I wander through my home into my garden and onto the landscapes of Rice County, Minnesota. In fall, winter, spring, and summer, I explore rivers, ponds, prairies, and woods. In order to remember and to love, I photograph what I find.

For long months in 2019, I lay recovering from open heart surgery. With my scope thus limited, a whorl captured my attention: its pattern on my thumb. I thought about all the places I’ve marked with it, what a detective’s powder would discover in my home. But out there, too, beyond my bedroom windows, in the woods. I look out on all the plants whose roots I settled, wild ginger and jack in the pulpit, tamping earth around them. I have marked my world, as did early artists, who wandered deep into subterranean caves to imprint their open hands.

These natural intimacies must be shared. In The Whorl of My Thumbprint, I invite adults and children into a small theater for each month’s drama. You will unlock each theater box, first January, leaving your thumbprint on the ulna bone of a secretive, fossorial pocket gopher. Follow its whorl, as I did, down into the secret doings of birds or ferns or stars. Move among the biomes as an invited guest. You will want to assemble the wooden puzzles in each box.

“Nature” wrote the playbook, and flora and fauna act the parts. You will see strange sights, so I have provided stories, words, to “illustrate” them. I had thought that I would also be the narrator, but it turned out that another voice has something to add, and who am I to shush her? She goes by Vv, and she’ll surprise you on the last page of each story.

This is my literal journey of the heart. In my time of healing, “Nature” helped me. It both quickened and calmed my heart, and it will do the same for yours. A whorl travels both ways, inward and outward. After entering my year of secret natural performances, may you circle outward again, following your thumbprint to your own life and beyond, to the waiting natural world.

Clamshell boxes and puzzles /2020
Box: 11.25”H x 11.25” W x 1.25” D
Puzzle: 6.5” C
Pigmented ink on canvas, water-resistant satin and wood. Book board, book cloth, and frosted acrylic. Locking mechanism: etched copper with engraver beetle trails and cast silver ulna bone of the fossorial, secretive pocket gopher.