received along the path and to those who share their stories.)
  • a place in nature, ecological, in balance
  • a place my great-grandmother would have loved

The last thought — a place my great-grandmother would have loved — was the trigger that helped me address my longings. I thought of the many things I’d learned from my great-grandmother when I was a child, of the many things she’d loved. I thought of the changing season, summer sliding into autumn, of the routines we had made extraordinary in their repetition as we did our late summer chores with love and respect and companionship.

We picked a late summer flower, a single blossom, from the garden every morning and placed it in a tiny vase on my great-grandmother’s dressing table. We gathered the remainder of the harvest from the vegetable garden before the first hard frost, cleaned and cut the vegetables, and made huge pots of vegetable soup with my grandfather’s supervision.


Pears, Ripe on the Branch © 2013 Bo Mackison

We cooked applesauce, apple butter, peach preserves. Then spent the last hot days of summer canning our bounty. We made dough, rolled it out, and cut the dough into long noodles. We dried herbs on racks in the pantry. We raked the garden and added to our compost pile. We pulled the quilts and blankets out of storage, and draped them over several back yard clothes lines to air in the breeze.

We adapted our evening rituals to the sun’s earlier schedule. Instead of sitting on the porch after supper, chatting with passing neighbors, we set up a table in the kitchen for puzzles and games. Once it started getting dark while we ate supper, we fell into a simple routine of cleaning the kitchen, then playing games of Parcheesi or Pokeno. We would take an evening walk around the outside of the house just before bedtime, making sure all was as it should be, admiring the starlit skies.

So much love and care and honor went into these simple actions. Home and hearth. Routines and rituals – all good for the soul.

Today I jotted down a few reminders – ways to prepare for the changing season, routines to ease the change from busy day to rejuvenating evening, rituals to remind me of the sacredness in the ordinary. Simple actions – gardening, cooking, preparation for autumn.

Do you long for a way to honor the changing seasons, for the ordinary turned extraordinary by the practice of ritual? What might you add (or subtract) from your days in honor of the ordinary, the sacred?


Bo Mackison is photographer, book-artist, collector of stories, naturalist, curator and owner of Seeded Earth Studio LLC. Today I thought of my grandparents and great-grandmother and contemplated one of the gifts they gave me –the quest for routine and ritual.



The Wind, One Brilliant Day

Prairie Seeding, Late Summer

Late Summer © 2013 Bo Mackison

Seeker, there is no path. The path is made by walking.”
~ Antonio Machado

The Calling

The wind, one brilliant day, called.
The clouds, one brilliant day, glided.
The monastery bell, one brilliant day, echoed.
The crickets, one brilliant day, whistled.
The goldenrod, one brilliant day, waved.
The honey bee, one brilliant day, danced.
The seed heads, one brilliant day, shimmered.
The meadowlark, one brilliant day, chanted.
The tall grasses, one brilliant day, beckoned.

My body, one brilliant day, paused.
My mind, one brilliant day, listened.
My heart, one brilliant day, opened.
My soul, one brilliant day, leapt.
My spirit, one brilliant day, accepted.


Today I brought my day pack — journal and pen, book, camera, lunch — and walked the prairie trail at Holy Wisdom Monastery near Madison. Afterwards, I sat on a bench overlooking the late summer prairie, Lake Mendota glittering in the distance, and read from The Art of Pilgrimage by Phil Cousineau.

My imagination was triggered by a line in the book, a few words from Spanish poet Antonio Machado — “the wind, one brilliant day, called…” And so I give credit to Machado for the first line of the above poem.


Bo Mackison is photographer, book-maker, collector of stories, naturalist, curator and owner of Seeded Earth Studio LLC.  Today I walked the prairie and considered the universe.

A Touch of Autumn, Reminders of Impermanance

Autumn's Touch © 2013 Bo Mackison

Autumn’s Touch © 2013 Bo Mackison

“Nothing in the world is permanent, and we’re foolish when we ask anything to last,
but surely we’re still more foolish not to take delight in it while we have it.” ~ W. Somerset Maugham

A dozen geese, in formation, fly over my back porch as I stand watching traces of sunlight shimmer through the rainclouds. They are so near I can see the layering of their feathers, their muscles flexing, hear the whirr-whirr of their wings in synchronous flight.

I am on my porch, a screened affair, three sides visually open to the back yard, the gardens and trees. The skies, blue earlier, are now gray and threatening. A path meanders along the back of the garden and through the neighborhood. There are occasional lamp posts – Narnia style – to light the way at night. The lamp flickers on mid-morning, gradually emitting a soft glow.

There is a glider on the porch and a side table. I sit there for thinking time, quiet time, connecting time. Often I light the candle on the table – its flame a reminder of the light in the world, the energy contained in the small flame, useful in containment, but enlivened fury when out of control. I think about self-direction and discipline.

There is a round table and two chairs opposite the glider. I set up a work station on the table. It doubles as office during the day, dining nook on warm summer evenings. I have assembled piles of journals, books, a pad of notes, my computer. My Miro coffee cup.

Tucker, the Writing Companion Cat © 2013 Bo Mackison

Tucker, the Writing Companion Cat © 2013 Bo Mackison

There is a cat. He alternately snoozes in the comfy space behind my open computer screen and peeks around at the monitor’s ever changing screen, ready to attack the cursor as it moves. He prowls the edges of the porch, on the look out for baby rabbits who recently ventured from their underground nest, a late brood.When he can’t pounce on his preferred furry targets, he slinks along the polished floor, and substitutes my toes for target practice. A cat is distraction, entertainment. I consider coaxing him into the house with catnip treats, but I like his company, and his cat sense of humor.

There is an approaching storm. Thunder rolls, rain plops in spattery drops on large-leafed hosta in the north garden. Leaves sprawled in disarray, as if an elephant used the plants as his foot path. Bright green only a week ago, today they are a green-gray, wrinkled and yellow-tipped. Touched by autumn’s early breath, they quickly aged.

There is the work I’ve just begun. A writing project with an encroaching due date. But the rain is blowing, the thunder fiercer as it approaches with a slow rumble. The cat has gone inside to hide under the couch, waiting for me to pack up my papers and books, my journals and computer, and come join him in the softly lit study.

There I am warmer, it is a much quieter space. Not nearly as evocative for story-imagining, dreaming, nature-study. The cat watches from under his protective furniture, his golden eyes aglow. I re-settle. It is a good day to write, wherever I find my space.


Bo Mackison is artist, photographer, book-maker, naturalist, poet, curator, and owner of Seeded Earth Studio LLC. It is a good day for writing projects, accompanied by rainfall, whispering trees, and a jumpy cat.

Sunflowers at Sunset

Sunflowers at Sunset

Sunflowers at Sunset ©2013 Bo Mackison

Adrift in a wave of sunflowers,
adrift in a wave of humanity –
we are all one.


Bo Mackison is a photographer and owner of Seeded Earth Studio LLC.  Her exhibit, Garden Party – A Celebration of Botanical Photography, is at the Alicia Ashman Branch Library Gallery in Madison, Wisconsin and runs through September 5, 2013.