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Where Is Your Happy Place on the Pascagoula?

To me, it is fascinating when a piece of art inspires an immediate gasp of “Wow”, from anyone that sees it. An added bonus is how the gasp is followed by “I know that place!” or “That is so beautiful!” As it turns out, that is often the reaction to watercolors painted by my friend Ruth Kimbrough. And I want to hear about your reaction as well.

I write this piece about one of Ruth’s paintings of a river scene as a tribute to her talent as an artist, but equally for her knack for inspiring the “gasp” in so many. Clearly, a person’s appreciation of art is personal, and I believe tied to experiences. When I looked at Ruth’s river scene, I knew exactly where that scene is – one of my special places on the Pascagoula River.

This story began with a request to Ruth to obtain a watercolor of the Pascagoula River that could be a centerpiece of an award for a local environmental organization. What a better way to recognize people for good conservation than to base an award on a quality piece of art, especially from a local artist, inspired by the very place where we work. The goal was to use prints of that artwork to frame and present to awardees, to remind them of the place they love.

Ruth set about to produce a unique piece, based on a photograph she had taken somewhere on “our” river. I was certain that the outcome would be fantastic as always, but of course, my “gasp” was audible. I am, … well … unashamedly biased when it comes to Ruth’s art. But I digress! As the copy of the original art was shared with the award committee, the gasps and unsolicited proclamations about what scene it was poured forth, like a river.

Everyone had a definite answer, of a different place, based on the same scene, so beautifully expressed on a piece of canvas. I am the luckiest of them all, as Ruth gifted me the original, that has found a prominent place on Mary and my wall, where it resides with many other originals and prints of other great local artists. The two recipients of the inaugural Pascagoula River Basin Ambassador Awards have also found prominent homes for their prints. See the recent story at

Recognizing Ambassadors of Our Pascagoula River

For me, this story does not end here. Just as I and my friends recognized our special place on our river in Ruth’s painting, I invite you to do the same. Tell me where this place is for you. I may know it, or not, but that is not as important for me as knowing that so many others value the river for what it is – a natural treasure that we should all promote and protect. Our treasure of a river had the same impact on a budding artist from Belgium who in turn inspired her to celebrate the experience through her art class back home

But all you have to do is gasp and call out your special place. No pressure!

Hope to see you in our great outdoors!


Written by Mark W. LaSalle, Ph.D.

Mark is a naturalist and wetland ecologist, providing expertise on wetlands, water quality and environmental impacts of humans. He has also developed and conducted a number of environmental education programs and workshops for youth, teachers, realtors, and the general public on a variety of subjects including wetlands, natural history, and environmental landscaping. Mark is a graduate of the University of Southwestern Louisiana (B.S. and M.S. degrees) and Mississippi State University (Ph.D.). Mark is the recipient of the Chevron Conservation Award, the Mississippi Wildlife Federation Conservation Educator Award, the Gulf Guardian Award, and the Boy Scouts of America Silver Beaver Award.


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