The Underlying Current

The Underlying Current

“The spirit of Walter Anderson thanks you.” This comment, while I was documenting the BP Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill in 2010, meant more than any other. It fueled me to keep going when the fumes, death and poisoning of sea creatures weighed me down with unbearable grief.

Part of mural from The Little Room, by Walter Inglis Anderson

Having a background as a state park naturalist and lover of the natural world, Walter Inglis Anderson’s words, drawings and paintings inspired me to connect deeply with elements of nature–not just animals, land and sea, but spatially through geometries of light and shadow.

Decades since his book, The Horn Island Logs, was published I have written and photographed many wondrous places and creatures in nature but more importantly, I have interacted with mountains, coasts, humpback whales, dolphins, sea lions, waterfalls, trees…I connect with much more than form, on a deep level.

I’m not concerned with only the technical aspects of a good photograph. I want to connect with the essence behind form. When I am in nature…underwater or in a forest….I simply show up and ask to be shown the light behind the physical manifestation. I have no agenda other than to be an observer wherever I find myself…with a camera, notepad or stripped of anything but my heart and mind to receive whatever gift is offered.

A while ago someone sent me information about an application for an exhibit at Walter Anderson Museum of Art. I’m not one to apply for exhibits and competitions, but the intention of the exhibit spoke to me so I applied. The subject was the human connection to water and I knew the exact image I would submit.

A small group of us were on a photography trip to Bimini to photograph  a friendly, resident pod of spotted dolphins. At some point during one of our days with the pod I stopped, as is often the case, to drink in the beauty of color, light and form. My friend Susan was preparing to photograph approaching dolphins. The reflections and light were surreal and I lifted my heavy, underwater housing and fired off one shot. The dolphins were so fast and Susan was swimming fast so there was one chance to capture what I felt as I communed with the sea and Her creatures.

That shot now hangs in the Water, Water exhibit at Walter Anderson Museum of Art (WAMA).

I was excited for it to be chosen yet it felt almost destined. Even as I applied I fully expected that image to be part of the exhibit…very unlike my usual low expectations. But the real magic for me was when I delivered the print.

Mural painting by Walter Inglis Anderson in Community Center, Ocean Springs, MS

When I dropped off the print,  Bea–one of the museum employees– invited me to look around. I went to the Community Center, attached to the museum, that was filled with a mural painted by Walter Anderson many years ago. It was as if the spirit of Walter swept around me and I begin remembering how deeply his work influenced me over 30 years ago, when I first viewed the room.

Mural painting by Walter Inglis Anderson, Community Center in Ocean Springs, MS

Tears filled my eyes as a part of me seemed to slip back into full embodiment of this life, this present moment where my art somehow interacted with his art and a circle was closed…like everything finally made sense.

Mural painting by Walter Anderson, The Little Room

During the two-night opening of the exhibit I listened as John Anderson, Walter’s son, shared about his relationship with his father and about his dad’s work. I was taken to a greater understanding of myself as I listened and was able to chat with John and share how his dad’s work influenced me.

John said his dad was shunned, a sort of outcast in the Ocean Springs community because he isolated himself and lived on Horn Island. It resonated with me. So deeply am I connected to nature and the energy behind it all that I rarely feel as if I fit in with this consumer-driven world. I could happily spend my days and nights exploring woodlands and shores, climbing trails on mountains…so profoundly does solitude appeal to me. It’s only in the quiet and solitary ways of observance that I feel home in my skin.

Another new exhibit at WAMA focuses on Walter as Artist, Naturalist & Mystic. Yes! was the only word that came to mind as I reflected on my own life.

I remembered a morning surrounded by humpback whales in the pre-dawn darkness anchored 90 miles off the Dominican Republic. Fishy exhalations of the whales were illuminated in the moonlight and kissed my skin as they drifted in the warm air. As I did morning yoga the whales came closer and closer to the boat. I felt myself open to the Universe, ocean and whales–there was no separation, only perfect communion.  Since then I have known that communion to be as sacred and holy as any experience. It is my touchstone to purpose and presence here on this magnificent Ocean Planet.

There was no conscious memory of how Walter Anderson influenced me, but as I reflect back after viewing his murals and sketches from Horn island, it was as if he was a silent mentor riding an underlying current with me on the journey with whales, dolphins, sea lions, manatees. It is like he has been encouraging me simply from his audacity to do what called him to life.

Who knows how this life journey works. Something guided a friend (can’t remember who) to send me information on the exhibit. And the entire process brought me full circle to a place where I felt the spirit of Walter Anderson saying, “Well done.”

Mural painting by Walter Inglis Anderson in The Little Room

To have such deep love for the planet and all Her creatures and witness the destruction of so much is nearly unbearable. I only hope my work–through words, images, painting–helps connect human animals to that which they are part of–even if they have forgotten. May we all remember…and fall back in love with that from which we come.

Unaware my friend ‘Auntie’ Eydie was taking my photo, the unposed, pure love of his work shines through…in The Little Room.
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