#naturejournal

Autumnal Equinox

pen and watercolor in Etchr w/c sketchbook

Years ago a garden master taught me to appreciate the spring and autumn equinoxes for their way of marking the changing of seasons by giving us a day of paradoxes. Warm and cool, breezy and calm, blooming flowers and dried up husks. By tuning in and noticing our garden on the equinox we begin to get it that summer is over and feel a sense of nostalgia about it while getting excited about what comes next.

This year I spent a good part of the day in the garden, and especially in the vegetable garden, which is a riot of vegetable and flower plants in all stages of growth and home to an impressive population of bugs and insects. The air was warm/cool enough to sit in the sun/light-clouds for hours and watch all the activity. Coming fresh from the Wild Wonder Conference I was ready and armed with ways to put down as much as possible of the drama, both plant and creature, as well as to watch my most curious human mind!

As I was talking to the kale, imploring it to be less bitter so that I can perhaps like it a bit more this fall, I realized that it might have some thoughts to give back. . . which led to adding the showy zinnia and sunflower that towered over it and getting all the attention. As it told me how it feels I realized that I had been overlooking it and unfairly giving more interest to the flowers.

And then the cabbage whites were flitting everywhere in the garden, and I noticed that they didn’t overlook, but landed on the the kale (though I wonder what they were doing there for that split second when I tried to sketch one). As I finished my nature journal page, I was very pleased with myself for having gotten my own garden story down. Can you think what yours might be?

And I couldn’t wait to come back the next day and find another story!

And so i did. It was not hard to pick the subject. After all I’ve been quite perplexed about the strange shapes of my carrots, which remind me of those weird characters in Harry Potter books. . .which led to a fun few minutes refreshing my Hogwarts studies!

And this morning I decided to try pulling up some more carrots. Along with the forked ones I found some big fat 4-5 inch long fat beauties, along with all the rest shown here. Honestly is there anything more aesthetically and gastronomically and emotionally satisfying than garden successes?! (of course there is! but this was mine today.)

My Friend Flicker

Not the horse. (That was My Friend Flicka.) My friend Flicker arrived at the bird feeder station outside our dining room window when I got back from California. He was attacking the suet with savage intensity. But each time I snuck up to the window to take a picture surreptitiously, he bolted.

Meanwhile there was this new random sound coming from somewhere in the house that sounded like a metallic drilling. Loud! Bob noticed the same sound coming from the neighbor’s roof. It was Mr. Flicker playing woodpecker on some metal flashing. Go figure.

watercolor, white gouache in beige toned nature sketchbook

I thought at first it was a Sapsucker, but one of my new birdwatching friends was adamant that Sapsuckers only go for the insects in the sap of the tree and would not go for suet. Flicker’s a big flashy bird with a polk dotted chest and black dickie, and when it flies you can see the bright orange underside of its wings!

I’m a sucker for birds these days, though I couldn’t quite explain why I get so excited to see a new species. And yesterday I spent an hour practicing very quick-capture sketches of birds with the engaging John Muir Laws (online) in preparation for actually sketching them live and in motion. His steps 1-2-3 are supposed to make that possible. We’ll see!

Meanwhile there are other signs of spring of course. Like orchid frogs!

You might think I applied some kind of photo filter on my phone when I took this picture. I was walking across the lawn and saw something move.  This little guy measured about two inches long and was a master of camouflage. An hour later he’d changed colors to match the ground cover where he’s moved.

I would attempt to sketch him into my nature journal, but would I be able to even come close to those colors?! I was immediately catapulted into memories of the years I spent with two little boys, hunting tadpoles, frogs, toads, butterflies and more. So I borrowed my 2+ year old friend Ellis across the street to do some frog watching and hopping.

Kettle View Park in the Rain

I waited too long to get out for a walk a couple days ago and by the time I was out the door an icy rain was just getting cranked up. I knew this day would come to test my determination. So I went back in, donned the rain pants I’d purchased for just such an occasion, and drove to a new (to me) park about a mile and a half from my house. The midday sky was dark and the park abandoned by all but a dedicated dog walker who looked miserable.

There wasn’t much to this suburban park and the puddles on the loop were getting deep. But there was a narrow muddy trail into the woods that looked more interesting. I saw chairs through the brambles and thought “homeless encampment” but saw no humans and was curious.

The scene looked more like a secret spot where three musician friends might come to jam on a summer night. It opened under the leaden sky, and bordered on one of those pond-like depressions in the earth one sees everywhere here in the rainy season, where birds flock and hold their conventions in the frigid water.

bamboo pen and ink, watercolor in 9 X 12″ Canson Mix Media sketchbook

Home from my walk, I dried off and got a hot cup of tea in hand. . .and became totally absorbed in sketching the scene.

This morning the rain had turned to sleet when I went out to stock up on food for the week. Our son Ben arrives tomorrow, and we haven’t seen him in two years!

There’s an urgency to paint after being out in this weather, and a feeling of snuggling up with pens and paints, and no beautiful weather to lure me away! The silver lining of all these clouds. And a white Christmas is seeming more likely every day.