In the studio: Mary Ellen Ryall

1 11 2013

Butterfly posterMary Ellen Ryall and I crossed paths more than eight years ago when I purchased milkweed seeds from her through eBay. This connection quickly morphed into a frequent e-mail exchange and a great friendship! I do volunteer design and photography for her environmental education organization, Happy Tonics. For several years, I designed and produced her quarterly 4-page newsletter, Butterflies & Gardens, as well as other marketing materials. I also designed a Monarch Butterfly Habitat Poster for her a few years ago. The poster included original photographs by me and my friends Brian K. Loflin (www.bkloflin.wordpress.com) and Jeff Evans (www.evanimagesandart.com).

I had the chance to visit Mary Ellen in her former home base in Minong, Wisconsin, in August 2011. (Sidebar: at the time I was making the three-hour drive from the Minneapolis airport to Minong, I called Michael and learned that I had just missed a big earthquake in the D.C. area; it was enough to scare both him and our cat, ZenaB, and for a vase to fall off a bookcase and break!). While in Shell Lake and Minong, I visited Mary Ellen’s Monarch Butterfly Habitat and met many of her friends, most notably Diane Dryden, a published author and feature writer for the Washburn County Register. Diane’s novels, The Accidental King of Clark Street and Double or Nothing on Foster Ave., are available on Amazon here.

About a year ago, Mary Ellen relocated to Fitchburg, MA, to be closer to her sister. She talked of slowing down, but I knew she wouldn’t—she’s brimming with far too many ideas! An author and truly dedicated environmental educator, Mary Ellen’s first book, My Name is Butterfly, was published by Salt of the Earth Press in 2011. This teaching book about a little girl and a Monarch butterfly was illustrated by Marie Aubuchon-Mendoza and is available here.

TwoBooksEarlier this year, I assisted Mary Ellen with producing The Monarch Butterfly Coloring Book. Written by Mary Ellen Ryall and illustrated by Moira Christine McCusker, It is available for purchase here. It is published by Mary Ellen’s new company, Butterfly Woman Publishing. Our next project is a plant guidebook, which we hope to debut in 2014. She visited the D.C. area a few weeks ago to attend a three-day conference for the North America Pollinator Protection Campaign (NAPPC). She is presently on a task force to design a smart app called S.H.A.R.E. (Simply Have Areas Reserved for the Environment). This app will allow gardeners around the country to list their habitats on a national map. Mary Ellen blogs about organic gardening and open pollination for diversity on her blog here.

After seeing the portraits I did of her while she was in town, Mary Ellen said, “now I see that I have to go out and buy a new wardrobe!” The outfits she is wearing came from my “modeling rack” as well as my closet. She feels I captured her energy in the shots—and if you’ve ever met her, you know how high-energy this woman is!

P.S. Butterflies are the second largest group of pollinators after bees. Butterflies as pollinators are in trouble too. The Monarch butterfly population is down to only five percent in 2013. The Monarch and other butterflies need native host plants. We need to plant native wildflowers to bring butterflies home. Milkweed is the only host plant of the Monarch butterfly. If you would like to be part of the solution to stop the decline of Monarch butterflies, plant some milkweed seeds in your garden! Mary Ellen sells seed on her website here.

© Cindy Dyer. All rights reserved.

MaryEllenHeadShots





The Orphaned Images Project: Petticoat Junction, anyone?

12 08 2012

Scribbled in pencil on the back of this photo:

Luella Devo and me, Jesse and Adelaide Devoe on the silo

With just a few seconds of research, beginning with the fact that two of the women in this photo are likely sisters—Adelaide and Luella—I found a grave marker that indicates Adelaide Delphine DeVoe was born October 15, 1890 and died May 3, 1984. Her younger sister, Luella Adella DeVoe, was born two years later on October 24, 1892 and died April 15, 1957. They are buried in the Parfreyville Cemetery, Section 12, Dayton Township, Waupaca County, Wisconsin.

Adelaide was 93 when she passed away at Bethany Home. She lived in Waupaca for 60 years and worked for 30 years in the laundry at the Wisconsin Veteran’s Home (WVH). She had two brothers, Claude and Floyd. I can’t find any indication that she or her sister ever married or had a family.

There is very little information on the link for Luella’s gravestone. I did learn that in 1941 she was the “head laundress” of the WVH-King Laundry. Ed Fosgate was the head laundry man and there was a total of 12 employees in the Laundry. They handled 7,567 pounds per week with 3,300 of this being sheets. There were 641 members in the WVH.

