Monday, April 13, 2009


"Can I watch?"

"I have paints too! You can use mine if you want."

Two young neighbors, Emilio and Lukas, joined me at the picnic table as I painted trees this afternoon. I declined their generous offer to use their psychedelic-colored paints, but we chatted about tree shapes and nature journaling while we painted.

Bare branches swayed gracefully in the light breeze, while the sun highlighted twigs and cast shadows on the trunk of the Horse Chestnut. The Black Locust was black and still, branches silhouetted darkly against the blue sky. It always has an eerie, gnarly look, unlike the inviting, life-filled branches of the Horse Chestnut.

I know there's something living in the Locust tree-- the dogs sniff around the base with great interest, but I suspect it's nocturnal, since I rarely even see a squirrel in it. Jonathan once discovered a flying squirrel nest in it, but that was years ago.

The Horse Chestnut is a highway and home to many bird species and squirrels. Right outside my studio window, it brings nature to my side with abundance and constant variety. Right now its buds are swelling larger by the day, preparing to burst into bloom in a couple of weeks.

Here's the squirrel who comes via the Horse Chestnut to my feeder. I did this quick sketch of him with my paper on the windowsill and the squirrel right on the other side of the glass, stopping often to watch me paint him.

As I rinsed my brushes, third-grade Emilio showed me the yellow pollen-laden stamens he had carefully painted on a flower and explained that he hadn't painted the ovary and ovules this time. First-grader Lukas smiled shyly but proudly as he showed me his brilliant tree with orange trunk and green crown. Then they headed home, calling over their shoulders that they would come back to paint with me again after school tomorrow. It was a good plein air painting session.

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Sick Day

I have a bad cold and a fever today and haven't been able to get motivated to do much of anything. I've done some dog training, a little reading, and some writing, but haven't felt like my brain is working at peak performance, or anywhere near peak. I spent much of the morning in my rocking chair with Silver purring in my lap-- delightful and soothing.

While sitting there sipping tea, I also sketched whoever stopped by the bird feeders, as well as Silver lying in my lap. Sketching calms me, focuses me, and helps me step more fully into the present moment. In addition, I end up with a record of what I saw on a given date, and I often refer back to previous years' entries to compare with the current season.

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