Welcome to Spartina Studios:
Nan's Greeting Cards, Watercolors and Beyond!
Original greeting cards, Earth parables, artwork and photographs
by Nan Bowles

Earth Parables


Dolphin Face

While bottlenose dolphins are not frequent to our particular marsh, we have seen them in the marsh community once. These dolphins consider marsh communities a little closer to the ocean a more frequent part of their home.
Bottlenose dolphins are found in temporal oceans around the world. They live in the inshore waters near Beaufort, North Carolina. There are dolphins here year round, but they are different dolphins in the winter months than in the summer months. Photo-identification projects of the North Carolina Maritime Museum and Duke University are currently gathering photos to better understand the local bottlenose dolphin populations. The NCMM and Duke Marine lab collaborate with the Virginia Aquarium and Marine Science Center, Nags Head Dolphin Watch, and University of North Carolina in Wilmington to learn such facts as where the Beaufort dolphins are when they aren’t in Beaufort waters.

Onion and Butterfly

While bottlenose dolphins are not frequent to our particular marsh, we have seen them in the marsh community once. These dolphins consider other marsh communities a little closer to the ocean a regular part of their home.
Onion and Butterfly are seen off the coast of Beaufort, North Carolina in the winter months. We have always seen them together. One day my boss, Keith Rittmaster, and I were out in a boat looking for dolphins to photograph. Keith said, “Look, there is a bulbous cut,” as he pointed to Onion’s dorsal fin. I piped up and said, “An Onion is a bulb.” That is how Onion got his name. Butterfly has a mark on his dorsal fin that reminds me of a butterfly. We know this pair of dolphins lives up near Manteo, North Carolina during the summer months.

Three Ears

At one time marsh rabbits would emerge from the marsh grass to feast on Tom’s lawn of crabgrass and clover. One individual we came to know is Three Ears, with his left ear split down the middle. Getting to know individuals of our community makes us feel alive and vibrant. However, our new dog Mullet chases rabbits so now they are seldom seen. Rabbits have a way of pausing into stillness before they dash away to safety. Sometimes I find it helpful to pause into stillness, contemplating my decision before I move into action.


Some mornings we are lucky enough to find the otters down by the dock. Their playfulness exudes from every cell in their bodies by the way they move through the water and how they interact with one another. They remind us of the importance of playing and being playful. They swim by as we sit on the dock watching them. They are so aware of what is going on around them. Can I be as aware of life around me as the otters are?


One of our community members who knows about change is coyote. Over the centuries, we humans have done our best to eradicate and destroy the coyote members of our communities. However, the spirit of coyote has learned how to meet change and how to accept and adjust. Coyote's sense of being flexible, of accepting what he/she has no control over, and learning new ways to shift and adapt has led not only to their survival but to their continuing flourishing lives. For me coyote continues to be a great teacher of change and one who connects me to the wild place within me that is always free and ready to jump into the blue of sky and swim around.
Can I look within myself and meet change as coyote does?
Can I accept what I have no control over? Can I adapt to change allowing myself to survive and thrive? Or do I resist change, creating inward stress within me and stress within those around me?


Clapper Rail

Clapper Rail is a secretive bird of the marsh grass. If a rail reveals him or herself it is at low tide along the mud banks as they forage for food; or at a rail crossing to reach the other side of the creek. These birds are seldom seen but often heard, almost like they are laughing at us! As I contemplate the secret life of the rails, I am reminded that there are times to speak up and make myself visible. However, there are also other times to simply go on living quietly letting my life speak following the Clapper Rail’s example.

Great Blue Heron Head

Is the Great Blue Heron head in the marsh visible or invisible?
All the community members are important. However, Tom and I often refer to the Great Blue Herons as the true kings and queens of the marsh ‘The Magnificent Ones’. They appear and disappear into the mist on foggy mornings adding a sense of mystery to the day. The herons are masters in the skills of patience and stillness. If I allow more stillness into my life perhaps I will have more patience.

Heron Legs

This is my interpretation of a Clapper Rail’s (a secretive marsh bird) view of a Great Blue Heron! A Great Blue Heron has two legs like a human only our knees bend the other way. A heron can endure long periods of not moving. Being aware of the water, sun, fish, mud bank, and wind. She might move forward a step or two or cock her slanted head. But a heron will always return to watchful stillness. Heron stillness.

Blue Heron Sun

One April evening we stood at the dock looking into the western sky. Along flew a heron only to disappear when he flew below the tree horizon. Suddenly the heron reappeared as a silhouette against the orange setting sun. The image immediately offered itself as a painting waiting to be created. I am glad I was there on the dock present to experience this encounter with a heron!

Heron And Moon

The heron and moon speaks of the beauty of both these community members. The illuminating soft light of the moon made visible, while voice of the Great Blue Heron speaks out over the marsh. A moment of great beauty.
When I take the energy of the sharp heron bill, piercing heron eyes and feel the sharp contrast of full moon white against black cold winter night into my inner world, what is illusion falls away and what is truth moves into clarity. There are moments in life when suddenly all of recent past experiences have meaning and the path of the future lies before us. Moments when I feel a connection to all the lives before me and all the lives yet to come. A moment out of time, where all time is the same. When all of life is in the present moment. The truth becomes crystal clear. A moment of clarity.

