Woven Whimsy (more thoughts on nesting)

Woven Whimsy: Stickworks by Patrick Dougherty, Atlanta Botanical Garden - Gainesville

View of Woven Whimsy: Stickworks by Patrick Dougherty, currently on display at the Atlanta Botanical Garden – Gainesville


Late 15th century, past participle form of weave: from the Old English wefan, meaning “to weave, form by interlacing yarn.” Cognates of weave include the Sanskrit ubhnati, “he laces together” and the Greek hyphe or hyphos, “web.” In the late 14th century weave took on the extended sense of “combine into a whole.”


Circa 1600, probably related to whimwham, meaning “fanciful object” and whim, as recorded in the 1690s, meaning “caprice, fancy, sudden turn or inclination of the mind.”

I recently had the pleasure of visiting Patrick Dougherty’s “Woven Whimsy: Stickworks” at the Atlanta Botanical Garden – Gainesville. I was intrigued in part by the name of the exhibition; I am, after all, the bride who declared her wedding decor style “vintage whimsical.”

Artist Dougherty was in residence from late March until early April and created the unplanned sculpture onsite from locally harvested wood, branches, and twigs. He’s completed over 250 such sculptures and has said about working with sticks that it is “something that stirs the sense of simple shelter.” Walking inside them stirred in me the same dizzying mix of wonder, comfort, and occasional chaos that is marriage.

The sculpture creates a sense of both enclosure and openness, the whirling weave of the sticks suggesting at once movement and stillness. The outsize scale and organic simplicity places the experience somewhere between wandering beneath towering skyscrapers and exploring a cluster of fairytale cottages.

From afar, they look almost like baskets, and like all art, they hold more than the substance of their making. They feel, inside, like giant sheltering nests, if nests had doors and windows.


Old English nest. Noun, “bird’s nest, snug retreat.” Cognates include the Sanskrit nidah, “resting place, nest.”


Adjective, 1650s, “making or using a nest.” Also refers to objects “fitted into one another.”


Where there is art, there is life. Long live whimsy!


All definitions adapted from the Online Etymology Dictionary.

High on Buffalo Mountain

“The clearest way to the Universe is through a forest wilderness.” — John Muir

“The beauty of that June day was almost staggering.  After the wet spring, everything that could turn green has outdone itself in greenness and everything that could even think of blooming or blossoming was in bloom or blossom.  The sunlight was a benediction. The breezes were so caressingly soft and intimate on the skin as to be embarrassing.” — Dan Simmons

“Mountains, according to the angle of view, the season, the time of day, the beholder’s frame of mind, or any one thing, can effectively change their appearance. Thus, it is essential to recognize that we can never know more than one side, one small aspect of a mountain.” — Haruki Murakami

How I go to the woods — Mary Oliver

Ordinarily, I go to the woods alone, with not a single
friend, for they are all smilers and talkers and therefore

I don’t really want to be witnessed talking to the catbirds
or hugging the old black oak tree. I have my way of
praying, as you no doubt have yours.

Besides, when I am alone I can become invisible. I can sit
on the top of a dune as motionless as an uprise of weeds,
until the foxes run by unconcerned. I can hear the almost
unhearable sound of the roses singing.

If you have ever gone to the woods with me, I must love you very much.

shadow couple

All photos taken on Buffalo Mountain, Virginia. Poetry and quotations sourced from GoodReads.

Let’s Take a Hike



It’s a beautiful spring day, the kind with just enough crisp in the breeze to start out with a light jacket, just enough sun in the sky to later slip it off. The Appalachian mountains call me this time of year. On the forest floor lady-slippers and trillium bloom yellow and pink, while high above, tall trees re-sheathe their limbs in green. Fat robins rustle in the nearby brush. Sun-dappled shade filters through the canopy, lighting a flame azalea on a far hillside, making it look for all the world like the mystical, ethereal burning bush.

I grew up going camping with my family and Girl Scout troop, and more and more in recent years I’ve sought again the solace of the trees. Or maybe I’m seeking more smarts—science tells us that time spent in nature both reduces stress levels and improves cognitive function. Elizabeth Kwak-Heffernan, in a May 2012 article in Backpacker magazine, cites a University of Rochester study (2010) that showed even 15 minute nature walks gave rise to a greater sense of “vitality”; she also describes an environmental neuroscience project that shows how “exposure to nature causes significant, measurable changes to the brain” that “let you think more clearly, focus more acutely, and perform to your maximum cognitive ability.” Continue reading


Autumn, Confluence

Autumn: the season between spring and winter; a time of full maturity

Confluence: a flowing together of two or more rivers or streams; a coming together of people

Steve and I recently had the opportunity to wander Charlottesville’s Ivy Creek Natural Area, where Ivy Creek joins the Rivanna River, on a sunny autumn afternoon.  At the confluence, the currents of the two waterways pushed against one another, rippling the surface in constantly changing patterns, at times blending and swirling into one.  It is splendid days like these that remind me just why, perhaps, they call it “fall”ing in love.

“Never say there is nothing beautiful in the world anymore.  There is always something to make you wonder in the shape of a tree, the trembling of a leaf.”  –Albert Schweitzer