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

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My World Alive by Viola LaBounty

2 08 2012

A few months ago, my friend Mary Ellen Ryall introduced me to Viola LaBounty, a friend in her writer’s group in Wisconsin. At Mary Ellen’s urging, Viola submitted this poem for publication in the Hearing Loss Magazine, published bimonthly by the Hearing Loss Association of America. It appeared in the July/August 2012 issue. Special thanks to Anna Martineau Merritt, Misty Pines Photography, for the perfect photo of Viola and her husband Bob (beautiful job, Anna!)

My World Alive [Digital Technology]

by Viola LaBounty

Awakened at dawn in silence,
I remember yesterday’s song;
we walked through the forest together
in amazement at how alive all had become.
I had struggled to know what was absent
as we’d walked down these pathways before.
Not known I’d been there in silence
what was muted
until now?

I have missed sounds of sand under footsteps;
each bird-song, each flutter of mourning dove
as we startle her there in oaken leaves;
She flies off to her mate in the distance.
All came alive in an instant…
This is where inspiration had gone.
I’d lived in silence for all this time;
I didn’t realize
until now.

Silence had overtaken my world in part.
where once there was joy in each word came my way;
only quiet as dew rolled to ground…
Now I will savor sound as a gift;
breathe as it whispers its secrets.
Precious words; priceless thoughts
have been given…how many have I missed
until now?

So subtle is aging in many ways,
may steal away some of time;
my world, live with wonder, as a child again;
pure senses, each movement records.
Sound of breezes;
Your voice in soft tones;
prompts of God; He surprises afresh…
I have learned in my journey
each day truly new.
My world is alive once again.

Viola LaBounty is an active member of St. Croix Writer’s Group in Solon Springs, Wisconsin. She is also a member of Wisconsin Writer’s Association and Lake Superior Writers. Viola is a retired teacher’s assistant of early childhood autistic children. She and her husband Bob have two adult children, Michael and Shauna, and one teenage granddaughter Kaylee. Viola enjoys playing gospel music and singing with her auto harp. Her hearing loss has been gradual over the years. She had been exposed to loud environments through her teens and twenties and did not protect her hearing through these times, not realizing how important it would be to do so.

Photo © Anna Martineau Merritt, Misty Pines Photography

 





From the archives: Monarchs for Mary Ellen

14 12 2010

My friend Mary Ellen is likely snowed in with 15 inches of snow in a remote town in Wisconsin. To brighten her day, I thought I’d re-post some Monarch photos from my blog. This was originally posted October 15, 2008.

Yes, more Monarchs. I can’t help myself. They’re everywhere! I learned a technique from my friend Mary Ellen of Happy Tonics about how to “stalk” Monarchs with a camera. Wait until they have their proboscis inserted into a flower and they become completely distracted by the task at hand—then move in closer, staying as still as possible. They won’t even notice you’re there. This one sure didn’t. I was able to shoot about 50+ images of this Monarch in less than five minutes.

Want to learn more about the senses of a Monarch? Click here.

Here’s a surefire way to attract Monarchs to your garden—plant milkweed!
Mary Ellen sells common milkweed seeds in her eBay store here. Milkweed is the sole food for the Monarch caterpillar. Adult butterflies can feed on other plants such as this butterfly bush, but the caterpillars only eat milkweed.

Mary Ellen and I crossed paths a few years ago when I purchased seeds from her through eBay. This led to a frequent e-mail exchange, and now I do volunteer design and photography for her organization. I design and produce her quarterly 4-page newsletter, Butterflies & Gardens, as well as other marketing materials. You can download the latest issue of the newsletter in pdf format here. I also designed a Monarch Butterfly Habitat Poster for her this past spring.

© Cindy Dyer. All rights reserved. www.cindydyer.com/GardenPhotos





Another Monarch for Mary Ellen!

3 09 2010

This one is for Mary Ellen Ryall, creator of the Monarch Butterfly Habitat in Shell Lake, Wisconsin! I photographed this Monarch butterfly on a ‘Zowie’ Zinnia at Green Spring Gardens this afternoon. An overcast but very bright sky made for great lighting for photography. The gardens were swarming with insects—including Eastern Tiger Swallowtails, Spicebush Swallowtails, Monarchs, various Skippers, Sulphurs and Common Buckeyes. I photographed an Eastern Tiger Swallowtail on a ‘Zowie’ Zinnia  few weeks ago here.

© Cindy Dyer. All rights reserved.