Thursday, December 10, 2015

Nature Sketching On A Golden Afternoon

I spent a warm, golden afternoon sketching tree fungus and watching a whole family of American anoles frolicking along the length of a fallen beech tree. One particularly bold one who was missing part of its tail I christened "Stumpy".  Very imaginative, I know.  It was such a perfect day,  I captured the moment with a selfie - something I rarely do.  But, I kind of like this one.  It really captures the feeling of the moment - warm, peaceful, and happy.  I discovered so much more than is evident in my sketch.  There is a whole micro ecosystem living on and around that fallen tree.  There is such a story to tell there, and I think I will spend a bit more time trying to capture it.

I am trying hard not to be too critical of my drawing, but I really wish I could learn how to draw the fungus at the right angles - foreshortening in essence.  See how the brackets I've drawn look as if they are perpendicular to the ground? Well, they don't grow that way.  They grow parallel to the ground, but I haven't worked out how to achieve that yet.  I watched a fantastic YouTube video by John Muir Laws on drawing wildflowers in which he addresses the issue of foreshortening, but it just hasn't clicked with me yet.  I will keep trying.

But, the good news is, I have discovered that nature journaling is about a whole lot more than drawing.  It's an active form of meditation, sitting quietly and focusing intently on capturing some small element of the wonders unfolding before my eyes.  I felt so calm, happy, and refreshed and also as if I had been allowed to peek into a secret world.  Even if my drawing doesn't receive any benefit from the practice, my spirit definitely does, and so I am inspired to continue.

Monday, December 7, 2015

A New Creative Journey - Nature Journaling

My very first nature journal page 11/27/15

Nature journals are one of my favorite things, and making one for myself is something I've always wanted to do.  I've collected a few - Edith Holden and Marjolein Bastin are my favorites, and I've admired the work of many others I've seen on the internet, but I never had the courage to try it for myself.  I just didn't think my drawing skills were good enough.  Recently, however,  I purchased the book Create Your Own Artist's Journal by Erin O'Toole because it looked like another beautiful book full of watercolor sketches and nature pages and found myself greatly inspired and encouraged to have a go at it. It's a wonderful book full of practical information and helpful tips.  There's even a short section on how to create your own handmade journal.  It's a perfect book for a beginner like me, because it makes art and nature journaling seem more accessible.  So, I purchased an inexpensive journal and assembled a kit from things I already had on hand and set out on a warm sunny day to sketch something - something easy to start with.  I chose a favorite winter tree - the witch hazel, which blooms here in Alabama throughout the fall and winter.  I wanted to sketch the pair of wood ducks I saw bobbing around in the creek or the little anole who climbed up on my back pack to warm himself in the sun, or the amazing grasshopper who was so perfectly camouflaged that I almost overlooked him, but the witch hazel was willing to stand still, so that's where I began.  I have set some goals for myself and am hoping that with regular practice my drawing and painting skills will improve with time.  Sitting around looking at other people's work and wishing I could draw won't make it happen.  I think it has finally dawned on me that I am the only person who can teach me how to draw.  We learn by doing. Yes? yes.

Sunday, November 15, 2015

The Latest Buzz...tee hee

I have a wonderful friend who keeps bees.  She is one of my oldest and truest friends of more than 20 years.  One of the most generous and loving people I have ever met, I never leave her house without an armload of goodies from her garden or kitchen or both!  It is only a small token of love and friendship, but I think she will like it. Fingers crossed.

I was so happy with the design, I have decided to make another one and will probably list it for sale in my Etsy shop when it's finished. It will likely be slightly different as I am still working out my process as I go along, and I enjoy making each piece unique.

I painted the little bee skep and sunflower with acrylic paint mixed with a textile medium, but I ended up getting a bit carried away with the embroidery - again.  My goal is to paint pictures and embellish them with embroidery, but I seem to always end up covering them up with stitches. sigh. What can I say? I was listening to the Adventures of Sherlock Holmes audiobook and didn't want to stop.  I love me some stitching and a good murder mystery :)

Tuesday, October 27, 2015


So, I've been unplugged for a while.  Been doing some housekeeping both literally and figuratively.  Letting go of a lot of stuff.  De-cluttering the house, changing my diet for the better, changing unhealthy habits, and re-evaluating my life in general.  I read more, spend much less time online, watch very little tv (what's worth watching anyway?) and am exercising a great deal more than I used to.  I have become very conscious of the passing of time and have resolved to spend it more wisely from now on.  Most people do this sort of thing in January, but autumn is always a time of deep renewal for me on so many levels.  After a long, hot Alabama summer which left me feeling tired and depleted, I am revived again.  We have practically lived outdoors the whole month of October, and I think that has a lot to do with my regeneration of health and spirit.  We walk everyday.  We walk for miles, and we have the most wonderful talks. heart to heart talks.  That's what inspired the little pocket pouch.  I needed a bag to carry my phone, house key, and pepper spray, and my workout pants don't have any pockets.  So, I made this little hipster pouch out of a pair of old jeans for the purpose. Other than gardening and homeschool stuff, it's the only creative thing I've done in months.  It felt really good to be making something again. After a long period of feeling 'stuck' creatively, I hope I am moving forward again.  Wish me luck  :)

