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Art brightens up patients' final days

As a hospice nurse, Mary Landberg began to notice that too many people die looking at bare walls. She decided to get her husband, nature photographer Mark Lunn, to do something about it.

Lunn created a poster of nine colorful photos, most of them flowers, that he'd shot around the valley, along with a wide shot of Ashland's Grizzly Peak basking in summer sun.

As she got a mural tacked above her bed at Linda Vista Care Center in Ashland, resident Pat Loeffler, 78, smiled at the shot of a bee gathering pollen on a lovely purple blossom at North Mountain Park.

"Hospice people don't want to look at a blank wall," says Lunn. "Caregivers don't either. They want a window on summer, a place full of life that can be refreshing."

Calling it the Joy Boy Project, Lunn and Landberg are marketing the posters via Indiegogo, asking $35 for two — one for the buyer and one to be donated to a hospice center or patient.

Joy Boy is Lunn's childhood nickname, given to him by his mother because of the pleasure he got fishing and netting butterflies in the wilds of his native Massachusetts.

"Nature or even pictures of nature are soothing, healing and lift depression," says Lunn. "A photo retains the beauty of that moment when the dragonfly was on the flower and you could see the detail of its eyes."

Lunn, a chocolatier in Ashland, notes he takes his camera with him everywhere he goes, especially seeking shots on the many hiking trails in the south Bear Creek Valley.

Landberg is creator of Photography for the Uninhibited and takes photos of the hands of hospice patients as keepsakes for the family.

"To the bedbound, blank walls can be boring, fatiguing and depressing. Even looking at a photograph of a beautiful butterfly can be as refreshing as a walk in the garden," says Lunn on a YouTube linking from Indiegogo. "I hope this colorful collage provides visual stimulation, calms stress and anxiety and evokes fond memories of connecting with the Earth and nature."

The posters, says Linda Vista Administrator David Bence, are important for hospice patients who can no longer join the nature jaunts with other patients.

"It's a great way to bring what's out there, in here," he says.

Bare walls are usually an oversight, says Landberg, because staff and caretakers are focused on the health needs, food and medicines of patients and can forget about aesthetics.

The posters are for sale at Ashland's Northwest Nature Shop and Treasure Chest Trading Post, as well as online. Delivery will be in January. You also can donate them in volume, 25 for $500.

"It's such a deep honor for me," says Lunn, "that these images are the last thing they see."

John Darling is a freelance writer living in Ashland. Email him at jdarling@jeffnet.org.

Mary Landberg and Mark Lunn surprise Linda Vista Retirement resident 78-year-old Pat Loeffler with one of Lunn’s nature posters. Mail Tribune / Bob Pennell - Bob Pennell