27 Years, 80 Acres
local photographer practices mindfulness from behind the lens
Bruce Siebold believes that there are all sorts of stories to tell, wherever you live. He has made it his mission to tell those that take place in his own backyard. Every day for the past 27 years – that’s nearly 10,000 days – Siebold has explored his family’s 80 acres of land in Menomonie, camera in hand. From thousands of images, he recently compiled the best vignettes into his second book of photography: Seasons on Eighty Acres.
“The day I moved there, a voice in my mind said ‘Capture this land. Capture the spirit of this land,’ ” Siebold said. He and his wife, Terry, purchased Eighty Acres in 1990, and built their home there the following year.
“There’s nothing that calms me down more than walking in the woods and understanding that it is a peaceful place, it is a place that accepts me, and I accept the earth,” Siebold said. “It is almost a spiritual journey to walk each day in the land.”
Siebold’s quest for the past years has been to be mindful as he walks the land, remembering to pay attention to and give thanks for every sight, smell, and sound.
Even after decades have passed, Siebold continues to train himself to be attentive to the patterns of the land. He knows what time of day the deer are active, and when to expect the cardinals in his yard. He shares his walking trails with foxes and coyotes – and watches bluejays and red squirrels bully the other creatures. Siebold watches as new life hatches from within brittle shells, and as it is taken away in a flurry of feathers when nests are scattered by preying animals. These are the stories he tells in Seasons, each a few short sentences alongside a frame from his collection.
The stories from Eighty Acres are a message, Siebold said. He wants people to recognize the relationship between the goings-on on his land and their own lives. Further, he hopes they will inspire people to be mindful of their environment and the seasons of their lives.
“I’m close to my winter season,” Siebold said. “Every one of these seasons I’ve gone through. Every one I’ve enjoyed. Every one has been exciting. … The mindfulness of your seasons is really important because it goes by so fast.” Each section of the book begins with a poem, and each poem begins with Siebold’s confession that spring, and summer, and fall, and winter, are his favorite season.
But access to untouched nature isn’t necessary to appreciate one’s life. “I would think if somoene lived on concrete in NYC, that there’s a story to tell within that block they live on, or the park across the street from them,” Siebold offers. He challenges people to break out of their routines, to open their minds to what’s going on around them. “It’s a conscious awakening on the part of a person to slow down their mind and look and see and feel and touch.”
Siebold also encourages people to live mindfully during speaking engagements all over the Chippewa Valley. He discusses his spiritual photographic process at local libraries, craft talks, and more. For more information about Siebold, his works, and to find out where to hear him, visit www.eightyacresphotography.com. Seasons on Eighty Acres is available for purchase at the site.