Egret and Rainbow

The Great White Egrets share the marsh community with their kin the Great Blue Herons, Green Herons, Little Blue Herons, and Louisiana Herons. In the warm weather months the egrets frequent the marsh more often than in the winter months, when the Great Blue Herons seem to dominate the community, at least as far as herons and their kin are concerned. This picture was given to me by the marsh community as I experienced it one day. For me it expresses the sadness that comes as part of life and living in the greyness of the clouds. It also expresses hope, warmth and expectant happiness in the uplifting of the egret’s wings and the appearance of half a rainbow. The egret and the rainbow.


In winter months swans frequent farm fields bordering the marsh. We sometimes hear their comforting voices coming down to us from the sky above. We drop everything we are doing and run outside to experience the swans of winter. The sunlight shimmers off their white feathers as these carriers of light disappear into the distant horizon. They remind me of the sparkling light I carry within me and you carry within you.

Crows Greet The Day!

In our community we need only listen for a moment to hear a crow voice coming to us from near or far. The crows always seem to have something to express! They have taught me the importance of expressing myself and not be afraid to speak up. I have also learned how to express myself throughout all aspects of my life, from the clothes I wear to the food I choose to eat and how I cook it, to how I relate to my friends, family and myself.
In the crow sense expressing onself also means speaking the communal voice of the flock. They often are expressing their voices in a group setting as I see them gathered together in a tree or flying overhead in a flock. I thank the crows for helping me overcome inhibitions or fears of self-expression, and for showing me the importance of group expression.

Patches the Red Winged Blackbirds

Patches is a visitor to our bird feeder and sometimes he brings Lady Patches along. Every evening, about the middle of February, the Red-Winged Blackbirds gather on the edge of the marsh. Their liquid voices filling the air. They prune, primp and fluff feathers and perform other bedtime rituals. When everything is just right the whole flock lifts of, up into the sky. Swirling out over the marsh they disappear into the marsh grass one by one like so many falling leaves. We are grateful for their faithfulness to their vocal ministry.

Chuck Wills

Chuck-Will’s-Widows are community members that come and go with the seasons. They arrive every April along with the dwarf irises. These birds are rarely seen but often heard. Their songs begin each evening at twilight and again at dawn. On full moon nights or almost full moon, the Chuck-Will’s –Widows can also be heard on and off throughout the night. Anytime I hear their voice, no matter where I am, it always brings me home to the marsh. By late August or early September the Chuck-Will’s Widows have gone, alerting us to the change in seasons from summer to autumn.

The Owls

Owls live in the trees on the edge of the marsh. We know of at least three owls that live in our marsh community; the Screech Owl, the Barred Owl, and the Great Horned Owl. Allow your imagination to picture the following: The owls’ song on a cold February night. Stars of sparkling light. Air snaps with cold. Twinkling images. Starlight reflects on the surface of Wards Creek. Owls calling, here and there across the marsh. A brave frog voice or two is heard. A fish jumps. A cold black February night. The owls’ song echoes out into the night sky. Peace be with you owl of the night.

Swallows Free

One day I was sitting on our dock listening to the song “Pianoforte” (by Jake Shimabukuro), a song that expresses the compassion of the universe. I was letting my hands dance to the music. Two swallows sat on a nearby rope watching me. They were facing away from me but had their heads turned toward me. One swallow was so interested in my hand movements, she leapt straight up into the air, turned round so now the bird was facing me. I felt like the eyes of the Universe were watching me, letting me know I was home in Spirit's Love as experienced through swallows round black eyes. (This story is for both Barn Swallow Flying Free and Close up of Barn Swallow)

Crescent Moon Heron

I awoke one morning in February. In looking out the east window of our bedroom, I saw a beautiful waning crescent under a brilliant Venus, under a beautiful shining Jupiter. The next moment, Great Blue Heron gracefully floated by under all three completing the composition that now became this painting. Twilight. The mystery and quiet rest of night merging with the unfolding and opening of a new day with powerful, potent possibilities. Dawn.


The Cherokee People refer to the Chickadee as the Cherokee news bird. Like crows, chickadees are rarely at loss for something to say! Their lively energy and good cheer touches our lives and brings us smiles. Thank you Chickadees. Can I be alert, aware and present in the moment as our friends the Chickadees are?

Wood Ducks

In the low places in the forest near us, there is standing water. One winter day I was sitting by the water, by the “Moss” tree in the forest on the edge of the marsh, on the edge of the creek, on the edge of the river, on the edge of the ocean that flows around the world. All was quiet and still. Deep silence to fill my soul. Filling the very center of my being with peace and calm as I watched leaf boats float by. All of a sudden loud rushing sounds filled the air and two wood ducks landed in the water in the forest near me. Two of the most beautiful ducks in the world. Thank you Wood Ducks for sharing a moment of life with me.

Brown Pelicans Flying

There have been moments when I am sitting down on our dock by the creek that flows in two directions. As I sit still and listen to the birds, to the fish jumping I hear a squeak, squeak, squeak and I look up! A Brown Pelican is flying by, for some reason whenever they fly by their wing feathers make a squeaky sound as the air passes through the feather. We call them “Squeaky” as a nick name! Thank you Brown Pelican for sharing a moment in the marsh with me!

Trust and Acceptance

In the marsh community, on the edge of the ocean that flows around the world, we have experienced moments of trust and acceptance with the Great Blue Herons. It is true, that if I am out canoeing through the marsh and I encounter a heron, he or she will most likely lift up and fly away. However, when we are in our home or on the screen porch, we have experienced moments when the herons fly so close to our home we can see their eyes and individual feathers on their wings. On some level the herons trust we will do them no harm and accept us as members of their community and we accept them as members of our community. Thank you Great Blue Herons for sharing moments of trust and acceptance with us!

