Though museums were given the go-ahead to reopen with social distancing and capacity restrictions in place earlier this month, many notable institutions have remained closed, including the Princeton University Art Museum, Rutgers’ Zimmerli Museum, and the New Jersey State Museum in Trenton.
But with outdoor activities widely accepted as a safer alternative to indoor gatherings, artists have taken their work outside. And with many people finding area parks and trails as ideal places to go for a socially distanced stroll and escape from coronavirus-induced house arrest, art created in nature, from nature becomes the perfect destination for a summertime walk in the park.
One example is the White Oak Leaf sculpture, created by Princeton-based ecological artist Susan Hoenig along the lakefront by Mountain Lakes House in Princeton. The project was created in partnership with the Friends of Princeton Open Space (FOPOS) and with river stone donated by the Belle Mead Co-Op.
In an artist’s statement published on the FOPOS website, www.fopos.org, Hoenig explains:
“I connect Earth and Art to make visible the relationship between habitat, plant and animal life. My artwork explores ecological issues in our changing forests. In 2016, I created eleven ‘Ecological Leaf Sculptures’ along a public trail in Graeber Woods Preserve, Franklin Township, New Jersey. Stones outline various species of leaves beneath the trees they are from.
“Throughout the seasons, I document the sites to observe the understory and impact of a warming climate. I lead Walking Tours for the public to see the leaf sculptures interwoven within the forest floor. I have exercises along the trail: ‘Notice the different shapes of the leaves. Find leaves that match the leaf sculpture at each site. Look up at the trees. Are they tall? Are there spaces around the crown? What can you hear? What season is it? What colors are the leaves?’
“I point out the deciduous trees that reach up to the canopy for sunlight, the forest floor covered with leaf litter where insects, plants and fungi live. We talk about the distinctive feature of a forest ecosystem. In this way, people of all ages view nature in a new, engaging way.”
Still Time for Fiction
Though last week marked the issue originally scheduled as the annual Summer Fiction issue, U.S. 1 is continuing to publish poetry and short stories submitted by its readers — see this week’s selection below.
Writers, poets, and playwrights are invited to submit up to five poems, one or two short stories, and/or a short, original play. Please email your work along with a brief biography to firstname.lastname@example.org. As always, there is a preference given to works with a timely theme or that are based in or relevant to the greater Princeton community.
To read the works that have already been published this summer, visit www.princetoninfo.com/category/summer-fiction-poetry for poems and www.princetoninfo.com/category/summer-fiction-prose for short stories.
Quarantined with Nature
A phalanx of tiny ants
some going one way
some the other
in single file, fast
as if on a mission
known only to them
quick-step across my patio.
As I watch,
when two happen to meet
there’s a momentary
pause, a touch
before they hurry on.
A fleeting kiss,
an elbow bump?
Do ants have elbows?
— Carolyn Phillips
Phillips lives in Princeton and convenes a poetry group at the Lawrence Senior Center.