The boys of Lakeshore reflect on how their photos relate to their lives.
In a New Light: Dominic, 16 – “Busy”
This picture was taken on a photo trip at the CCC bridge landing. This is a picture that I took of a bee working on pollinating flowers. As you can see this bee is very busy at work. This picture reminds me how hard working bees are when they are pollinating flowers. It is so cool how bees pollinate! This picture also reminds me of how hard I have been working on getting emotionally stable for me to return back into my home and society. I have been doing great at Northwest Passage Lakeshore. I have been actively participating in programming and therapy. I have been getting a lot more positive than ever. I used to be negative and depressed all of the time and I would crave for people to like me. I always worried about whether people would like me. Whenever someone wouldn’t like me I would think it was the end of the world and believe that no one liked me or wanted to like me. But, since being at Northwest Passage I have been happier, healthier, and less anxious. I have been doing well with repairing my relationship with my parents that was broken for awhile. I have come to realize that there is a lot to like about myself and if people want to judge or criticize me then I will let them because I know who I truly am.
In a New Light: Dominic, 16 – “Colors”
This picture was taken at the Hunt Hill trail. As you can see this is a picture is of a frog on a log. When I saw this frog, I thought it was fascinating because I have never seen a frog in these combinations of colors before. When I put this amphibian on a log, its colors just popped out with the algae. I also remember being able to see through some parts of the frog’s body because of the light color combinations it had. Just looking at this picture reminds me that not everything in the world is exactly the same. Sometimes we are the same species, but we still act and think differently. It makes me feel better about myself when looking at this particular picture because I always thought I was the only different person in the whole world, and because of those thoughts I believed no one would ever like me. But since being at Northwest Passage Lakeshore, I have met some people with similar problems and issues. This tells me that I am not the only person in the world with these complications.
In a New Light: Dominic, 16 – “Soak”
This picture was taken on a photo trip at the CCC bridge landing. It is a picture of a frog that was in a puddle. It wasn’t the only frog in the water either. There were about three other frogs swimming in this puddle. This picture reminds me of the fun experiences I had swimming at my local swimming pool in my hometown of Lancaster, Wisconsin. I have always enjoyed swimming. I would go to the pool almost every day of the week during the summer if the weather permitted it. I usually go to socialize with other teens and kids and to jump off the diving board. I am pretty good at jumping off of the diving board. I can do a lot of splash tricks as well as a lot of spins and flips. I can do a one and a half front flip and can sometimes complete a double front flip. I can do a 360 flip and a side flip as well. In the last two years I just learned a new trick called a Kick the Moon. This is a pretty difficult trick to do. It pretty much is a back flip that is sideways. It took me awhile to officially succeed in this trick. I had to undergo a lot of back and belly flops on the water, which caused me to become immune to the pain of those tricks.
In a New Light: Dominic, 16 – “Uneasy”
This picture was taken on August 5, 2015. It was on a day that we stayed local so we could make it to horse therapy on time. This picture reminds me about the uncomfortable experiences I have gone through. It reminds me about when I was abandoned by my biological parents. I was only three years old at the time and I was alone and uncared for. The picture also reminds me of my traumatic experience that occurred after I was adopted. I was only four years old when my babysitter assaulted me. I was very scared and never told anyone what happened until I was eleven years old because my babysitter threatened to hurt me and my parents if I told anyone. But, ever since I came to Northwest Passage Lakeshore I have learned to cope with my feelings and accept that I can not change the past. But I can control my future and I plan to complete my treatment here, graduate from high school, go to college, and become a psychologist and help people with issues similar to mine.
In a New Light: Martin – “Deep Blue Bass”
These fishes can breathe in the water; I can’t breathe in the water. But we are both in the water, we are both swimming. We are both looking at each other. We are both scared of things we don’t know. When I am in the water, I feel so happy. I would rather just observe everything than set up a picture. But sometimes I think a picture would be perfect. Like this picture. The lighting was perfect, and the water was so clear. If I hadn’t taken this picture, I would never have remembered that moment.
In a New Light: Martin – “Sunrise Swan”
When you sneak up on nature, you see its beauty more. Early in the morning you see nature stretching its arms and toes and slowly opening its eyes; the orange light of the rising sun slowly warming you from the dark coldness of the night. I feel the serenity of the swan when I look at this picture. I feel the warmth of the morning sun. I see the smoothness of the water. And I see the Sunrise Swan.
In a New Light: Quinnten – “When I was Young”
When I was about 5 years old my father would take me out into the woods for deer hunting. I really enjoyed myself in the woods. I also remember my dad and I making firewood. We never quite had enough wood. He would cut and I would load the Ford Ranger and trailer. He sometimes would even let me cut wood. I never did like piling up the brush though. It also makes me think of how my cousins used to come over for the weekend. My little brother and sister and my cousins and I would go out in the woods and go mudding with a couple of lawnmowers along with the four wheelers and the three wheeler and with my dirt bike. We even had a ATV trail that I would dirt bike on with my dad. He had a KX250 and I had a 110 Suzuki. We had so much fun together.