Flowers, Ferns & Trees

Dwarf Iris

The ephemeral presence of the dwarf irises brightens the pine forest floor in April. Deep, dark purples with yellow/orange centers. Curving clusters of petals against criss-cross patterns of pine straw. Slender green tips shoot up to heights of four to five inches. We refer to them as, ’the beautiful surprise.’

Marsh Pink

There are small floral members living along the marsh border. One pink flower that lives on the edge is the marsh pink. Yellow centers with red zigzag lines splash on pointed pink petals. Waving small flowers on thin green stems, the marsh pinks brighten the summer marsh edge. They remind me that the small things in life can bring beauty and contentment.

Marsh Sunflowers

The sea ox-eye, or marsh sunflowers as I call them, bloom in summer. These beautiful small members of the community scatter rays of yellow amongst the grays and browns of the black needlerush. They live in the thick of things along the banks of the creek that flows in two directions. Marsh Sunnies.


Goldenrod comes to us in a burst of Autumn splendor. She teaches about warmth of spirit. One stem of yellow has beauty, but a whole community gathering of goldenrod has great warmth and power. This yellow flower is pollinated by insects. All who doubt this need only to sit by a gathering of goldenrod to hear the hum and buzz of many insects. Goldenrod grows along the edge of the marsh, but I have seen this flower living in the marsh grass. Hurray for the glory of goldenrod!

Seaside Mallows

Seashore mallows bloom along the dike road in late summer. Rose pink petals with columns of yellow pollen rising from flower centers. Red veined leaves. Exquisite, delicate pink flowers of the seashore mallow. The root of a northern relative of the seashore mallow was once boiled and mixed with sugar to form a sweet treat that came to be known as marshmallow.

Sea Lavender

Sea lavender blooming in late September and early October heralds the coming of Autumn. Growing amongst the sea lavender in low areas is the glasswort. This salty succulent growing in sections turns a brilliant October red in the fall. I am grateful for the light purple energy of the sea lavender and the bold glasswort growing next to it.

Morning Glory

The morning glories display their open pink trumpets for all to see, but only on the edge of the marsh. One doesn’t find them in the thick of things or in the woods. Their tendrils creep and twine only on the edge and we live in a marsh on the edge of the sea. A place of shifting sands, shifting water and shifting air. It is a place that is dynamic and very much alive!

October Asters

October asters live out in the thick of things along the edge of the creek banks. Their white petals brighten the greys and browns of the black needlerush in autumn. Hello, hello, hello they seem to say as we canoe by on a crisp October day.The asters remind me that in every experience that feels full of greys or rainy days there are blooming white asters brightening my way if I will stop to look for them.

Hand and Purple Violets

Every spring the violets come together as a whole community gathering of purpleness. They do things like put down roots, flex and stretch enjoying the feeling of touching Mother Earth as a group. They might discuss the merits of growing heart shaped leaves while transforming sunlight into food through their handy green tool of chlorophyll. The wind swirls and sighs through the tall pines on the outside. Here in the deep, deep woods the wind is not felt except for a slight movement of stems now and then. The violets just quietly keep on and laugh to themselves. By being present and participating in the unfolding spring we humans can have positive interactions with the rest of the natural world.

Pink Ladies Slipper

Allow me to share a story of a flower. One day out of silence the flower, she speaks.
“Greetings, I am the pink lady's slipper. Pink, round, soft and very showy; yet delicate and vulnerable. Look closely at my flower. Dark pink veins on light pink slipper. Intricately and precisely woven just so. Follow my flower down the slender stem of green to the large strong oval leaves that shoot up from the ground. The green stem takes us down into our roots hidden within Mother Earth. Relishing the cool and easy brown ground.
My flower, showy and visible, sings ‘Hello, hello’ to all who pass by be they four legged or two legged. Stop what you and doing and pause for a moment. Take a look to see the visible parts of your own life, the part the world sees. Ask yourself, “Does the outward, showy, visible life speak the same truth as my inward invisible life? Am I expressing outwardly my inner joyful connection to our Earth Home? Am I singing out my soulful joy? Do my inner and outer lives weave in harmony?”
The pink lady's slipper, showy and visible. The soul of a flower.


Sundews gather in together in expectant silence rejoicing in their red glow. One round pancake leaf touches another, touching another, touching another. Remember the importance of touching the lives of others both physically and with our gifts and stories. Ministries of the sundews. Thank you wise little friends with expanding spirits.

Baby Loblolly Pine

Loblolly is one of the most common tree residents in the forest along the edge of the marsh community. It is a fast growing tree. The individual represented here is a beautiful little tree that has captured my heart and appeared in several paintings. It is alive and thriving amidst all the activities of spring. There are many loblolly pines in our pine forest on the edge of the marsh. They show us how their lives are literally intertwined by their roots growing over and under as they support one another.

Baby Longleaf Pine

Young longleaf pines resemble a huge clump of grass with no central trunk. The needles are made of strong material that shimmers in sunlight. Stuff with strength and tenacity, a substance that holds up well when woven into baskets. They are busy the first 5-7 years of their lives putting down a long tap root. Like the long leaf pine, can I put down a tap root deep into Earth and Spirit?