I did find their father, Charles DeVoe. He was born in Rennessalier County, NY on June 26, 1855. When he was six, he moved with his parents to Fond Du Lac, WI. In 1890 he married Amanda Chapel. They had seven children (one died in infancy). They moved to Janesville and then to Oshkosh.

From the Waushara County Obituaries: Left to mourn his loss are his wife, four sons, Harley, Lloyd, Claude and Floyd, and two daughters, Adelade and Luella, all of Oshkosh, and two brothers, Henry and Willard of Etna, Washington. He died July 29, 1922, at the age of 67 years, 1 month and 3 days at the home of his niece, Mr. Ora Wing. He was sick only a few hours.

Research is fun even if these aren’t my family members! It’s like putting together the pieces of a puzzle, made easier by someone’s cursive writing on the back of an old photo.

Double-click on the photo to see more detail. Learn more about The Orphaned Images Project on my site dedicated to this project here.





Scene from Garden Muse: A Botanical Portfolio

7 05 2012

In April, my friend, Mary Ellen Ryall (left), came all the way from Minong, Wisconsin, to see my photography exhibit (Garden Muse: A Botanical Portfolio) at Green Spring Gardens and to promote her new children’s book, My Name is Butterfly. Accompanying her to the show were Deneen Stambone (middle), a Fairfax County English teacher, and artist Worth Cooley-Prost (right), who is a glass artist as well as a mixed media artist. Check out her work here.

I met Mary Ellen more than seven years ago when I purchased milkweed seed from her via eBay. We started corresponding and are now in a publishing venture together. I also designed and produced her bimonthly newsletter, Butterflies & Gardens and currently maintain her Happy Tonics blog here. I visited her neck of the woods last August (see postings from that trip in my August 2011 archives here). Mary Ellen blogs about environmental education, sustainable agriculture, Monarch butterflies and other pollinators, and other nature-related topics here.

© Cindy Dyer. All rights reserved.





Mandy Harvey: Musically Inclined

14 01 2012

Mandy Harvey, a jazz vocalist and songwriter from northern Colorado, was one of the feature articles in the January/February 2012 issue of Hearing Loss Magazine, published bimonthly by the Hearing Loss Association of America (HLAA). I met and photographed Mandy at the Harley-Davidson Museum in Milwaukee, WI, host to HLAA’s Convention 2010. Mandy was the guest entertainer at Friday night’s Rumble event at the Museum.

Barbara Kelley, editor-in-chief of Hearing Loss Magazine and deputy executive director of HLAA, interviewed Mandy for this issue of the magazine. Learn more about Mandy’s here and listen to her music and buy CDs here.

© Cindy Dyer. All rights reserved.

Mandy showed an early talent for singing, but also had infrequent periods of hearing loss. At age ten, her family moved to Colorado. Her vocal talent blossomed and she won numerous school awards, notably Top Female Vocalist of 2006 as a high school senior.

After high school, Mandy went to Colorado State University. During her first semester, Mandy noticed she had to move closer to hear recordings. Hearing aids helped at first. Six months later, she had no hearing left. Discouraged, Mandy returned home to take American Sign Language classes and pursue Elementary Education at a local community college.

Once she returned home Mandy decided that she would take a year off from singing, but continued to play the guitar with her father. One day, while searching the Internet, Mandy and her father discovered a song titled Come Home by One Republic. Mandy’s father suggested that she learn the lyrics. Mandy thought this would be impossible but she gave it her best effort, and to her surprise she was able to learn the lyrics. She realized then that she didn’t have to give up singing.

I met Mandy in 2010 in Milwaukee at the HLAA Convention where she sang at one of our events at the Harley-Davidson Museum. HLAA photographer Cindy Dyer photographed her at the Museum before her performance. We were pleased to catch up with her recently to ask her a few questions.

Tell me about your hearing loss.
My hearing loss is due to neurological damage and the last it was tested showed it around 110 dB in both ears.

Do you use any type of assistive technology?
I had hearing aids when I was first losing my hearing, which was around winter 2006 and the beginning of 2007. Once my hearing loss progressed to a specific stage hearing aids didn’t help much. Because of the nerve damage, a cochlear implant was not an option for me. At this point I rely mostly on lip reading and American Sign Language.

Talk about your aspirations to become a music teacher.
I went to Colorado State University in the hopes of becoming a vocal jazz teacher. In all honesty I wouldn’t feel right about giving my professional opinion to students wanting to study voice. If I cannot hear them to give advice or to teach 100 percent, I would end up just getting frustrated and feeling as if I was wasting their money. Instead, I have turned my life to performing jazz as well as working in the medical field.

