What a time we’re living in. I hope everyone has at least something in their lives that is constructively supporting them is some fashion. Constructively, because I know there’s a lot of harmful options out there in use. I’m guilty myself. We all need support- now more than ever.
As I was on the Monches Ice Age Trail segment making my way to my Wisconsin DNR trail camera, the forest reminded me that support is required by all organisms. At every given moment, every living thing is in a dance with the other life forms and elements both near it and farther afield.
The trees, birds, and invertebrates are all noticeably responding to diminishing light and temperatures. The sights, sounds and smells of the forest indicate that. Some greens, like the mosses, are still brilliant whereas the trees are breaking down their chlorophyll and absorbing what they can into their cores, revealing those gorgeous yellows and reds that are hidden the rest of the growing season.
I love the pile of hickory nut shell bits on top of the rock. Red, grey, and fox squirrels abound in this area, as do chipmunks. Someone had a feast.
I sat on the bank of the Oconomowoc River for a while, just resting. All three parts: body, mind, and spirit, are frazzled and damaged. However, I also pictured people who I’ve been able to walk outside with over the last few months. Others whom I’ve chatted with online. Others whom I have listened to as they taught in online presentations and lessons.
Eventually, as I looked down into the water, I realized there was a huge mass of fungi sprouting over the water at the base of the tree that was leaning over the river in front of me. It took some maneuvering to get some shots of it. I decided to sketch the scene at my feet.
I used a normal pencil in the field and added color at home this morning. The photos and notes I took in place helped me recall specific textures and colors later. As I sat, I became aware of birds on the river and the duckweed collecting in eddies in front of me, and behind me several chipmunks irritated at both my sitting and another person’s and his dog’s walking presences. Air, water, sunlight, earth all connecting and supporting us.
Earth. Sitting on a rock reminded me that everything I was experiencing was affected by the glaciers that spread down across this area tens of thousands of years ago and retreated about 15,000 years ago. That repeated grinding of ice and material destroyed what existed before and built the foundations of everything today. Time is part of our support system, too.
Looking more closely at the photos I took let me notice the spider webs clinging to the mushrooms. The gill details on the underside of these fruiting bodies have a regimented beauty in themselves. That fungi might be a honey mushroom, which is a parasite of living trees. It’s connected to that tree and offers a refuge for arachnids. The tree offers shade, oxygen, and food to species like us and may itself need fungi to feed its own roots.
An insect had flown down to my book as I drew. Unfortunately, I didn’t realize it had not left by the time I decided to close my book. Its existence will now be memorialized in a macabre way for as long as this book remains in existence.
That’s a sad fact but it relates to a very important point of this entire practice: doing things and documenting how they feel, what we learned, and what questions we might still have as a kind of testament. What I have in this book happened. I was there. It affected me. This past will help explain the me of today and tomorrow.
Two months into this I am growing in my confidence to draw more detailed scenes. I think I’m seeing more things. I notice that I consider opportunities to journal during my days. For example, I just took my cats out for a bit of sunshine and air on the patio and a rogue pumpkin vine caught my eye. Its huge leaves and spiraling tendrils were gorgeous and I imagined drawing them. There are moments everywhere if we look.
I hope readers remember that it doesn’t matter what your pages look like- you do not have to be anything or anyone but yourself. What really matters is taking the time and doing. As in all things, failure is only guaranteed by not trying and the more we reach outward, the stronger we become.
I wish you strength this week. And moments of seeing your network of connections. We all need them.