The Star Tree

One common hardwood tree member is the Liquidambar tree or sweetgum. Its liquid sap is a fragrant resin. Come spring, at just the right moment, a great, green tower of flowers grows forth up into the sky from each twig and branch. Leaves emerge into stars of green. Later, a burst of maroon, orange and yellow swirled stars light up the sweetgum in one last autumn fling before winter slumber. Observe the shape of the sweetgum leaf. The power of a star radiates from its center. I am grateful for the presence of sweetgum trees in our community.

Sweet Bay Magnolia

We should always allow the sweet bay swamp magnolias to flourish in our communities. This small, slender magnolia holds a flower within a whorl of green leaves. Petals soft and firm of cream white offer a cup of sweet fragrance clean and clear. Subtle and deep. Strong and gentle all at the same time. To be honored by this sweet exudation brings tears to my eyes.


Ferns unfurling, uncurling powerful, potent possibilities. It happens every spring Ferns have been gathering their energy for this moment. Will I allow myself to follow the example of such a tender miracle of the emerging ferns? Will I allow myself to open, grow and expand inwardly as well as outwardly the self the world sees? After a period of darkness and rest can I gather my energy into me and step forward into the unknown? Will I allow the powerful, potent possibilities within me to unfurl and uncurl in fernlike fashion or even at all? Always remember your possibilities. I thank you ferns for the curly message of courage and Love. (This story is the same for both fern pictures, Possibilities and Uncurling Ferns of Spring)

Magnolia and Frog

Marvelous, Magnificent Magnolia. Small slender swamp magnolia tree holds a flower within a whorl of leaves. Petals soft and firm, creamy and white offer a cup of sweet fragrance. Clean and clear. Subtle and deep. Strong and gentle all at the same time. To be honored by this sweet exudations brings tears of beauty to my heart. We should always allow Sweet Bay Magnolias to flourish in our communities! Oh now look again, there is a tree frog peeking out!  

Frogs, Lizards, Snakes

Frogs, Lizards, Turtles & Snakes


Change is one thing in life you can count on happening. The frogs have taught me about change. They can change places very quickly from here to there and back again. These little green tree frogs have very large voices for such a small community member. There is another aspect of the frog point of view to be acquainted with. A frog lives a life of transformation, from a tadpole with a tail to a frog with jumping legs. I too must go through transformations, times when parts of myself die so that I can see the world through fresh eyes. In this way a frog no longer sees the world through the eyes of a tadpole but now can see the world through the eyes of one who jumps from here to there leaping into life.

Green Anole

Green Anole Lizard. The Wise One. Green anole lizards seem to seek out interactions with us. They don’t always run away. They seem to be welcoming us to the community. These emerald green reptiles have taught us that sometimes it is good to be curious and stand out from one’s environment. Sometimes it is important to blend in, and other times it is best to run away. It is up to us to listen deeply within to know what is best in any given moment.

Emerald Green Snake!

Emerald green snakes we occasionally see twined about the marsh grass or the branch of a tree. Snake speaks to us of shedding old habits, ideas and beliefs that no longer nurture us or are no longer helpful. This one was very aware of us as we walked by one October day, showing us also the flexibility of the snake. Can I be flexible not only in body but in my viewpoints and attitudes as well?

Spotted Turtle

The spotted turtle, Dreamtime, I met in a shallow pool of swamp water. We were present with one another for a time, the turtle and I. A passage of time that seemed to stop but could have been three minutes, three months or three years. A moment of turtle communion that took me into the heartbeat of the Universe within me. Turtles remind us of the importance of knowing when to be still and listen and when it’s best to move and take action. Being and doing. Turtle’s message.

Box Turtle

Box Turtle carries her home on her back. She is at home wherever she is. Can I carry within me a sense of being at home, feeling at home wherever I am and whomever I am with? Can I, like turtle, know when to be still and listen and when to move and take action? Turtle’s message.

Dragonflies, Butterflies & Fireflies


Dragonflies teach us about transformation and the possibilities of changing ourselves. These insects go from water nymphs shedding their skins to flying breathing insects of the air. We can shed our unhealthy, no longer needed skins of self pity, prejudices, and preconceived ideas. If we are unhappy with the way we see the world it is possible to change our attitudes! We can sing gratitude and love to the Universe if we choose to! Life can be approached with an open heart willing to give as well as receive. I give thanks to the dragonflies and the Universe that creates them for the lessons in transformation.


Look at all the amazing colors of dragonflies! Shapes and colors of dragonflies abound in great variety. Sunlight shimmers off their lacy wings creating sensations of blue, green, red or orange light. Dragonflies are our allies. Tom and I have both experienced dragonflies pick biting flies off us and watched them eat these biting bugs!


About two-thirds of the dragonfly’s body weight is made up of flight muscles as they dazzle us with their ability to stop, start and change directions instantly. During warm weather months, the light reflected off dragonflies’ wings builds bridges into other places and other times. Tom and I have both experienced dragonflies pick biting flies and mosquitoes off us and watched them eat these biting bugs. Dragonflies have been around for 230 million years. They are of the ancients.


Dragonflies in Motion. Dragonflies are creatures of transformation. They begin life living as a water nymph for several years. Then one day they crawl out onto a grass stem and emerge to be one who flies through air. One who is able to see the whole picture from above. We all go through transformations, both inner and outer. Dragonflies can remind us that change is a part of life.

