The pieces published here were written as part of a collaboration between Badgerdog and Mobile Art, a nonprofit that provides art workshops for aging adults in care facilities, nursing homes, and early memory-loss programs. For this project, Badgerdog’s teaching artists visited two memory-loss groups at Well-Med Clinic in South Austin and Hope Lutheran Church to inspire and guide the poets and storytellers you’re about to read. The theme for this collaboration was nature: how our experiences with nature have affected our lives. The images created in the visual works of art were inspired by the participants’ own poetry and essays with the guidance of Mobile Art instructors and volunteers, who helped the artists explore themes of nature and memory through collage, found objects, and acrylic on canvas. For each participant, you’ll see a visual work coupled with a written work. In experiencing both together, we get a unique glimpse into the lives and memories of the folks who created them and the rich lives they’ve led.
I’ve never experienced a ballet appearing in the sky as it moves down the water. I witnessed a drama I have never seen. I had never experienced that reaching from the sky. I’ve never experienced the beauty of a rainbow as I saw it that day. One moment reaching to move to the sky, trying to reach the blanket of stars. Afraid of the loud noises. It appeared to lean and brighten to meet the sky. How do you how the rainbow is? It was I, not there, not the thunder but… fine in the trees.
When the Weather
When the rain turns to snow
I begin to slow.
When it begins to lightning
I feel I am brightening.
As the clouds disappear
Then my brain begins to clear.
As the day begins to lighten
My feelings begin to heighten.
I realize what I have come to miss
Is that feeling of true bliss.
I noticed the rhythm of his heart,
the slow rise and fall of his velvet chest.
Suddenly, his sleepy eyes caught mine
and, yes, there was a smile.
I think of flakes gathering on the mane, the snowflakes blowing off the mane onto the neck, and then down to the chest, still further then get to the hooves and then onto the path traveled by all.
My Horse Nellie
She was fairly small, as horses go, but she always did what I wanted. However, one day in our pasture I was riding and she started running. I tried to slow her down, but to no avail. Suddenly, I saw a fence ahead with a closed gate, and at that instant I knew I was in trouble. When Nellie came to the closed gate, she attempted to jump over it, but her hind legs became tangled in the wire, and she fell. I was riding her as she fell. My head was thrown against the ground quite forcefully. I was stunned, and the horse immediately got on her feet, trembling. I got up after a few minutes, got back on my horse, and rode safely home.
My Dog Moe
My dog Moe loves me a lot.
In fact, right now he’s sleeping at home
so that he will not miss me!
Moe is my friend.
Moe is smart.
Moe keeps me from feeling lonely.
Moe keeps me safe.
Moe keeps me awake.
Moe keeps me aware.
Moe keeps me loved.
Stories from My Youth
We owned land. There was a coulée (a river) running through it. It led to the Vermillion River. Trees grew on the banks of the coulée and were covered in moss. At night, we could hear the owls hooting. Now you don’t hear them anymore. Nature is disappearing, and it’s not good.
The land had been part of my grandparents’ plantation. The large house I was born in in 1924 is still there on Duhon Road in Lafayette, Louisiana. A son of my first cousin lives there. I still have my family property. I feel free there. I’m ninety-one, and I am still able to take care of myself.
We had a large yard, and my mother never let us leave it, so the neighborhood children would come play with us. One of our friends, Mary Helen Graham, died of polio. This was before the polio vaccine. We were lucky we didn’t catch it. My mother visited Mary, and she took her clothes off when she came home and burned them in our old woodstove. My mother always insisted we take any of the vaccines they offered at school.
We couldn’t afford a bicycle, but the neighbor boy let us ride his. He died very young from a stroke. His brother Albert is still living.
We didn’t have a gym at school, so the only activity we had was baseball. I was a terrible baseball player, but the other kids liked to have me on their team because I was good at arguing.
In the forest—
The magic is boundless, endless.
It is about nature in all her glorious impersonations.
Home of the Navajo
So, so tall. So far away.
I feel so small, but so safe.
You beckon me, entice me to come closer.
Courage an expansive awareness,
A never-ending fascination.
I am filled with anticipation, breathless awe.
On the farm, we had a mother horse that gave birth to a baby horse. When the mother horse died, the baby was three months old. I have two brothers, so the youngest took the baby horse out in our yard and fed him until he was grown. We used him in the field to pull the wagon or plow, or I could ride him in the pasture without a bridle or saddle. I would jump on him, pat him on the side of his head, and tell him to take me home and he would.
Lee Roy Schilling
A meadow covered with flowers. A beautiful blue sky in the background. The colors are so inviting, I could lie down and travel in my mind to all sorts of emotions—primarily peace and tranquility. The calm water in the lake is expressing my feelings of serenity. The colors are amazing.
The sunshine on the canal, the soft ripples of the water. The birds flying over, making their chirping noises, looking down, scanning for anything that might be moving. A frog on a lily pad, croaking. A snake slithering through the water. Throwing a line with a cork and a worm on the end, hoping something would nibble then bite. Hoping you can pull it in. The joy of catching a fish.
Ode to Nature I
You look like a spiral
Bring me beauty
Ode to Nature II
You look like a tree
Bring me joy when I crack you
Ode to Flowers
You look like a noon day, peaceful escape
Bring me warmth
Ode to Nature
You look like you are grumbling and griping
Bring me relaxation
Whenever I see the wild cats
I think of freedom
Driving all night
Escaping the wildfire
The cats in the cage had no chance to run
Scene from Childhood
I liked running across the street after school to play on the playground with my school friends. I remember the time I ran and was almost hit and killed by the oncoming cars. The park was several blocks away from the school building. All of us would run in the park before we went home.
I had a horse one time. I could ride it, and my dad couldn’t. We lived in a two-story house. My dad grew up on a farm. He thought I needed a house (I thought he wanted a horse). But I could ride it and he could not, so we sold the horse.
I was walking with my dog, Buster, on a cold day and came upon a huge deer with large horns. We stopped and looked at each other for a while. Then I turned around, took one last look at the deer, and walked toward home with Buster.
Love of the Flowers and Birds
I had a parakeet I talked to early in the morning.
When I awoke, I had to smell the flowers
and hear the songs of the birds.