In the studio: Mary Ellen Ryall

1 11 2013

Butterfly posterMary Ellen Ryall and I crossed paths more than eight years ago when I purchased milkweed seeds from her through eBay. This connection quickly morphed into a frequent e-mail exchange and a great friendship! I do volunteer design and photography for her environmental education organization, Happy Tonics. For several years, I designed and produced her quarterly 4-page newsletter, Butterflies & Gardens, as well as other marketing materials. I also designed a Monarch Butterfly Habitat Poster for her a few years ago. The poster included original photographs by me and my friends Brian K. Loflin (www.bkloflin.wordpress.com) and Jeff Evans (www.evanimagesandart.com).

I had the chance to visit Mary Ellen in her former home base in Minong, Wisconsin, in August 2011. (Sidebar: at the time I was making the three-hour drive from the Minneapolis airport to Minong, I called Michael and learned that I had just missed a big earthquake in the D.C. area; it was enough to scare both him and our cat, ZenaB, and for a vase to fall off a bookcase and break!). While in Shell Lake and Minong, I visited Mary Ellen’s Monarch Butterfly Habitat and met many of her friends, most notably Diane Dryden, a published author and feature writer for the Washburn County Register. Diane’s novels, The Accidental King of Clark Street and Double or Nothing on Foster Ave., are available on Amazon here.

About a year ago, Mary Ellen relocated to Fitchburg, MA, to be closer to her sister. She talked of slowing down, but I knew she wouldn’t—she’s brimming with far too many ideas! An author and truly dedicated environmental educator, Mary Ellen’s first book, My Name is Butterfly, was published by Salt of the Earth Press in 2011. This teaching book about a little girl and a Monarch butterfly was illustrated by Marie Aubuchon-Mendoza and is available here.

TwoBooksEarlier this year, I assisted Mary Ellen with producing The Monarch Butterfly Coloring Book. Written by Mary Ellen Ryall and illustrated by Moira Christine McCusker, It is available for purchase here. It is published by Mary Ellen’s new company, Butterfly Woman Publishing. Our next project is a plant guidebook, which we hope to debut in 2014. She visited the D.C. area a few weeks ago to attend a three-day conference for the North America Pollinator Protection Campaign (NAPPC). She is presently on a task force to design a smart app called S.H.A.R.E. (Simply Have Areas Reserved for the Environment). This app will allow gardeners around the country to list their habitats on a national map. Mary Ellen blogs about organic gardening and open pollination for diversity on her blog here.

After seeing the portraits I did of her while she was in town, Mary Ellen said, “now I see that I have to go out and buy a new wardrobe!” The outfits she is wearing came from my “modeling rack” as well as my closet. She feels I captured her energy in the shots—and if you’ve ever met her, you know how high-energy this woman is!

P.S. Butterflies are the second largest group of pollinators after bees. Butterflies as pollinators are in trouble too. The Monarch butterfly population is down to only five percent in 2013. The Monarch and other butterflies need native host plants. We need to plant native wildflowers to bring butterflies home. Milkweed is the only host plant of the Monarch butterfly. If you would like to be part of the solution to stop the decline of Monarch butterflies, plant some milkweed seeds in your garden! Mary Ellen sells seed on her website here.

© Cindy Dyer. All rights reserved.

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Categories : Butterfly, Flowers, Food, gardening, Insects, nature, Photography, portraits, publishing, Travel

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Conquering the Dream Killers: Fear, Doubt, Worry, and Guilt

I was pleasantly surprised this evening when I did a search on Google of my published work.  How wonderful to know that my article was not only published in a highly respected Journel but it is now on the Internet published by the publication.

I knew that when I signed a contract that my work was being considered for a larger publishing project.  Now I know my story will not  get lost to time .  I hope you will enjoy this story of growth and empowerment that comes from believing and living one’s dream. It is a true story.

Published by Tribal College Journal, Aug 15th, 2005 | By  | Category: Student 2005

By Mary Ellen Ryall 
In November 1998, I attended a lecture in Lusby, MD, during National American Indian and Alaska Native Heritage Month. A Piscataway Indian showed us beautiful ancestral cooking pots made of clay and spoke about the different Potomac and Patuxent River clay soils used historically and now to make clay cooking pots. When I asked him where I could learn more about Native American studies, he replied, “They teach it at American University.”  I thought, “Why would I go to a non-Indian school to learn about Native Americans?”

In my youth I lived in Peru where I worked in a cross-cultural learning environment with the Quechua Indians. Learning ethnobotany from indigenous people was my passion, and I considered myself fortunate to have this learning experience in a foreign country.