Dragonflies Vortex5

Dragonfly Spiral. Flashes of light are seen as dragonfly wings blur by. Dragonflies in motion with their ability to quickly change direction at a moment’s notice are a reminder to us humans. A reminder that movement of body and mind keeps us flexible all the way through so that we may live with an open hear, knowing there is another turn in the spiral of life we are moving into. The beauty of the dragonflies.


Enjoy these butterflies of the marsh community. I remember how my grandfather always called them ‘flutterbies’. Two short butterfly stories follow. Did you know butterflies sometimes ride air thermals like a hawk or eagle does? I watched a monarch once, spiral up, up, and up on an air thermal, much to my surprise. The other story is that Tom and I once witnessed a swallowtail chase a hummingbird away from a tub full of zinnias! The butterfly is a fragile looking creature yet some have the strength to migrate many miles. When I feel fragile and vulnerable, especially if I don’t feel well, I choose to remember the strength of the butterfly.


In our community, the Wards Creek Marsh Community, I associate the fireflies mostly with the open expanse of marsh 'grass'. One summer I found myself faced with a difficult challenge. The moment I felt most discouraged, I was led to go out into the dark night of summer for a walk. Stars twinkled bright and clear. As I strode up and down the boardwalk, I noticed numerous stars flashing all around me at eye level. Terrestrial stars, the fireflies. I felt as if the stars above had come down to my level. As if the marsh were telling me, “We give you this gift of sparkling, flashing light to remind you we are here. The Spirit of the Earth is here, alive and thriving. There is much beauty around you. You are not alone.” And the marsh community was right. Sadness was turned into smiles. My life was touched by the beauty of the fireflies on a dark summer night. I give thanks.

Sun, Moon, Stars, Rainbows & Ice Crystals

October Sunrise

Twice a year the sun rises directly behind our little home on the marsh. This happens in October and February around the same day of each month, the 18th day. October is full of glorious golden sunrises through the mist. All warm and golden, rich and buttery. When we walk to the house from the dock on these mornings we are truly walking in the land of golden light. October Sunrise

Moon and Venus

Waking early in the wee hours of the morning we have often seen sights we certainly don’t see during the day. On one 2 o’clock awakening, I saw a curious light in the eastern sky. A beautiful crescent moon just peeking over the tree horizon. Above the rising moon was something so bright and brilliant, I wondered what that could be. What I saw through the spotting scope literally took my breath away. Above our moon was an even tinier crescent moon! I was so surprised. It was Venus, in one of its phases just like our moon. It seems the visibility of the phases of this third planet depends on its position in relation to the sun and our planet Earth community. I have not seen a crescent Venus since that early dawn observation seven years ago.

Rainbows Over Marsh

The Wards Creek marsh is one of the very best places to experience rainbows. On this day, Tom and I were witnessing a glorious sunset in the west. Tom happened to turn to face east and let out a joyful noise alerting me to the incredible rainbow over our little home. I have since learned that I have the colors reversed on the rainbows but I hope the beauty of that moment shines through despite any human error I may have made.

Golden Thread Time!

One aspect of the sun that cultivates a sense of place for us is the Golden Thread Time. Every sunny evening when the sun is at a particular place on the horizon all the marsh ‘grass’ stems at 45 degree angles are lit up like golden threads. I call it the Golden Thread Time. Threads of gold that shimmer and sparkle as they stir ever so slightly in the evening breeze. The warmth of that golden light fills every cell in my body. A warmth that is carried with me into the night and the next day and is shared with the life forms I encounter. It often feels to me the way melted butter tastes on a warmed piece of delicious toast, as if I were the melted butter. It is an important event to experience as often as possible. I dream of the day I will learn to weave baskets made of this golden thread.


One winter morning we awoke to a glorious light-full morning. Our eyes opened to a glistening three day old snow cover. (Imagine snow in eastern North Carolina. It’s only once in ten years we get eight inches or more!) We saw a marsh with the deepest, thickest frost that I have ever seen in this community. A close look revealed each marsh grass stem covered heavily with thin, wide ice crystals. So beautiful. As if each stem had suddenly sprouted leaves of ice overnight.
This was the best light show yet. The marsh elves and fairies worked really hard on this one. They carefully tipped their bottle of glitter all over the marsh community. Morning sun rose into a buttery yellow sky. Ice crystals of diverse shapes received the sun’s light. Crystal mirrors gave it back to us in a thousand twinkling bits. Lights reflected all over the marsh as far as our eyes could see and farther.

Honey Jar

Spirit’s messages can come in ordinary moments of everyday life. One February morning I was baking bread. In making the dough, honey was added to feed the yeast. Sweet golden liquid flowed from a glass jar into the mixing bowl. I felt the morning light shining through the kitchen window and turned toward it holding up the jar of honey. Sunlight shone directly through the honey in the glass jar.
I was stunned by what was seen and felt within me. It was an experience of being transported to a place of comfort, safety and love. In a moment of clarity I realized that place full of warmth and golden radiance was right here in my kitchen, in my home, was Spirit of the Universe right inside of me. I thank the bees for their honey and the Universe that created them for helping me to have this moment of inner knowing.