In a New Light: Quinnten – “The Old Tire”
I’ve been beaten down
And left on the ground
But now I’ve been found
And picked up off the ground
I am hysterical because
This is truly a miracle
And the best news is
That I am repairable!!!
Other photos taken by the talented youth residing at Northwest Passage Lakeshore. For even more photos please visit: http://inanewlight.org/.
The girls at Northwest Passage Prairieview set out on a special underwater photography excursion featuring special guest Emily Stone. Emily is an education director and naturalist at the Cable History Museum in Wisconsin. She is a gardener and explorer of the natural world. The Prairieview girls shared the day with Emily and eagerly showed her tips and tricks of taking excellent underwater photos as well as how to prepare for the day. They all slipped on their wet suits, placed snorkel masks over their heads, and squeezed their feet into flippers to get started.
They began exploring the Namekagon Dam region with faces in water. From the surface, the girls appear to be calm, gently bobbing up and down on the surface of the clean, bronze water. Descending into water with their eyes wide open, the girls hover above an abundance of animated life. Water plants sway and turn under their noses. Schools of fish dart around their cameras and bodies. Crayfish retreat to nearby rocks and then cautiously peek out to continue on with their work. The sun expands underwater and turns the particles around them into gold specs. Suspended in this watery space, the girls continue to photograph. A young girl captures a picture of a shiner fighting the current under the dam, and a conversation emerges about the playful fish. With each new discovery of a species, the hands-on experience brings new unexpected knowledge.
When lunch time started (Emily brought garden fresh carrots to share with everyone), the girls interviewed Emily to understand her role in protecting the water. The girls first asked “What is your happy place?” Emily responded by telling the girls about the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness. She also spoke about the way species interact with their environments and the ways a trait will be favored given a climate (phenotypic plasticity.) Emily also mentioned her favorite poet, Mary Oliver, and the ways poets speak and relay information about the natural world around us. Lydia finished the interview by taking some candid portrait photos of Emily.
Wild Geese : By Mary Oliver
You do not have to be good.
You do not have to walk on your knees
For a hundred miles through the desert, repenting.
You only have to let the soft animal of your body
love what it loves.
Tell me about your despair, yours, and I will tell you mine.
Meanwhile the world goes on.
Meanwhile the sun and the clear pebbles of the rain
are moving across the landscapes,
over the prairies and the deep trees,
the mountains and the rivers.
Meanwhile the wild geese, high in the clean blue air,
are heading home again.
Whoever you are, no matter how lonely,
the world offers itself to your imagination,
calls to you like the wild geese, harsh and exciting over
and over announcing your place
in the family of things.
Underwater photography trips are a part of Northwest Passage’s In a New Light: Under the Surface project. The girls love these weekly excursions and the time spent in the water, observing their natural world. The experience includes swimming, learning, and growing closer to understanding a vital aspect of life on earth — water.
Prairieview girls participated in an educational lesson at Crex Meadows where they learned about Nature Journaling. The girls made their own journals and practiced their observation skills outside.
They played a fun mystery game with objects hidden in brown paper bags.
The girls also had a surprise visit from a deer and her spotted fawn.
They had a great morning! Thank you to Kristy, the nature educator at Crex Meadows, for the fabulous lesson!
Brittany Bosak, Prairieview Teacher
Northwest Passage values teaching residents outside of the traditional classroom. Getting the kids out of chairs and into the world helps to make the learning concepts real and relevant to the world. It allows them to learn through play and experimentation. It exposes them to new opportunities and helps develop their interest in the environment and other surroundings.
On July 25, a group of four young girls from Northwest Passage Prairieview hiked down to Schaefer Cabin for a day of recreation and relaxation. Schaefer Cabin, is tucked away in the woods sitting above the Namekagon River. The rustic log cabin, large grass yard, cozy fire pit area, and alluring forests surrounding this region makes it an ideal place to find privacy and peace. (Schaefer Cabin is in the process of being renovated to become a retreat center for residents at Northwest Passage.) On this day, the girls were there to play by the river, but they also had their first photojournalism assignment. Meet, interview, and photograph Branda Thwaits.
Park Ranger Branda arrived shortly after the girls finished their picnic lunch. Branda stepped out of her truck with her inviting smile, hopeful eyes, and bright voice. She works as a ranger for the National Park Service and is considered to be an ambassador to the local river ways. She is a brilliant planner with a knack for connecting groups of people with positive experiences on the Wisconsin rivers. Branda brought along her mucking tools, and together we gathered on the shoreline of the Namekagon River to explore together. We began to investigate and learn about the small creatures that are usually overlooked by the paddlers and fisherman.
One young girl timidly conversed with Branda about the thought of leeches being in the water. Nevertheless, these nature girls forged ahead leaving the worries of leeches behind after realizing the cool sandy water was more or less a place of sanctuary. I looked out to see these young girls playing in the water. They were enthusiastic about the bugs and small creatures they were finding. I watched from a distance as one photojournalist (aka resident) hunted to capture a frog with Branda. I also caught sight of Branda exclaiming the discovery of a dragonfly nymph – the first one to be found by the girls. The girls happily mucked in the river as the water slowly grazed past their legs. After a short period of time Park Ranger Branda helped the girls identify dragonfly nymphs, caddis fly homes, minnows, crayfish and a frog.
