The End of a Dry Summer

It’s been a summer of nothing: No Blog posts. No writing. No artwork. Little photography. Little cooking. Little rain. Little human contact. The garden did poorly. The weeds are wilting. Nothing is in focus. Yet at the end of the evening I am drawn out into the dim splendor of the waning daylight and the waxing moon. All is bathed in mysterious light. I instinctively grab the camera and wander through an enchanted landscape singing praise in my heart.

Will you walk with me through my messy yard as I resume my journey down a moonlit path?

A giant ragweed silhouetted against the evening sky. This photo sums up my life for the past few months. Nothing has been in focus. Everything is weedy and wilting. Yet reality has more depth and beauty than attempts to capture it might imply. In person the sky is stunningly beautiful; the photo only hints at the reality. The ragweed, though wilted is tall and making its seeds. It provides me with inspiration! (… as long as I overlook the fact that I don’t want it to produce seeds.)
Lamb’s ears always find a way to grow. In this light, even the tomato cages I never got put up and an old broken rake look interesting.
I’d never see the beauty of my sleeping hibiscus if I never took a shot in the dark.
Though the moon wears a veil of clouds and only a crescent shines, the whole moon is there. You can see it if you look carefully enough.

The moon is now in the first quarter. The night is a little brighter than it was the night I took the photos, but there has been no rain.

It has been a rough year for all of us. Yet there is always hope.

Take a little time today to look at the good that is there.

Peace be with you.

How to Savor Nature Through Art

One of the best ways I have found to train myself to observe nature is to make a chronical of what I see through writing, photograph, and art. Winter is a good time to practice on houseplants, pets, and whatever you see out of your window. You may gravitate more to writing or visual arts. The nice thing about writing is you can use it to develop your all your senses. I gravitate to writing but enjoy visual arts as well.

I did a study of an orchid through writing, photography, and watercolor. I will use it as an example of how I observe nature through art.

Write about it.

Your writing can be practical or creative. A garden or nature journal is a good way to keep a record of what is or isn’t working for you. A poem is a good way to observe the color, form, and the emotions evoked.

If you go for creative writing, don’t get hung up on form. You don’t have to turn it in to your English teacher. I invite you to post what you write in the comments, but I promise I won’t grade it unless you ask me to.

What are some descriptive words you can use? Can you think of a metaphor? What are some poetic devices you can use?

Here is my orchid poem:

Winged flower flying
Glides over green
On slender stalk.

Roots reaching:
Skyward, Downward

Dance of delight.

My poem doesn’t follow any set structure. I made use of alliteration, metaphor, parallel structure of opposites, and short staccato lines. I didn’t try to fit it into any poetic mold, other than I wanted the lines short. The point was the orchid, not the poem.

The poem and my favorite of the photos with a little help from Photoshop. Unless you want to add a poem to your image, you can get beautiful photos with your phone without any photo editing.

Photograph It

You might not have a camera, but you probably have a phone. Most phones today have good cameras. I developed a love of photography playing with the camera on my phone. I have an expensive camera now, but my phone started me on that path.

Pick a subject for your study or just go outside and look for interesting subjects. If your subject is a houseplant, take pictures in different light and with different backgrounds. Arrange it with other objects. (If your subject is a cat, watch for the way it arranges itself with other objects.) Try different angles. Lie on the floor. Set the plant on the floor. Try different things till you come up with something you really like.

Don’t worry if most of your pictures aren’t that great. I took 34 pictures of the orchid and only liked about 5. The point was the orchid, not the photography.

Draw It or Paint It

I had an amazing art teacher in high school who taught us, among other things, that if you can see, you can draw. The biggest part of learning how to draw is learning how to see. And I believe she was correct. Seeing teaches you to draw and drawing teaches you to see. When you practice drawing you will be better both at the seeing and the drawing.

One way to warm yourself up to really seeing an object is to do a blind contour drawing. Look at the object and draw the outline without looking at your paper. Seriously. No peeking allowed. Don’t expect a masterpiece, but you might be pleasantly surprised. I often find the results strangely appealing. The best thing about the exercise is it gets you to focus on seeing rather than on producing a product.

Beautiful isn’t it? Contour drawings also cure you of the idea that every time you put a pencil to the paper you need to produce something awesome.

Now choose a medium and create your work of art. Water color is my favorite medium, so that’s what I did. If you don’t hoard art supplies like I do, just use what you have. Use a pen and printer paper if that’s all you have. Just enjoy.

It doesn’t need to be a masterpiece. I actually like my photo of the painting better than the painting itself.

Your Turn

Pick and activity. Give yourself at least 15 minutes to observe and create.

What did you do? Were you happy with the results?