Creative Crystals of Ice

Cold, clear, creatively beautiful crystal. May we all work together to keep our living waters clear and clean! Let us support healthy hydrogen and oxygen connections in harmony. Falling raindrops. Sparkling dew drops. Rushing Rivers. Low lying lakes. Perfectly round about ponds. Vast open oceans. And the water within us, may we take care of that too! Pulsating blood circulating through our beating hearts full of oxygen carried to places in need of oxygen and healing. H2O! May we all work together to keep our living waters clean and allow light and love to flow through us circulating to living life in need of nurturing!

The Stars

The Universe is both within me and without me. Looking at the stars in a dark winter night sky can take me to the center of the Universe within me. To see the stars within me and in the sky above, gives me the courage to keep on walking even in the midst of challenges. I have had to stay in a hospital without seeing the stars at night. Oh how marvelous it was to see them once again when I got home! Their regular patterns and rhythms bring comfort to one's soul. I give thanks for the stars and their beautiful twinkling light.

Full Moon Setting

I love getting up early in the morning to watch the full moon setting just as the sun is rising. In our world of cities and towns, street lights and other urban lights, a lot of people don’t see the moon setting or rising. Many people never see the stars shining and twinkling especially on cold winter nights. Walking in the moon light is always a healing experience everyone should have!

healing hands painting

Our hands can create or destroy. Minds and hearts connected to our hands help us choose to nurture and sustain all life. The paintings tell the story of healing hands in action interconnected with plants and animals. Each picture expresses a tale of relationships, because to be in this world is to be in continuous relationship with everything, everyone, all life and the universe around us. Healing hands images portray hands whose actions touch my life in healing ways, connecting and intertwining bits and pieces of my story into one whole moment in time in the form of a painting that grew into a series of paintings.

Each picture has an Earth parable connected to it, a story that reaches out to the human heart in some way. These stories come out of my inner journey of wholeness and healing. It is a healing process that is physical, emotional, and spiritual. The tales and images rise from time in contemplation and inward listening. A look into my inner turmoil, confusion and suffering, but also my joys, passions and dreams. They reflect moments when I could see visions with the eye of my heart and looked beneath the surface.

Some of the paintings have been inspired by the ukulele music of Jake Shimabukuro. The music has been a major part of my healing journey through Crohn’s disease. Just as my husband Tom and I have found the songs inspiring and healing, they might also offer solace, healing, and joy to you and others. Check out this link to Jake’s homepage, http://jakeshimabukuro.com/home/ and explore his music for yourself.

Thank you for coming to experience the Healing Hands paintings.

What other have said about the
Healing Hands Paintings

“..the [pictures] give honor to our hands, those parts of our physicality that serve, create, take care of the ordinary but essential tasks of daily living, and connect us to the world and people around us through our sense of touch. Too often we take them for granted.”

“The hands in Nan’s art remind me of the connection with those whose touch has comforted me, lovingly cared for me or through whose hands’ creations I have experienced more fullness of life. And I am grateful. “

“I am drawn into a more thoughtful and peaceful place. It makes me slow down and get back in touch with the small wonders of nature-the connectedness-to the ‘whole’-the harmony and ‘rightness’ of life .“

Woodworker And The Adz

     The song Bring Your Adz was our introduction to Jake Shimabukuro. In the music world, the phrase, 'bring your axe' means bring your guitar.  Jake has adapted this saying to his ukulele to be 'bring your adz.' An adz is a carving tool ancient Hawaiians used to create dugout canoes. As you enter the painting, Tom is carving a canoe paddle from a piece of sassafras wood, as I float along in the canoe holding a finished paddle. You are experiencing a moment in time honoring Jake and his music, Tom's gift as a woodworker, and the beautiful sassafras tree surrounded by its golden orange leaves in autumn color. Great Blue Herons and river otters are community members we often meet on canoe trips along our tidal creek. All these connecting energy lines come alive in this moment.

Blue Roses

     This painting was inspired by Jake Shimabukuro´s song, Blue Roses Falling. Jake is a solo ukulele player traveling the world sharing beauty through his music. He was led to create the song through a story shared by a grandmother in the hospital. The grandmother had a vision of blue roses falling onto her pillow. Touched by this story I have painted the hands of my own grandmother that appear through the blue rose petals. The painting honors Jake Shimabukuro and his music, but also honors the love grandmothers bring into the world especially into the lives of children. The painting also recognizes those who face difficult challenges in life acknowledging they still have dignity and sparkling light within, and a family of otters I once saw among the wild roses along our creek. A moment when all come together as connecting living threads of life.

Dance of Compassion

      Compassion of the Universe is my experience of the energy expressed through the song Pianoforte by Jake Shimabukuro. Deep green compassion expressed through tall dark evergreens of the Pacific Northwest...compassion of being present to the joy of two lovers playing a piano duet...a hand gesture of compassion holding a safe space to be in...honoring the elephant´s sacrifice to the life and times of the piano through one´s compassionate eye... honoring the lives of the ebony trees given to support the life of the piano and the powerful tenderness of a living action of love about to happen as expressed by one hand while supported by another. The song gives me the courage to breathe love into myself in moments of need and to express compassion in the midst of my suffering. All these are living life lines of compassion that I experience through the song by Jake Shimabukuro called Pianoforte.
      This song honors all that the piano has taught Jake about his beloved ukulele.  He is a solo ukulele player who travels the world bringing beauty and compassion into many lives through his music.

