Nature Paintings & Poetry


Painting by Carla Bollinger, Sierra Club member



       Poem by Carla Laureen Bollinger


Downpour for days, moisture

seeps deep through roots.

Mist and fog spread like butter

cradled in valleys and up hillsides.

Sun splits the veil of dawn –

Exposing leaves dripped in frost.


Soon daylight grows long,

dry wind whips across meadow.

Oaks’ offspring fall from curlicue

branches, a thunderous descent

in woodlands for squirrels

to gather and store for sparse times.


Humans rest under dappled light,

shade cools the brow –

stories old and new are shared

as Jay squawks and eagle builds nest.


After all chores are done,

Earth’s pavilion is moon lit –

Oak trees in shimmering petticoats

waltz along the ridge.



River in the Sierras

River in the Sierras -- photo by Gayle Dufour



     Poem by Virginia Hutchinson


Night swallowed stonehill.

She traveled to the valley,

and black water river.


Currents ran deep, still,

and as if magnetized,

pulled her into its body.

The water surging, closed

around her, swirling

in a black hole falls,

until white mist

like old hands from beyond

the other shore, touched her.


Then she breathed again,

as morning came back

and awakened her.

She felt new dawn comforting,

smelled the soft grass’ newness,

tasted air, moist on her tongue,

saw the monarchs hover, weightless,

as daybreak cleared in its own way.



Boney Mountain

Boney Mountain, Painting by Carla Bollinger



     Poem by Virginia B. Anderson




Is not The Mountain

full of mystery as it

whispers into dawn?


Its dark breath full of voices?

The languages it knows?


The way it never tells

the rabbit of the fox?

Nor the fox of the rabbit?


Watch how it sheds its night shirts

one by one!


Have you ever seen anything

as sensuous as this mountain softening into light?


Is it not the inside

of the outside of the world?



"Scenes in the Santa Susanas" -- painting by Carla Bollinger



     Poem by Erica Stux


Craggy sandstone cliffs,

cleaved by cracks,

corroded by rain,

contoured by wind,

overlook the valley,

where broken blocks

lie scattered, like

giant puzzle pieces.


"Part of Garden of the Gods in the San Fernando Valley" -- Photo by Carla Bollinger



Painting by Carla Laureen Bollinger


Legend of Red-tailed Hawk

     Poem by Carla Bollinger
Inspired by Dennis Garcia, Chumash Storyteller


Shadow covered Earth for many seasons.

Animals grew silent and food became scarce.

Chumash warriors,

tribal women and men,

climbed to the tallest mountain --

called upon Sun God

to chase away dark spirits.


Small warrior followed others --

used his wings to split the clouds

until sunlight reappeared.

Sun shone on Hawk

shared his fire,

giving him the gift of a red tail.

Hawk's tail feather tips

blackened by sun's flames



Fall Flame

Painting by Carla Bollinger



     Poem by Virginia Hutchinson


Such grace thru’ cherry blossoms

swirls before the sunset fades


Monarchs flutter and twirl the air

dance pirouettes and leaps


Images reflect and ripple

upon the Tidal Basin


Petals join the ballet fall and spin

ignite the twilight

Then slowly descend

to rest on a pink floor


The dancers glide on wisp

of fading light


I stand and watch awhile

as the troupe surrenders

to the wrath

of angry wind.



Phlox close up

"Purple Profusion" -- photo by Henry Bollinger



     Poem by Carla Laureen Bollinger


Tears can only flow so long;

even rocks shatter after

furies of fate unleash --

lines deepen expose black slag

elongate into complete darkness.


Sleep comes in damaged dreams --

awaken to see orange brush strokes

on rocks scattered down mountain

sides' chaotic rubble


Amongst these stones, gardens grow,

mallow, buckwheat, wild flowers

shoot through their split souls.


I yield to a symphony of voices --

Come sit, tell us your stories

say the rocks,


until you can talk no more.



Cartoon by Willis Simms


Woodlands Lost


In the magic woodlands

one of our voices echoed

"Here I come ready or not."

My brothers, other kids,

scattered, hid.  Our bodies

straight shoulder to tree trunk

or flat down behind a

lightning struck tree --

cheeks pressed against

buttery grass and leaves.

Under oaks, birch,

and maples' canopy

found hiding, chased,

our laughter swooshed

through dappled light.


Then they came.  The men.

I could hear their buzz saws

early morning and throughout

each day.  Days and days of

saws starting up, blasting,

mens' voices shouting,

trees down and afterwards

tree bodies hauled away.



Chatsworth Nature Preserve

"Chatsworth Nature Preserve Ecology Pond" -- Painting by Carla Bollinger


Colorful History of Chatsworth Nature Preserve – Reservoir

     By Carla Bollinger, Chatsworth Nature Preserve Coalition Delegate

The Chatsworth Nature Preserve (CNP) and the surrounding area was once the home of Native Americans.  The CNP and surrounding Simi Hills-Santa Susana Mountain foothills was also a convergence site for the Fernandiño, Gabrieleño and Ventureño Chumash.  These Native Americans gathered together for ceremonies, trading, and inter-marriages.  This was a time when the grizzly bears, deer, cougars, and many other wildlife were in abundance.  The emergence of Europeans, Spaniards, and the early Mission Period (1769-1833), changed the landscape forever.  Cattle, sheepherding, horse ranching, farming, all domestic activity altered the native grasses. Wildlife was hunted, eventually causing the dispersal or in the case of the grizzly bear, extinction, and all other wildlife, too, became scarce.

