I expected to feel a swooping, left-my-stomach-behind sort of sensation as we left the ground, but it wasn’t there. We were driving on the runway, and then we were floating like marshmallows to the top of hot cocoa, joining the clouds and leaving the trees far, far below…Read More
This month has been such an exciting one. I started a physical nature journal, in which I record experiences, stories, and illustrations of what I find in the natural world. I want to do something similar here: to share my discoveries each month in picture form. Every entry will be unique, and many of you will have had encounters similar to mine. These moments happened in my backyard, the park, the river. They are an expression of the wonders we share the world with, and a reminder of what conservation and environmental efforts hope to preserve. We are surrounded by the wild. Let’s explore it, marvel at it, learn about it, and protect it.Read More
“The doors to the world of the wild Self are few but precious. If you have a deep scar, that is a door, if you have an old, old story, that is a door. If you love the sky and the water so much you almost cannot bear it, that is a door. If you yearn for a deeper life, a full life, a sane life, that is a door.”
- Clarissa Pinkola Estés, Women Who Run With the Wolves
It all started when I moved to a house with trees.
Well, no, I guess it started when I was a child following my Pa down the rows of his garden. “Take this bag, now, and drop three seeds down deep in every hole I dig. Don’t miss any, and don’t forget to cover ‘em up.” When we were half-way through the rows he stopped, breathing in a narrow, labored way so that it almost sounded like he was whistling. He leaned on the handle of his shovel. The stop was sudden, but I didn’t bump into him. For this rare moment, I was paying attention.
”God, I love them mountains,” he said.
I knew the feeling. I felt it at camp every summer as our troop made the long walk from our site to the barn for breakfast. Down the trail, over the swinging bridge, across the meadow dotted with horses, past the archery course. Everyone was always chattering in their outside voices, but I would stop as often as I was allowed and just see it. I remember it as clear as day.
It was always difficult for me to pay attention to the things I was supposed to, and it still is, but I’ve never found it hard to watch the sky, or a field of tall grass, or a bug making its way across a path. It’s a focus I can feel in my bones. It’s the way I connected with my world, and it was so strong, perhaps, because I was learning so much just by observing it.
So, when we moved into an old farmhouse with giant, beloved trees of many kinds and sizes, the deep-seeded curiosity about my surroundings which had lain dormant for years resurfaced, bit by bit. When we tore down the old dusty curtains, I could see birds in my trees. I began to feed them. More arrived, of different colors. I would see the same ones every day. A nest appeared in my flower basket, and I tracked the chicks from egg to fledgling. I thought I recognized some of the birds and their species, but wasn’t sure. I found that I really wanted to be sure.
Flowers arrived in spring, dotted across the lawn. I looked them up - wild violets. Bluebells, too, and my grandmother knew them by heart. I wished I knew them. She had memorized their voices, what they wanted, how they propagated. Blue flowers lined the roads in early summer, tall and swishy, and it hit me with brute force: the need to know them by name, to get specific and really understand more about the lives surrounding me. My world was teeming with life I hadn’t shared daily space with since childhood. Suddenly, it felt like it was time to pay attention again.
I began to research the things I found. I drew them into a nature journal, keeping records of my findings. With every discovery, every identification, I felt like I connected not only with the plant or animal in front of me, but with a whole body of information spanning centuries. People from ages past have felt the same curiosity I have, and they have tested theories and assigned significance to certain species. I even recognized many of their names from literature. And I knew what it was I had found.
lore (n): a body of traditions and knowledge on a subject or held by a particular group, typically passed from person to person by word of mouth.
This is not a new concept to me. I have been fascinated by folklore in the context of literature for years now. It’s what I focused heavily on in my academic studies, and the connections I’ve drawn between the worlds of art, folk literature, and the natural world have sparked an interest in a specific crossing of fields. I have allowed my curiosity about the natural world to guide me, and I have found myself here, inspired.
And so, a new project begins. I want to tell the stories of my very own garden. I want to highlight the lives I encounter when I walk through the park. I want to learn about the plant life around me, and to share what I learn in an artful way. And I want to give back.
It feels like childhood, imperfect and new. I want to care about this now. I want to pay attention.
I’ll keep you informed.