The “I Can“ Energy Of The Universe

     On my healing journey through Chron´s disease, the song Five Dollars Unleaded by Jake Shimabukuro, came into my life. Jake is a solo ukulele player traveling the world brining love and compassion to people through his music. This song breathes my energy into awareness as the Universe whispers into the ear of my heart, "I Can." With the love of the Universe, I can face my fear and frustration for this day or this week. I can accept my discomfort in this moment. I can find beauty, peace and compassion in the Now of here.
     Jake wrote this song for his father in honor of time spent together riding in an old green truck. The featured hands speak of the vital connection of parent to child, of generations old, young and in between interacting through everyday actions. The lei circle honors the koa tree intertwined with ilima flowers. Jake and my fathers´ ukuleles are made with beautiful koa wood. Ilima flowers are the official flower of the Island of Oahu, where both my father and Jake were raised. Ilima is my also my middle name.
     As you move around the painting, my father shares his ukulele playing, tree ferns grow in the same forest community as the koa trees, the elepio bird is found in the same forest  community but also shares a Hawaiian legend with the koa tree and the ancient dugout canoe builders. Bird, fern, flowers, tree, ukuleles, young and old connecting in this moment. As the "I Can" Energy of the Universe comes alive within me, I can imagine tossing flowers from a basket letting the Universe take love where it needs to go by sharing this story.

Mother Love of the Universe

     Purples, soft yellows and greens of twilight blooming flowers combine to bring me the experience of the Mother Love of the Universe. I have come to experience the Mother Love of the Universe as a type of love that is gentle yet powerful and compassionate...The song, Heartbeat/Dragon by Jake Shimabukuro, takes me, into the Mother Love of the Universe, into the heartbeat of the universe within me. This song has brought me through a powerful healing time as I experienced a reawakening of my connection to this interactive, compassionate and gentle Love in the Universe.
     As you follow the lei of night blooming flowers along you find the spotted turtle, Dreamtime, that I met in a shallow pool of swamp water. We were present with one another for a time, the turtle and I. A passage of time that seemed to stop but could have been three minutes, three months or three years. Something about this turtle and its pattern of yellow spots takes me to the same place as Jake´s song, the heartbeat of the Universe.
     Jake is a solo ukulele player who brings love and beauty into the world. I am grateful to Jake for listening to the place where songs come from within him.

Cricket´s Song

     Crickets are often found living in grasslands of fields, roadsides, meadows, or prairies. Their song rings out through the tall grasses flexing in the wind. In this day and age of traffic noises, telephones ringing, heavy equipment sounds, electric hummers (i.e. refrigerators, computers) we fill our lives with noise that drowns out the sounds of the grasslands. Let us find stillness in our lives to feel and connect us to the reverberating song of the cricket and the humming universe of interconnecting grassland inhabitants.
     Cricket songs take me inwardly to the grassy fields of the Iowa countryside where I grew up. They speak to me of prairie flowers and dark fragrant soil. Crickets have the ability to amplify their sound due to a round flat area on their wings that acts like a drum and vibrates the sound. These small insects rub a file on one wing across the scraper on the other wing to create their ‘fiddle´ song for the female of their kind.
     These are the hands of my surgeon, Dr. John Migaly. He had cricket songs as the ringtone on his cell phone, which greatly impressed Tom and I. To me it was a reflection of his kind and compassionate heart.

Fern Time

     This spring I spent time with the ferns as they emerged from the womb of the Earth.   Up from cool and warm brown dirt, poked green fiddle heads of ferns in the their journey to the sky.
     In spending time with the ferns in the swamp on the forest on the edge of the marsh, I felt doorways into higher energy that exists all around me, you and us.  The longer I sat in silence listening with the ferns, the more likely I was to find teachings coming to me.  For the ferns and I were together in the presence of great tenderness and powerful gentleness.  In the midst of the ferns I sensed a loving presence holding open a safe space to be in.  A gentle living presence of compassion.
     The ferns were unfurling, uncurling, unfolding new beginnings. I am reminded that I can too. The ferns appeared vulnerable yet bold just as I am in moments when I am least aware of it. As you experience the painting, you will find members of the forest community who grow and bloom along with the ferns, as well as a few creatures who can call the ferns neighbors. You will find a spotted turtle, pine frogs, an amanita mushroom, lichens, wild irises, sundews and white violets.
     I take a moment now to honor a human being who also learned about life through fern time. In a forested glen near the farm of his childhood, Dr. George Washington Carver spent time watching fiddlehead ferns push bravely upwards through the leaves of the forest floor. A kindred spirit for sure!

Hands of Golden Light

     I experience the Mother Love of the Universe as golden light. In a physical way, I immerse myself in this golden light at dawn and at dusk. The golden light of the rising and setting sun fill me, touching every cell and every pore in my body awake with awareness; illuminating the inner living connection. I have come to know the Mother Love of the Universe as a type of love that is gentle yet powerful and compassionate. And yet the golden light does not exist without the shadows of purple in between galaxies, moons and stars. Both/and exist together as The Mother Love. Cinnamon rolls of golden light. Swirls within, swirls without. Swirls abound with golden light. In braiding the Golden Light into my hair as morning prayer, I am affirming the Presence of the Mother Love within the threads and living lines of my inner and outer life. It takes practice.

