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Smithsonian Folklife Festival
Inspirations from the Forest

Documenting Nature

Learning about our natural environment can inspire us to connect with our surroundings in unanticipated ways and impress upon us the importance of preserving our natural resources.

Wildlife painter Heather Murphy of Washington uses artwork to help make sense of her natural surroundings. "There's chaos around you when you look at nature, but when you start dissecting and putting it down on a piece of paper, you start understanding it. For example, in our ponderosa pine forest, the lichen on the needles of the pine feeds both white-headed woodpeckers and flying squirrels—all of these parts work together, and we understand why things are the way they are."

Photographer Francisco Valenzuela of Colorado captures moments in time with his camera. For example, he has documented the progression of land restoration around Mount St. Helens in Washington from 24 vantage points. His objective is for people to learn that "Mount St. Helens isn't all about destruction and damage; what happened there is actually a very natural event, a creative event."

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Documenting Nature Activities