Soon it was time to get to know this incredible woman on a more personal level. The interview first began with a remarkable introduction by one of the girls. She asked Branda “What is your happy place?” Branda immediately lit up with the thoughtful question and fired back with the curiosity of wanting to know who came up with such an insightful question. Little did we know the thoughtful, honest, empathetic, and earnest conversation that was about to unfold for all the girls… The conversation that evolved from these interview questions led into moments of vulnerability for each girl, and for Branda. “What is the most challenging obstacle you have overcome?” Branda answered by discussing the difficulties of parenting. The girls responded with answers reflecting on their treatment. One girl decided that admitting she needed help was the most difficult thing she has had to do. Another girl recounts her difficulties with being away from home. The interview continued with a mixture of light-hearted questions. “Do you have any pets” and “what do you think your best traits are- why?” Branda responded to the second question by describing her ability to find the good in people, a trait she picked up from her father. The girls explained their skills in dance, having a positive attitude, the ability to speak languages, and one young girl deciding one of her best traits is being brave. Overall, the atmosphere sitting together on the bank of Namekogen River was genuine, open, and moving. Branda allowed each girl to find connection to her by listening to the individual thoughts and passions of the girls. Before long, time was running low, and the girls needed to get back for dinner.
Before we left the girls snapped some portrait photos of the compassionate individual they spent time getting to know. Each girl approached the shot with different images in mind, and Branda eagerly played along. Overall, it was a moving and memorable experience. It seemed to have sparked a sense of connection for several of the girls. The connection to the natural world, and in a short amount of time they were given a connection to a remarkable role model. Each of the young ladies was reminded of her own great traits and how everyone has had to overcome obstacles in life, making their journeys feel a little less daunting.
“Women of the Valley” is a photojournalism project at Northwest Passage that connects the young women in our program to the women who are shaping the culture of our region. Through telling the stories of these women, the young artists ultimately learn to understand, share, and shape their own stories.
On July 11, 2015, a group of seven girls from Northwest Passage Prairieview set out to meet and interview Danette Olson – their first assignment as a photojournalist team. This summer the girls at Northwest Passage will meet many women throughout the St. Croix River Valley to learn from them and try to capture their stories. This is part of a summer program connecting the youth with women who have overcome obstacles and who also advocate for the environment. Danette is a leader and inspiration in the St Croix River watershed area through her work in humanities, the arts, and conservation.
The meeting place was Glen Park in River Falls, Wisconsin. The girls gathered around Danette as we stood by the Kinnickinnic River. The authentic woman standing before us shared her passion for theatre and asked the girls to embrace their imaginations and tell a story with another by giving one word at a time. Together they created some imaginative short stories.
The interview included thoughtful questions designed by the girls. One observant girl from Northwest Passage noticed Danette’s necklace. She begins the interview by asking about the meaning of the symbol on the necklace. Danette explained that she got the piece of jewelry, which depicts a metallic person hanging from the leather cord, almost 21 years ago. The symbol means “hang in there, everything will be all right.” It continues to be a small source of strength for Danette. With that question, inspired purely by curiosity and observation, the rest of their interview continued to be full of energy.
“Have your life experiences led you to believe in nature or nurture?” Danette explained her answer to this question by stating her reasons for believing in both factors, to an extent. Other intriguing questions included, “Is your personality more like the rush of a river or the calmness of a stream – why?” and “What is your biggest fear and why?” Danette embraced every question with enthusiasm and tenderness. She smiled at the girls with deep compassion shown in her eyes all the while maintaining a playful spirit.
Meanwhile, back at their residential treatment center, the girls are beginning to narrate their own personal stories through art and writing. During the remainder of the summer these girls will continue to express themselves while meeting inspirational women in the St. Croix River Valley. As one resident of the treatment center explains, “I think my personality is more like the rush of a river. When I’m not doing something, I get bored, and when I get bored, I get myself into trouble… Usually if my body is calm, my mind is still rushing.”
“Women of the Valley” is a project exclusive to the Northwest Passage Prairieview program. It teaches the young ladies photography and photojournalism to empower them in understanding their own “heroine’s journey” through connecting them with the women who have helped shape the history of the St. Croix Valley.
What’s that sound you hear? It is the collective sigh from a group of therapists, project coordinators, and most importantly kids, in northwestern Wisconsin. We’re all breathing sighs of relief because our second year of underwater photography programming, New Light: Under the Surface, is up and running after a month of training and practice.
Thanks to a successful Kickstarter campaign, a warm spring, and a little flexibility from everyone, we’ve been able to get our kids out and into the water four weeks in a row, where much healing and adventure takes place.
Follow us from safety training to critter finding below:
Week One: Safety Training
Week Two: Testing the Waters
Week Three: Getting the Hang of Things – Girls & Boys!
Week Four: Rainy Day Adventures
We’re devoted to providing our kids with a wide range of experiential therapy opportunities and underwater photography is just one of the many things our kids get to do while here. Check out all that we’re up to on our Facebook page or follow our blog to learn more.