Reading The Spooner Advocate, a newspaper from Spooner, WI, I learned about the Lac Courte Oreilles Reservation in Hayward, WI, and the Lac Courte Oreilles Ojibwe Community College. I requested a catalog from the registrar, learned that the college offered plant studies including ethnobotany, and began to ponder the possibility of moving to Wisconsin to attend a tribal college.

It takes time, funds, and patience for a dream to unfold. Being a flea market hound, I started recycling old items and selling them on eBay in 1999. Gaining confidence from this venture, I started an on-line company that sold herbal products and teas. Selling in cyberspace gave me the option of moving the business to Wisconsin.

It may not have been a great money earner, but I could show my husband that I was serious about the move because I was trying to come up with a workable economic solution to empower my dream.

A major obstacle was that I was 53 years old at the time and didn’t drive. Due to childhood trauma of repeatedly riding in a car with a drunken parent, I suffered with a fear of driving, and doubted I could ever learn. My husband patiently taught me, and I gained confidence and eventually overcame my fear of driving. Fear and doubt are two horsemen that can kill a dream.

When my stepmother-in-law, Dot, suffered a heart attack in 2000 and was living alone in Minong, WI, my husband gave serious thought to my relocating to Wisconsin. I discovered that trust in the Creator removed the spirit-killer called worry. Feeling a sense of guilt about leaving my home and temporarily my husband on the East Coast, I told my husband how I felt; however, he reassured me that it would be all right. Another mind-killer called guilt was overcome, and I made the move in spite of it.

The actual drive across country, 990 miles in 6 days on back roads, was my training ground for learning to drive in snow. My husband led the two vans across the country by walkie-talkie during a blizzard in December 2000. Steadily the storm worsened, and I drove into raging whiteouts and couldn’t even see the road ahead. Ohio and Indiana eventually closed down their highways because snowdrifts covered the roads.

Driving through this stressful and challenging winterscape, I pondered, “Either it will make me stronger, or the trip will kill me. I am going to die trying to follow my dream.” Even when I couldn’t see the way, I focused on my dream. Believing in this vision enabled me to pass through the training of learning to drive in snow.

I was coming to a tribal college. The Catholic educators from my early childhood through high school drilled into me that I was not “college material.” But the most amazing thing happened at Lac Courte Oreilles Ojibwe Community College: I learned that I could both learn and thrive in this nurturing environment.

As an elder student, once taught that I was not college material, I now have a 4.0 GPA.  Lac Courte Oreilles Ojibwe Community College has the finest professors and caring administrative staff anywhere, and I absolutely love going to school here.

The four horsemen of mind death are fear, doubt, worry, and guilt, and I am a living testimony of overcoming these dream killers. I learned to trust, listen to my heart, and follow my dreams. A way is always provided when one listens to Inner Voice and follows where it leads. I am grateful that I followed my dream to Lac Courte Oreilles Ojibwe Community College where I have the honor of learning from the Ojibwe people.

Mary Ellen Ryall grew up in Saratoga Springs, NY, and is 59 years old. In 1999, she founded Happy Tonics, an on-line company. After moving to Wisconsin, Mary Ellen graduated in 2003 from Lac Courte Oreilles Ojibwa Community College with certification as a food safety educator from the Woodlands Wisdom Nutrition Project.

A master gardener and herbalist, she gathers and dries herbs for home remedies and teas and wild foods for the table. Her herbal gardens are prolific, and she scatters wild flower and herb seeds in abandoned, logged, and burned-out land sites near her village. The plants can flourish in beauty and also give sustenance to birds and animals. Happy Tonics’ mission is to promote biodiversity and educate about the dangers of genetically engineered crops.

Here comes censorship if we don’t protest

The momentum behind the anti-SOPA movement has been slow to build, but we’re finally at a saturation point. Wikipedia, BoingBoing, WordPress, TwitPic: they’ll all be dark on January 18th. An anti-SOPA rally has been planned for tomorrow afternoon in New York. The list of companies supporting SOPA is long but shrinking, thanks in no small part to the emails and phone calls they’ve received in the last few months.

So keep calling. Keep emailing. Most of all, keep making it known that the internet was built on the same principles of freedom that this country was. It should be afforded to the same rights.

I am standing up to protect my rights to use the Internet in the way it was created in the areas of FREE SPEECH. The Internet was given to the people as a free tool of communicating with one another around the world creating the GLOBAL VILLAGE. It grows organically and is the virtual fabric of innovation, creation, writing, publishing and unleasing the power of unseen rewards. For example I wouldn’t have become a published author without the Internet. I don’t believe I would have graduated from college either if it were not for my ability to research through the Internet.

We will not go quietly into the night. Thank you WordPress, Wikipedia, and other large servers who are standing with the people on this important issue.