I mention my deficiency in drawing to introduce the idea of drawing the natural world. It had never occurred to me until a few years ago why anyone would want to draw something in nature. I learned to draw flower petals when I was in the first grade and that was enough for me. When using field guides, I usually prefer to use ones with photographs, although as I get older, I am finding that I appreciate the value drawings of flora and fauna offer. I always understood the purpose of nature journaling as a way to remember what plants look like and what flora and fauna are seen at certain times of the year. This view of the usefulness of such a craft did little to entice me as I have never had trouble remembering plants. It is unfortunate for those that go hiking with me that I not only remember all of the plants that I have ever learned, but I can tell when I first saw them, and how I first identified them or who taught them to me. I say unfortunate because I have been known to launch into an unsolicited anecdotal story when I see plants that I especially like. I didn’t know that not all people aparently possess this ability until I noticed my husband forgetting plants that I know he was able to identify before and my children not remembering plants that I had taught them in seasons past.
The true value of nature journaling, however, has slowly seated itself in my mind. Recognizing the details of how plants change over time and being able to point out certain details to confirm identification for others is very important. When people ask me how I know for certain the id of a plant, I am not usually able to point to certain characteristics, I just know. I can see the value of taking time to observe the details. I decided to sit and do just that this week. I drew mint, horsetail, and jewelweed. I was surprised and excited at the questions that arose as I observed closely to include all of the details. Some of the questions that I wondered about are which plants have alternate, opposite, or whorled leaves? How many leaves does each section of horsetail have and is the number consistent all the way up? I tried to draw exactly what I was seeing with little success. It occurred to me that I could still try to include details and label what I was drawing for future reference. I am going to try nature journaling with my own children. I am interested as much in what they will draw as what they will have to say about the process.
This week more dragonflies have emerged and I noticed damselflies for this time this season. I have had adults tell me that they are terrified of dragonflies and I find that often it is because when they were children adults told them stories, such as if you say something mean a dragonfly will sew up your mouth with its “tail”. Or that the “tail” was a stinger. I have always told people that dragonflies don’t bite. I believed it until I tried to rescue one from the window in our garage and upon catching it it continued to bite me until I released it outside. The bite didn’t hurt, it was more of a pressured pinch but it was a little startling. This week the apple blossoms did indeed expire from the trees. The striking puff of white that graced the far end of the pond is now green and other than the pleasing distinct shape of the apple tree, short in stature and wide at the top apple trees always seem round and dwarfed, it no longer stands out as the green blends with the grass and surrounding trees. At the beginning of the week, I noticed what looked like small white balls in clusters all over the branch of the ash tree that hangs out over the trail. I knew that they would be flowers. By the end of the week they had blossomed into small, feathery-white clusters and their malodor filled the air as we walked by. Ash leaves don’t smell sweet. I can’t describe the smell. It isn’t horrible but it is not something you would subject yourself to a second time by getting your nose too close. As fall nears the blossoms will turn into bright orange berries, hanging en mass in beautiful contrast to the backdrop of green. The baby crows have been cawing and at this point, the leaves are too thick to be able to see the nest in any detail. It is exciting to be standing near though and see and hear the parents land to the uproarious cries of their young. We have also noticed the grackle flying out and returning often with worms in her mouth. She is obviously feeding something be it her young or perhaps a cowbird. My husband pointed out that she ascends to her nest like she is climbing a spiral staircase. She lands on the branches below her nest and hops up and around the tree to her roost. I wonder if she does this to try to keep her actual nest site a secret? The nest can’t be seen at all from the ground and although I have listened often I have not heard any peeping. I am thinking that might change as the babies grow this week.