Sunday, September 5, 2010

The Art of Field Journaling

Yes I know, I’ve been absent. I have been logging, not blogging. For the past six weeks I have gone nowhere (well, almost nowhere) without my journaling bag of tricks—binoculars, a loupe, a ruler, pens, colored pencils—and I’ve practiced the art of observation. I saw dodder twining counterclockwise around and around the winged stems of Verbesina alternifolia and slowly, over the weeks, sucking the life out of them. I saw a cicada climbing a broomstick, and a trio of ants carrying a dead earthworm down under. I spied on a green heron. One morning I watched as four species of bees gorged themselves on pollen on the face of a sunflower. A week later the bumblebee, or her hivemate, was still methodically combing through the approximately two thousand disc florets so that each and every one would reach seedhood. I defy anyone to closely observe a bumblebee at work and not come away with admiration and even affection for the industrious creature.
The summer just slipped away. A mourning dove laid two small white eggs on a pine needle nest. Midges deformed the stems of goldenrod so that they looked more like flowers than stems. The sunflower lost its pretty petals and developed a bulge in the middle. The bulge grew petals. Then the bulge grew bulges. The older I get the more appreciative I am of such character-building eccentricities that supplant the perfect beauty of youth.

I watched as a swallowtail larva attached itself to a stick, becoming almost invisible behind a leaf of parsley as it began to pupate. I know its secret. My sunflower’s sepals yellowed, and seeds formed on its face. Over three weeks time they were pecked out by finches and cardinals.  
Spicebush berries are now turning red, and already tiny flower buds are tightly tucked in the plants’ leaf axils, ready to cast a chartreuse blush throughout the forests of Pennsylvania next April. A cool wind blew in yesterday.

Even this veteran gardener was astounded at how much there was to gain from a two-hour solo walk on a Saturday morning with binoculars, a 10X loupe, a ruler, pens, and colored pencils. If you think you might be interested in field journaling, let me know. I’m planning a spring workshop.