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

The Gourd Garden

Do you remember the rustic trellis we built back in April?  It is now supporting a crop of gorgeous, green, bottle-shaped gourds and is surrounded by pumpkins, sunflowers, and zinnias.  I have fallen completely in love with the gourds! I love the baby ones that are covered in a soft, downy fuzz.  I love their heart-shaped leaves, delicate curling tendrils, and voluptuous fruits.  I love their emerald green color.  I love them so much, I was inspired to break out the watercolors and have a go at sketching them.

If all goes well and we dry them properly, we will have a bumper crop of gourds to paint and play with in the fall.  My oldest has discovered pyrography and hopes to be able to practice his new hobby on them.  In the meantime, I have commissioned a bunch of garden stakes to get him started, and he seems to be getting the hang of it.

I have my usual case of the mid-summer mullygrubs, so I haven't been doing very much on the creative side.  It happens every year.  My creativity and inspiration always seems to dry up in the heat of summer, but I did very much enjoy playing with the watercolors again.  I'm rusty, and need a lot of practice! So, maybe I will paint more gourds.  I recently discovered the wonderful work of artist-illustrator Holly Ward Bimba which also inspired me to try sketching again.  She is a fellow nature lover, and like me, seems to be fascinated by the small things that often go overlooked by most.  She looks closely and carefully and paints with a crisp, clean, and uncluttered style that I truly admire. Looking at her work makes me want to work harder to improve my skills!

Wednesday, June 10, 2015


Mimosa Vine or Sensitive Briar

Summer is here and we are basking in her beautiful sunlit days and soft, warm nights.  We eat something from the woods or the garden every single day, and sometimes I am overwhelmed with the incredible abundance all around us.  Dewberries warmed by the sun are eaten out of hand on our morning walks.  Wild oxalis with its bright, lemony crunch has found its way into an Asian style noodle bowl.  Gorgeous, ruby red Swiss chard is sautéed with garlic, olive oil, and a squeeze of lemon and is absolutely divine with any grilled meat or fish.  Lettuce and snow peas and herbs of all sorts find their way into a variety of stir fries.  Needless to say, we are eating very well these days! We have had plentiful rainfall which has made the garden and the woods and the meadows flourish with flowers and fruit and all sorts of flying, creeping, and crawling wonders.  I am so happy and so grateful and so blessed I can hardly express it.  So much beauty everywhere, freely given for us to enjoy.  I hope that wherever you are reading this there might be birds singing, bees humming their joyful hymns, flowers dancing in the sunlight and a cool breeze that makes you feel glad to be alive.

I will leave you with another beautiful excerpt from Elizabeth and Her German Garden which sums up my feelings so perfectly, I just couldn't say it better myself.

"It makes one very humble to see one's self surrounded by such a wealth of beauty and perfection anonymously lavished and to think of the infinite meanness of our own grudging charities, and how displeased we are if they are not promptly and properly appreciated.  I do sincerely trust that the benediction that is always awaiting me in my garden may by degrees be more deserved, and that I may grow in grace, and patience, and cheerfulness, just like the happy flowers I so much love."

Love and blessings!

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Great Expectations

Oh, if only you could smell them!! There are not words to express how beautiful, how glorious they are and how extremely happy they make me.  Garden bliss.  Pink peony heaven!  And it is all the better because this is the first year I have had any success with them.

Life is good. These days I paint with flowers and vegetables and my needle is a spade and fork.  The garden is burgeoning. Great expectations indeed! Blueberry pies and pear preserves dance in my head like sugarplums.  A hot buttered biscuit topped with homemade pear preserves is one of the true joys of life!  We are already harvesting lettuce every day, and I'm wishing I had planted more.  Every meal except breakfast is planned around lettuce! And no one is complaining! It's so crisp and yet tender and sweet.......forgive me. I swoon.  I love my garden.  It is more than just a garden.  It is art.  It is refuge.  It is therapy.  It is worship - a spiritual connection with my Creator.  A cooperative work with the ultimate and original Artist.  He who made all things is making a garden with me. An awesome and humbling thought.

Thank you for your very kind and generous comments on my previous post.  I so loved Elizabeth and Her German Garden, I wonder if you know of any similar books you could recommend? I'm looking for some good summer reading.

Wishing you sunshine and flowers!