After the San Fernando Mission and all California missions became secularized (1834-1836), land parcels, Rancheros, were either sold or given to private citizens by Governor Pio Pico.  The largest land grant in California, the Ex-Mission San Fernando land plat, 116,858 acres encompassed most of the San Fernando Valley.  Cattle ranching, sheepherding, horse ranches and in the late 19th century, dry farming wheat and barley became the San Fernando Valley industries which included the Chatsworth Nature Preserve-Reservoir.

William Mulholland brought water to San Fernando Valley-Los Angeles and for better or worse, this changed an all agricultural-ranching landscape to a growing residential-industrial, and movie—TV filming community.  The Chatsworth Reservoir, built and put into operation in 1919, the 19th , and last built to support the Owens Valley-Los Angeles Aqueduct System, supplied the SFV agricultural industry with water.  Although planned for expansion in 1969, after the 1971 Sylmar Earthquake, engineers felt the reservoir was unsafe for expansion or continued use. The reservoir was retired.

Activist, Jan Hinkston, founder of the Santa Susana Mountain Park Association (SSMPA), Jean Searle of the Sierra Club, and other environmentalists launched a campaign to save open space/parkland in the northwest part of the San Fernando Valley, targeting first the Chatsworth Reservoir. Jan was driven to her activism by seeing hundreds of oak trees on the north end of the Chatsworth Reservoir cut down for residential development.  In Hinkston’s words: “One morning I drove by the Chatsworth Reservoir on my way to school, and was appalled by the hundreds of ancient oaks laying severed on the ground on the north side along Valley Circle Blvd.  I couldn’t believe such a violent thing could occur in this day and age without warning – for what reason?”

In 1974 the Department of Water and Power (DWP) and California Fish and Game, worked together to create the “Ecology Pond”, reservoir detention basin #2, to support the migratory birds and residential birds, all wildlife.    Led by many environmentalists and Hal Bernson, Councilmember, 12th District, the Chatsworth Reservoir became the Chatsworth Nature Preserve, Ordinance #169723, effective June 12, 1994.  Even with this ordinance in place, the CNP has been threatened with development and has undergone periods of mismanagement as a nature preserve.  Yet, it remains a wildlife refuge at the edge of the Simi Hills.

Many people have wanted to see the CNP be more open to the public.   Some people would like to have hiking trails, horse trails, or bring their dogs inside. This human activity will destroy the natural setting, unique in the Greater LA area, and the habitat for wildlife that live or “visit” there.  For instance, during spring nesting season, birds would not continue to nest in the Ecology Pond marsh if humans, dogs, and horses, were to use the area.

The Ordinance allows for scientific field studies.  The Southwestern Herpetologists, SFV Audubon Society, Sierra Club-Canada Goose Project, and California Native Plant Society, have for years conducted studies, counts, and research in the CNP.  The public is invited to the DWP sponsored CNP Earth Day Open House on April 12.  It’s an opportunity to see this last remnant of early San Fernando Valley in a natural environment before urban sprawl devoured all the land parcels.


Water Marsh

Painting by Carla Bollinger


Birds Nest Poem



Red Wing Blackbird

Painting & writeup by Carla Bollinger

Male Red-Winged Blackbirds

Agelaius phoeniceus

Male red-winged blackbirds are striking in appearance, red shoulder patch, with yellow border. Females are plain brown-streaked.  Habitat: marshes and meadows. Seen in Chatsworth Nature Preserve Ecology Pond marsh on cattails and reeds. Range from southern Alaska to northern Canada to Mexico, coast-to-coast.



Tricolored Blackbird

Painting & writeup by Carla Bollinger

Tricolored Blackbird

Agelaius tricolor  

Male tricolored blackbirds are black with a red shoulder patch, white border. Females are blackish-brown streaked.  Habitat: marshes and grasslands.  Rare species, range: California.  In 70 years population decline is 80% due to loss of habitat. Nest in Chatsworth Nature Preserve.  Last seen 2006. CA Fish & Wildlife: Species of special concern. Priority 1.



Painting by Carla Bollinger

Buckwheat grows abundantly in the Santa Susana/Simi Hills



Bush Monkey Flower

"Santa Susana Bush Monkey Flower" -- Painting by Carla  Bollinger

A perennial with tubular at the base velvet red flowers found growing in rock outcroppings, under oak woodlands, serpentine cliffs, and near seasonal springs in decomposed granite in the Simi Hills-Santa Susana Mountains.  The monkey Flowers bloom in spring from March to June.  There is also a rare integrating form of Monkey Flower with variegated yellow to red flowers.  Monkey flowers attract bees and hummingbirds.  Native Americans used the plants foliage as a soothing poultice for minor burns and skin irritations.



Milk Vetch

"'Milk Vetch" -- Santa Susana/Simi native plant -- Painting by Carla Bollinger



blue and tan

Painting by Carla Bollinger



grey rust

Painting by Carla Bollinger