Twin Sisters: a theme in Nature, Photography, and Artistic Courage

"Twin Sisters", photo, end-of-summer garden 2013, Karen Gillis Taylor

“Twin Sisters”, photo, end-of-summer garden 2013, Karen Gillis Taylor

Every summer in late August I begin to mourn the fact that our garden is soon going down to the seasons. Our end-of-summer flowers seem more precious to me as a result. Couple that with the unusually humid and rainy summer Colorado has lately seen, and so we now enjoy amazing light in the evenings, perfect for photographing our beauties seen here. Big and Little Sister Coneflowers.

Twin Sisters peaks, Northern Colorado

Twin Sisters peaks, Northern Colorado

The Twin Sisters Peaks in Rocky Mountain National Park are a landmark only surpassed by Longs Peak. I can see both of them from our small hamlet of Niwot, Colorado, which has a good elevation hill up by the water tower for viewing the entire front range. The Twin Sisters hiking trail in RM National Park can challenge the brave, above 11,000 feet, so be prepared if you want to go for it!


Isabella Bird, 1831-1904.

Isabella Bird, 1831-1904.

I’m feeling a little invigorated with my revived exercise routine of 3 weeks, but then am humbled when I remember Isabella Bird.

Writer Isabella Bird climbed Long’s Peak, Colorado, in 1873, before our state was even officially a state of the union. Her guide was a mountain man, Jim Nugent, who fell in love with her. Sadly, she didn’t return his advances. As she told her sister, Henrietta Bird, in a letter she sent while in America: “He is a man any woman might love, but no sane woman would marry.”

Check out Isabella’s book I read a couple of years ago, called A Lady’s Life in the Rocky Mountains (1879). Isabella Bird was from England, and had poor health as a child. She traveled to America in 1854 and to many other places like the Outer Hebrides, which I’m pretty sure was not a fancy civilized place back then. (I don’t even know where that is today!) I would place Isabella in the club of courageous people, wouldn’t you? Oh to be a writer and traveler in the days when America’s Frontier was still just that.

Isabella died in 1904 at the age of 73. That was the year my Grandma Helen was born in Italy.

"Enclave", painting by Karen Gillis Taylor, oil, approximately 40" x 40"

“Enclave”, painting by Karen Gillis Taylor, oil, approximately 40″ x 40″

I made this “Enclave” painting several years ago, about 2005. I had visited a good family friend who lives in Estes, Marie. She was my guide as we explored the National Park, and was patient with me as I took many photos, and was so sweet to share her home with me, complete with stories of her yellow Lab dog Jake, who liked to escape and roam Estes. The local officers must have liked Jake, as they just loaded him up and brought him back to Marie’s house whenever he was reported on the loose.

In our modern age, we have so many conveniences, and the life of an artist or writer like Isabella is now so much more comfortable at best. Yet I can’t help but wonder if the human experience might be more enhanced when a person faces real obstacles from nature. Nature inscribes challenging experiences on our soul and memory. Calling back those memories is part of the work of art.

Did you ever see an amazing sight in nature that you just had to photograph or write about, or both? Or paint?

Please share, I would love to hear of your experience, too.



Tags: , , , , , ,

4 Responses to “Twin Sisters: a theme in Nature, Photography, and Artistic Courage”

  1. ashleyquinnstyle Says:

    Wonderful post Karen and beautiful painting!


  2. Marty en-eng'ko Says:

    Why are the twin sisters blue in color…



    • Karen Says:

      Hi Marty,
      The Twin Sisters are actually Purple Coneflowers. (“Echinacea purpurea”) Maybe our monitors are showing color a little differently if you are seeing a blue color. Thanks for asking!


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: