I've written a bit about the fallen oaks that have traumatized my heart. I know intellectually that their falling literally makes way for new growth, but it is hard to let go of those who stand greatly around us.
So, I decided to honor one of the oaks by making a walking stick from its limb.
Making walking sticks are a resourceful and useful project, which many ages can participate in (as you will see below). I do believe that since we were children we have connection to sticks. There seems to be no greater toy. So, whether we need support while hiking, or a means to dismantle webs while, or just want to hold a great tree in your hand, find a stick and make it your own.
Below is Part One of preparing my walking stick. I want to give the wood some more time to dry before woodburning and finishing it.
First we hiked to where the tree, with two trunks had fallen.
Then, I chose a limb, which Pat cut down and trimmed with a chainsaw.
Back at home, I cleaned off the bark using a carving knife.
All cleaned up! I am letting it dry before sanding and woodburning it.
I enjoy the faces and marks that you discover by stirpping the bark.
Yesterday, Abe deided to make one for Pen. He chose a honeysuckle limb, and Pen made a friendship bracelet for it.
Shinrin-yoku or Forest Bathing is a practice of walking through the forest while engaging all of the senses as a means to sync our systems with nature. It is a form of forest medicine.
In his book “Forest Bathing”, Dr. Qing Li writes, “Shinrin-yoku is like a bridge. By opening our senses, it bridges the gap between us and the natural world. And when we are in harmony with the natural world we can begin to heal. Our nervous system can reset itself, our bodies and minds can go back to how they ought to be.”
I love this idea that we are coming home to ourselves in the woods.
What do you think?
Recently, I was fortunate to meet my Mom’s cousin Patti, and spend time learning about her childhood and her love of the river and living off of the land. Their home on the island was surrounded by shallow waters that offered fish, muskrat, and plenty of good stories remembered well by Patti.
By the time Patti was four, a dam upriver was destroyed, which caused their island to be flooded, house and farm destroyed. The Smith family was forced to move to the mainland, but chose to stay close to the river that fed them so well. They made their home in a small fisherman’s shack, which Patti’s son still owns today.
At age 83, Patti has decided to write her memoirs of growing up there for her grandchildren to know of her life. Despite growing up in poverty, she reports a life well-lived and rich in stories and experiences. She says she wouldn’t trade it for anything, and wishes her grandchildren had some of her skills - like poling a boat, and strength - like climbing a rope to her bedroom loft, and endurance - like surviving cold winters.
Some of her stories tell of her experience going to school in a one room country schoolhouse. Patti gave me permission to share her writing and also gave me permission to illustrate it. So, the following graphic essay is just that. I hope you enjoy it as I do. Patti’s spirit and memory is as crystal clear as the waters of the Fox River from her youth, and I am grateful for her generosity in sharing these stories.
Above is an excerpt from an excerpt from the Fall Issue of Woolgathering. Enjoy!
Learn more about Woolgathering and get your free sample issue here!
Spending time in nature can lead to many discoveries - some physical and others metaphysical. All are awesome.
It also seems the more time we spend outdoors, the better able we are to notice things that are out of place- like a feather dropped or a skull. These things will stick out to us like a sore thumb.
If it is not disruptive to the environment, we can ask the object if it wants to go home with us. You will know if it is right to take it home or if it is best to leave it.
Having a collection of natural objects helps us to learn about them. We can study them closely, handle them, and make comparisons between similar objects.
As you collect, you might want to note the date and location of each item. This information might help to better understand it.
Some objects, like my favorite natural item to collect, sticks, can be useful in other ways. A good stick can add stability to our hike and it is useful to swat away the occasional spiderweb.
Finally you may want to arrange the objects on a shelf, a tray, or fill a jar with them. Give honor to these objects and thank them for being part of your space and for helping you to better understand the world.
The concept of Biophilia originated with the biologist E. O. Wilson. Wilson believed that because we evolved in nature, we are deeply integrated with it, and so have a genetic urgency to connect with nature.
In his book, Forest Bathing, Dr. Qing Li writes with regard to Biophilia, “And this affinity for the natural world is fundamental to our health. Contact with nature as vital to our well-being as regular exercise and a healthy diet . . . and just as our health improves when we are in it, so our health suffers when we are divorced from it.”
What are your thoughts about biophilia? Do you feel divorced from nature?
Fox teaches us about camouflage. When we blend into our surroundings we can become keen observers. This is particularly necessary in nature when we want to observe wildlife without disturbing it, but I also like to blend in at parties. #introvert
This illustration is from the cover of the Fall Issue of Woolgathering.
Are you good at blending into your surroundings?
Learn more about Woolgathering, here.
September went by so quickly! This is my sketchbook drawing for the month!!! It seemed like a real transition month -- holding on to Summer’s heat and humidity.
I did enjoy seeing so many caterpillars!!
Have an Outstanding October
Story quilting has been a beautiful part of my art practice. I find that making these quilts is a beautiful way to integrate my twin loves of storytelling and visual art making!
I prefer to use rough edge applique and big embroidery stitching to make my quilts. I will be teaching these methods and more in an upcoming Story Quilting Workshop at Spring Bird this November 7th and 9th.
Learn About Story Quilts, my process of making them, a little about what to expect at the upcoming workshop!
WATCH VIDEO BELOW:
If you are interested in learning more about November's Story Quilt Workshop here!
Question for Pat from Stephanie: I'm setting up a new office and want to create a bit of an indoor ecosystem with a collection of potted plants. Any recommendations on the best plants what will be happy indoors (in Johannesburg) and give off the best oxygen ratio? I guess the larger question is what is the difference in types of plants and carbon dioxide to oxygen exchange. Is an aloe equivalent to a ficus, for example?
Pat’s Answer: Plants performing photosynthesis absorb carbon dioxide and release oxygen, so indoor plants can increase the amount of oxygen and reduce the amount of carbon dioxide inside a building. The resulting impact on indoor air quality depends on the level of air exchange with the outside - a tightly sealed building would benefit more from the plants than a drafty building.
The rate of plant growth is the main factor determining which plants are better at increasing oxygen levels. Fast-growing plants absorb the most carbon dioxide and release the most oxygen. Also, some plants, including orchids and succulents, continue to release oxygen at night, not just during daylight.
The U.S. Lung Institute lists the following as the Top 5 houseplants for increasing oxygen indoors:
Indoor plants also raise humidity levels inside buildings, which helps reduce respiratory and skin problems caused by dry air often found in offices. People with plants in their offices are more energized and able to focus and feel less stressed.
Indoor plants, when in a well-sealed building, also help clean the air by soaking up volatile organic compounds (VOCs). Based primarily on NASA research, the following table lists the top 10 house plants for air purifying.
For more information, see:
Claudio L. Planting Healthier Indoor Air. Environ Health Perspect. 2011 Oct; 119(10): a426–a427. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3230460/
Conklin LM. The 18 best air-cleaning plants, according to NASA. https://www.msn.com/en-sg/lifestyle/smart-living/the-18-best-air-cleaning-plants-according-to-nasa/ar-BBVyqYM
Li Q. Forest Bathing: How Trees Can Help You Find Health and Happiness. New York, NY: Viking (2018).
US Lung Institute. Top 5 Plants for Increasing Oxygen. https://lunginstitute.com/blog/top-5-plants-for-increasing-oxygen/
Wolverton BC. How to Grow Fresh Air: 50 House Plants that Purify Your Home or Office. New York, NY:Penguin Books (1997).
A couple of Summers ago, I was so fortunate to partake in my first and only official Forest Bathing experience here at Spring Bird. Even though I spend a good deal of time having magical experiences in the woods, the Forest Bathing experience was so much more than I had expected because it is a practice of slowing down and connecting with the woods through using our senses. There is intention behind your walk through the woods, but there is also a great deal of intuition employed in letting yourself wander -- allowing yourself to be led by your intuition.
As Dr. Qing Li writes about in his book Forest Bathing, our Forest Bathing guide, Kimberly Ruffin, helped us to engage all of our senses while we developed our relationship with the natural world. It was euphoric for me despite the high humidity and insect swarms that we had to contend with (it was July).
So, I just finished reading Dr. Li’s book about Forest Bathing, in which he outlines the cultural and spiritual foundations for Shinrin-yoku (Forest Bathing), the scientific underpinning that supports it as a medicine, how to practice Forest Bathing, and how to bring Forest Bathing into home and office environments.
This was a quick and enjoyable read for anyone wanting to grasp the scope of Forest Bathing and the science behind it. If you are not up for reading it, I will be sharing much content from the book in upcoming posts. I am really excited by this practice and can’t wait to share more about how Forest Bathing can be healing for us as well as a means for strengthening our relationship with nature, but for now just focus on smelling the trees -- especially evergreens.
Trees release phytoncides that will do a whole lot of good for you like improving your immune system, decreasing stress hormones, helping you to sleep better, decrease tension and anxiety, make you feel better, decrease blood pressure, increase your heart rate variability, and suppress your sympathetic nervous activity while increasing your parasympathetic nervous activity. I mean, go take a walk in the woods and smell it -- really smell it -- you will feel better! Then, go read this book to learn so much more!!!!
Anna Lentz, artist, writer, and creativity coach who blogs about making a creative life connected with nature at Spring Bird.