The Luthier

     The hands creating a mandolin are the hands of Jeff Heyland, a luthier, the maker of beautiful stringed instruments. To me his hands express the craft, the art, and the science of a woodworker. The beautiful shape of the mandolin drew me in inviting me to touch its roundness, imagining its musical sound. As you move around the painting you will see a dove tail joint, strong, simple, and clean. Yet, it is a complex joint taking time to perfect.
     Musical instruments are often associated with storytelling taking place around the hearth of a home, a cooking or camp fire. Thus, the wood stove comes into the picture as a modern day hearth. TV, radio, and internet are no substitute for the living breathing atmosphere of music telling stories round a fire.
     Mandolins emerged (in the mid 1400´s) when there was a practice of men and women wearing small bouquets of herbs and flowers, each plant with a special meaning. In one corner is a message for our friend the luthier. Bay laurel for success and personal accomplishment, thyme for strength, and angelica for inspiration.
     The lei you see encircling the strong hands honors the woods the mandolin is made of; maple leaves and the sitka spruce needles with cones. Light colored creamy maple wood is easy to bend into sides and the sitka spruce has special qualities that enable its wood to beautifully transmit sound vibrations.

Dylan´s Song

     Welcome to a painting inspired by the song, Missing Three, by Jake Shimabukuro. Jake is a solo ukulele player traveling the world touching lives with love and compassion through his music. In Jake's story of Missing Three, he went to play his ukulele one day. Finding the number three string was missing, he reached for a new one. However, Jake thought it might be cool to play a song with only three strings, and so the song of Missing Three came into the world. It is a beautiful song, like a lullaby. To me it feels like the Mother Love of the Universe holding us all in her arms, the Parent of the Cosmos. Simply surrounding us all with Love. What is essentially you and me, all of us is safe and surrounded by compassion.
     The three hands you see are examples of a lullaby living in our friends and neighbors, John, Laurie and their son Dylan surrounded by a lei of swamp magnolia leaves. These small trees with beautiful leaves of greens and purples, and firm fragrant flowers are embodied within beauty of Jake's song MissingThree. The flowers are delicate yet powerful. The notes of the song are tender yet powerful. In my life, they are connected to my living lifelines into the wholeness of beauty.
     As you move around in the painting, you see a Buddhist monk. This represents the opportunity the Dalai Lama had to experience Jake's song. The little boat in one corner shows Dylan sleeping the trusting sleep of a baby, as we trust the Mother Love of the Universe will take care of us. The swimming fish are Dylan's first word of “ish’ and are members of the community where he lives. And then there is the cookie. Within the cookie missing a piece, lies the gift of Missing Three connecting to a song Pete Seeger sings, I´m A Little Cookie, written by Larry Penn.
     Whether we are missing the number three string on our ukulele, missing a home or a job, if we are missing a loved one, missing an arm or leg, or even if we are missing a colon; we can use the skills we have, or learn a new skill, and create something beautiful. We are taking action, creating within our limits, (perceived or real), creating something beautiful while at the same time going beyond into the heartbeat of the Universe within ourselves. We use the boundless, limitless Light within us. We can create acts of kindness for ourselves, friends, family and strangers or simply create a moment of happiness.
     The potential we all have to create beauty, even if we are moving within our limitations, goes way beyond into the heartbeat of the Universe within ourselves and outside ourselves. This is the gift of Missing Three.



A field of orange pumpkins always makes someone smile! Symbols of Autumn these members of the squash family make fine lanterns when carved out but unfortunately don’t last long. Pumpkin is a mild flavored squash that makes wonderful soup. Try baking a whole pumpkin stuffed with vegetables and a creamy sauce! Yummm.

Falling Leaf Story

A leaf falling in the forest. Spiraling, floating, twisting, turning. Turning till it comes round right to rest gently in the arms of Mother Earth. Cool and warm brown ground, where touch is a way of life, as taught to us by mole, worm, and root.

Red, Orange, or Yellow. The falling leaf story is the same no matter the color of the leaf. Simply choose the color leaf you would like to order.

Autumn Leaves

In Autumn leaves fall and are caught by the river to float on a new journey. I have often sat by the creek side and experienced the leaves as they floated by, displaying their shapes and colors in a new environment.

Cranberries At Harvest Time

I will always remember the feeling of being surrounded by millions and billions of round red berries as I worked the harvest season on a cranberry farm in south Jersey. This is the feeling of standing in the center of a floating mass of red. Red cranberries on a misty, foggy, cold October morning with the sun rising over the pines is a living life line to the joys of living the deep, dark red cranberry color. Learning to live a color, a sound, or a feeling to its fullest is what living is about!

Cranberries Falling

Round red cranberries are a deep, deep red. Their color is their natural frost protection called anthocyan. These small tart berries are native fruits to North America and grow in wet boggy soil. In the wild they grow near the sides of streams where the land is flooded at certain times of the year but not all the time. They need cold temperatures of the northlands to make their deep dark color of red. These vines gracefully intertwine low over the sandy soil of their homelands. Cranberries are often neighbors to blueberries.

Acorns: Holding The Possibility Of A Forest

Round, brown treasures that fit into small hands. Like many children, I have always been drawn to the beauty of the small acorn. Acorns come in many sizes from small live oaks, red oaks, white oaks, turkey oaks, and giant burr oaks! The burr oaks have giant caps for their acorns that are like small cups with a fringe around the edge. They are big enough to take a sip out of it they were filled with water! Such a small treasure can hold the potential for the possibility of a whole forest, as Ralph Waldo Emerson reminds us. What powerful energy exists in one so small. I must never underestimate the power of one.

© Nancy Bowles 2011-2013
All Rights Reserved

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