What about your personal life and family?
I currently live in Denver with my hearing service dog, Annie, and my love, Travis. My family is extremely supportive and they have learned some American Sign Language. My sister, Sammi, is fluent in the language now. It helps a lot to be able to communicate with your loved ones. Travis is currently learning the language for me.

Where is your singing career right now?
My singing career is in a beautiful place right now. As things stand I work a regular 8-5, Monday through Friday, job. The weekend is mine for performing. Having the regular job mixed with weekend work relieves the pressure of having to do a bunch of gigs just to be able to pay the bills. Instead I am able to do gigs that inspire me and that bring joy.

I have two albums, Smile and After You’ve Gone, which are both full of jazz standard, though the latter contains some original work by myself and Mark Sloniker. I am currently saving up to make a Christmas album this year.

Tell me something about yourself you would like people to know; something that would surprise people.
That’s a hard question. I used to be fascinated by insects and toads and non-girly things like that. When I was a child I wanted to travel the world and discover amazing finds on archeological digs.

You have a fascination with the 40s. How has this genre influenced you and your music?
I have been fascinated with the 30s, 40s, 50s and 60s my entire life. I grew up listening to The Beatles, Doobie Brothers, and classic jazz. I love everything in those eras from the clothing to the inventions. It truly was a beautiful time in history…seems to have had lots of details that were not as obvious as things are today. Back then, there could be a song about someone’s smile and how it would capture the imagination. I feel music today has lost some of that mystery and has become far too blunt.

What are your favorite songs?
My Funny Valentine, Someone to Watch Over Me, Come Fly with Me, Over the Rainbow, and of course, Smile…this list is never ending. I find passion in the music and it makes you feel something different every time you sing them.

What music don’t you care for?
I love most everything but I am not a huge fan of most Rap or R&B. I will admit I do enjoy a few songs here and there but in general they all tend to feel the same.

Who is your favorite artist and why?
Ella Fitzgerald, Sarah Vaughan, Blossom Dearie, Frank Sinatra, Nat King Cole, Thelonius Monk, Duke…oh my goodness, my list could go on and on. They are brilliant and the work they have done inspires me every time I think of them.

What one place in the world would you like to visit?
I have always had a dream to live in Scotland. The country has always called my name. My goal is in the next 10 years to have been there for at least three months continuously. If you are there for only a week you cannot understand the culture.

To find some of her recordings, go to YouTube.com and search for Mandy Harvey. You will find several videos, including her rendition of Smile.

Barbara Kelley is deputy executive director and editor-in-chief of Hearing Loss Magazine. She can be reached at bkelley@hearingloss.org.

Join the Hearing Loss Association of America!
Do you have a hearing loss or know someone who does? Consider membership in the Hearing Loss Association of America. Student annual dues are $20, individual annual dues are $35, and family/couple annual dues are $45. Fees outside the U.S. are slightly higher. All memberships include discounts on hearing-related products, convention and special event early bird discounts, AVIS and Alamo car rental, Costco membership, and the award-winning Hearing Loss Magazine. Sign up for membership here.





Fresh and fading in the afternoon sun

6 09 2011

New and old blooms of a ‘Rozanne’ Geranium, photographed in the Demonstration Garden at the Spooner Agricultural Research Station in Spooner, Wisconsin

© Cindy Dyer. All rights reserved.





Er, um, sorry, didn’t mean to interrupt!

5 09 2011

Unknown amorous bugs on an unknown flower (sorry, that’s the best I can do at this juncture). The female was trying to gather pollen but the male had other ideas! Photographed in the Demonstration Garden at the Spooner Agricultural Research Station in Spooner, Wisconsin

© Cindy Dyer. All rights reserved.





The elusive Snowberry Clearwing Hummingbird Moth (Hemaris diffinis)

3 09 2011

I photographed this type of moth in my own garden years ago (here), and the image was what I call a “record shot,” just like this one is. A “record shot” won’t win any prizes—it is simply captured to record its existence and uniqueness, no matter the technical quality or stellar composition.

I wanted to share this shot anyway, since this creature is so elusive, very quick and hard to photograph. I photographed this Snowberry Clearwing Hummingbird Moth (Hemaris diffinis) frantically feasting on the blooms of a ‘Franz Schubert’ Phlox (Phlox paniculata) at the Spooner Agricultural Research Station in Spooner, Wisconsin.

© Cindy Dyer. All rights reserved.








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