Friends in the woods (me and Monica) drawing by Ellie Kidder

Sometimes you feel twice blessed, like when your friend commissions an amazing artist to do a drawing of the two of you doing one of your favorite things – walking in the woods. So I was thrilled when Monica Nilsson invited Ellie Kidder to walk with us at Bdote (Fort Snelling) in preparation for drawing us!

It was fun to have Ellie join us.  She is hearing impaired. She is good at lipreading. It can be tough to walk and talk when lipreading is easier than listening. But Ellie has deeper senses. She relates more directly with the world around her, such as the deer. She was able to feel that the deer were OK with us, which was good to hear since we spend so much time there. It was so much fun to have her join us and tell us about her thoughts in an area so historically charged that brings us such peace.

You can see from the picture Ellie has captured the joy of the woods. The colors are striking and uplifting. I can’t even remember if it was sunny when we were there but this picture makes it feel like it’s always sunny.

There are so many moving pieces to the work but there’s a wash of happiness. Monica did bring an umbrella down that day because it was rainy and that was the smart thing to do. Monica is ever-prepared. (I’m lucky if I have matching gloves.) And Monica did use the umbrella like a pointer and if you look closely you can see she has a pointer tail at the top of her head. Ellie immediately saw her as part pointer dog, which I loved. I think it make her like Mary Poppins.

There are details I caught right away because they were clever, like the lady slipper flowers. I love the smirking beaver and the frightened trees that reminded me of the Wizard of Oz or the trees from HR Pufnstuf. There’s the he/she deer we see with one antler. There’s a deer with his tongue sticking out, which is exactly a picture we caught one time.

Then there were details I didn’t catch like most of the flowers and leaves have five petals, like little hands, which are an important part of deaf culture. There’s lots of nature native to Minnesota in the picture and apparently at least one of the Dogwood tree’s flowers has “ILY” hidden in it, which means I love you in ASL.

You can find more of Ellie’s art on Facebook. She does fantastic work and commissions. It’s a really thoughtful gift. I’m humbled that Monica had me drawn into the space that she has also invited me into. (And for the record, we’re always happy to have others join us.) Ellie an advocate for people experiencing homelessness and has some first hand experience with difficulties. She is charming and smart and talented. Also, she’s entrepreneurial. She is working on sketches that others can color in. What a gift! You’ll have to check out her work or tex: 512 290 8020 or email her for more info.

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