Friday, May 1, 2015

"The garden is the place I go to for refuge and shelter, not the house.  In the house are duties and annoyances, servants to exhort and admonish, furniture, and meals;  but out there blessings crowd round me at every step -- it is there that I am sorry for the unkindness in me, for those selfish thoughts that are so much worse than they feel; it is there that all my sins and silliness are forgiven, there that I feel protected and at home, and every flower and weed is a friend and every tree a lover.  When I have been vexed I run out to them for comfort, and when I have been angry without just cause, it is there that I find absolution.   Did ever a woman have so many friends?  And always the same, always ready to welcome me and fill me with cheerful thoughts.  Happy children of a common Father, why should I, their own sister, be less content and joyous than they?"

                                                                                            ----Elizabeth and Her German Garden

Another thrifting treasure that practically reached out to me from the dusty shelves at a flea market.  A tiny little book with brittle brown pages so fragile that I have to take care when turning them.  Words spoken by a kindred spirit from the past bring two souls together for a moment in time. Magical.  

I shall have peonies this year!! I'm so happy.  They have been transplanted a couple of times before finally finding a spot where they are happy, and this year they will reward me with the gift of their flowers.  It's childish I know, but like Elizabeth, I too think of my flowers as friends. Friends who never judge me and who are not so easily offended. And other than a good spot where they get the proper amount of sunshine and rain, they ask very little.

We are collecting butterflies!! Such fun. My youngest is very enthusiastic and goes out every day with the homemade butterfly net I made for him and hunts his fluttering prey.  I would feel guilty about it if not for the fact that we have been studying insects and learned that they only live for a few weeks anyway.  Besides, it's in the interest of science! Now we are on the hunt for all sorts of bugs to mount and label and frame.  He is planning his own show on Animal Planet.  The next Steve Irwin - only with butterflies.

And now the sun is up and the birds are singing and the garden is calling to me.  There are beans to be planted and twine to be strung for them to climb on.  Another batch of gourd seeds have been soaked overnight and will be planted out today.  Only 3 of the first batch sprouted, so we will try once more.  And we are keen to grow some pumpkins, so those will also be sown today.  Lots to do! The narrow window of planting time is closing fast for us.  Soon it will be too hot for tiny seedlings to survive, so we must hurry and plant everything we mean to for this year.  

What are you planting in your garden?

Thursday, April 16, 2015

The Riches of Fairies

Every day of spring unfolds a sweeter blessing to behold............

It's been a quiet, peaceful, rainy week.  The woods are gleaming and sweet fragrant with the scent of moss and damp earth.  Baby ferns yawn and stretch and unfurl themselves, and I stroke their soft, fuzzy heads and coo to them just as I would a baby lamb or bunny.  In the garden, we have planted seeds of all sorts - lettuces, spinach, beets, peppers, squash,  and tomatoes.  A trellis has been constructed of felled saplings lashed together with hemp twine.  We are all immensely proud - it was a Sunday afternoon family project that left the boys feeling very "Swiss family Robinson". I see many more rustic garden sculptures in our future :) Gourd seeds have been planted at each corner post and sunflowers and zinnias to surround.  We timed it perfectly.  They have had a week of soft, warm showers to stir them from their sleep.  Fingers crossed we will soon see sprouts!!  and finally, thrift store treasure hunting.  My favorite rainy day activity besides napping.  I really can't believe my luck this time.  It's as if they were sitting there waiting for me to come and get them.  They were even laid out on the same table.  All the Silver Pennies is an anthology of children's poetry first published in 1925.  As you can discern from the title page, most of the poems are related to fairies or the magic enjoyed from growing up with nature as a beloved companion.  This book was written for me! And the other is Pedigree - The Origins of Words from Nature.  Also an unbelievable treasure for me as a nature lover who also happens to be an armchair etymologist.  I don't believe in coincidences.  These books were meant for me, and I look forward to many happy hours spent enjoying their contents.  I literally have a stack of books beside my bed that I am currently reading.  Do you read more than one book at a time? or just one through and then pick up the next?  I adore books and always feel sad when I come to the end of a particularly good one, so I drag them out as long as possible.  Thus the stack of reads in progress. I will leave you with an excerpt from All the Silver Pennies.

The Fairies Have Never a Penny to Spend

The fairies have never a penny to spend,
They haven't a thing put by;
But theirs is the dower of bird and of flower
And theirs are the earth and the sky.
And though you should live in a palace of gold
Or sleep in a dried-up ditch, 
You could never be poor as the fairies are, 
And nay, never as rich.

Since ever and ever the world began
They have danced like a ribbon of flame,
They have sung their song through the centuries long,
And yet it is never the same.
And though you be foolish or though you be wise,
With hair of silver or gold,
You could never be young as the fairies are,
And nay, never as old.

---Rose Fyleman