On the Trail at Crater Lake OR, 6.97

Welcome to the outdoor world! Bring your sketchbook, camera, and notebook. Let’s take a walk in the neighborhood or browse along a trail. This is not a footrace, it’s taking a good look and then a second look at what makes up the natural world.

What do you see? What catches your eye? The grand vista? The forest? The meadow grasses waving in the wind? Small plants along the path? Jot it down. There’s poetry to be found. Click the camera. Sketch a little—no rules here—it can be scribbly; just get the information down. I started with small plants. Who knew there is a pattern to growth? Opposite or alternate leaves? Or growing around the stem in a whorl? I learned as I went along.

Take time to inhale fresh air, stir up a bit of soil, skip a rock across the lake—these are basics of life that feed the soul. Puddles, pebbles, odd leaves, creepy-crawlers, I have to bend down and say hello. Each one has a history, each one has a job to do, each one helps to keep us alive. That’s the amazing part of this whole natural complex: every plant and animal is needed to make this work. Plant communities are life communities; they set the stage and provide food for animal networks. Together, plants and animals give us air to breathe, food to eat, medicine, materials for shelter, clothing, and more. We the people are part of this natural life community; along with everything else we have a place and a role. Yes, we are consumers, but we are also producers and protectors of our surrounding community.

To be a good neighbor is to understand nature’s ways. Come! Engage with the natural world. Explore the wonders and the mysteries right at hand. Cherish the wonder of life, discover the hidden wholeness, be inspired and refreshed by the beauty. May you grasp the importance of each living partner—each plant and animal—in the ongoing rhythms and patterns of the planet’s dynamic systems. May you glimpse your place in the natural scheme of things. In humbling ways, we play a miniscule but important part in the cosmic design of the universe.

Seeing, touching, listening, smelling, noticing everything is to be fully alive in God’s beautiful creation. I discovered the rhythms of movement—a breeze ripples through grass; water ripples down the stream. Even clouds show ripple patterns in undulatus formation (G. Pretor-Pinney,  The Cloud Collector’s Handbook, Chronicle Books, p. 42). Be attentive; awareness grows. The more you look, the more you see. The more you listen, the more you hear. The amazing natural world is full of surprises, delights, interesting and intriguing forms, animal behaviors, patterns, complexities, connections. We are not alone: “. . . invisible webs sustain us.” (Kirk, Listen to the Land, unpublished)

Come along. Let’s take another look.


Did you find your old sketchbook? No drawing pencil? You can do a lot with a No. 2 pencil.  Don’t forget a good eraser. Or be bold, use a pen. Mistakes can become a scribbly tree or ???


In The Road to Beaver Park, Painting, Perception, and Pilgrimage, (Resource Pub., 2016)  Janice E. Kirk sketches throughout the Southwest. Lots of tips and techniques for the amateur outdoor artist, along with nature notes and travelogue. Enjoy the journey!               http://paperbacksandpieces.com

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