Rice Lake at Danada Forest Preserves Watercolor Sketch

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As the leaves blow by and the air turns slightly cooler, I know it’s a race against time. Autumn is here and it doesn’t like to linger. So I’m trying to get out as much as possible.

Last Saturday I had the chance to go to Danada Woods a forest preserve in DuPage County. Immediately on their map, I saw what is called the “Nature Trail” and knew that’s where I had to go first.

Danada's Nature Trail

The trail is narrow. You must walk one at a time. And that is perfect for contemplative thinking and a deep appreciation for the abundance of nature, inches away from you. It makes you take note of what’s growing around you instead of gabbing with a friend. The first thing I noticed was this solitary mushroom surrounded by a carpet of moist autumn leaves. Notice the fragments of dirt, leaves, and sticks on its cap after it emerged from the ground. Beautiful.

Honeysuckle Bush Berries

The trail was exploding with berries: Jack in the Pulpit, False Solomon’s Seal, Honeysuckle, white baneberry, elderberry, and many others. This honeysuckle bush caught my eye because of the color of its berries (unripe ones look like watermelons up close) and because the berries look as if they have no stems.

White Baneberry - Doll's Eyes Berries TOXIC

Here is White Baneberry, or more commonly known as Doll’s Eyes. NEVER eat these berries as they are toxic. For humans, all parts of this plant are toxic. Even contact with the leaves may cause irritation for some. But for birds, it has no effect. They eat the berries, dispersing seeds in the woods encouraging new growth.

Virginia Creeper on Tree with Lichen

Red Virginia Creeper is striking next to the cool blue color of the Lichen growing on this trunk.

Danada Forest Preserves

Finally after exiting the Nature Trail, I headed toward Rice Lake. This is a wide open trail and the open landscape is stunning. The sun at this time of day was eating away at the clouds creating holes for the sunlight to escape.

Rice Lake - Danada Forest Preserves

Here is where I ended and where I decided to paint…thanks to a nice bench which served as my table. When the sun did emerge, it was a very hot sun. The happy notes of American Goldfinches tweeted above my head as I sat there painting. I am very grateful for this time. I think of it often and it brings me peace.

Mushroom Collection Watercolor

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I love painting mushrooms, but not eating them. I think they’re beautiful and fascinating and you can never predict exactly where you will find them. It’s always a surprise.
Here is a collection of some I found in the last month.

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Chicken mushroom growing on tree trunk. This monster was huge! If I had to guess, it was 15″x8″.

MUSHROOMS

This could be the early stages of shaggy parasol mushroom? Maybe? Maybe not.

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This gang of mushrooms were in my backyard. Perhaps this could be lawn mower mushroom? I’m not sure. If anyone knows the proper terms, please chime in.

Look at the ground while walking and take notice, you may find some forest floor gems.

Rain and a Glimpse of Autumn Sketch

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08-28-2016 (Sun)
88°F
Rain. Beautiful rain.

Straight down it was…no meandering, no skewing, no divergence, no wind. Tapping on leaves in trees creates a sound as if hundreds are clapping. My spirit is clapping.

I try to hear splashes in the puddles but cannot. The clapping overtakes the moment and I get lost in the mystery of His design.

And a few more leaves change colors.

Bittersweet Nightshade Watercolor Sketch

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I found this beautiful weed climbing on a friend’s fence. Beautiful but rather toxic. While not as poisonous as its cousin, Deadly Nightshade, Bittersweet Nightshade should not be consumed.

On this particular vine, the berries were in every stage of color. The berries start green and are most toxic during this state. Next, the berries ripen into an orange color, until they reach their final deep red color.

But what attracts me the most are those purple and yellow flowers….the pre-berry stage. And so it did as a child, attracted me to them. It’s a fond childhood memory of mine, finding these tiny flowers pop all over chain link fences.

In Thessalonians we are reminded to be thankful in all circumstances.
Give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.
1 Thessalonians 5:18

Being that this is a weed, but so beautiful, I can be thankful for weeds. On that thought, what about the things in life that we can’t see a silver lining for? Can we still be thankful then? For example, when you are without something you need or when someone back stabs you…can you still find a reason to be thankful?
Oh, now that’s difficult!  But that’s what we are lovingly instructed to do. Why?

I found myself upset about a personal situation. I thought about it for many hours, how I was unjustly wronged. But in this moment, I had two choices…..

  1. Dwell on it and be upset, causing me to be in a negative mood and affect other areas in my life.
  2. Be thankful for something, ANYTHING in that situation and meditate on positive thoughts.

In reading the New Testament, I am reminded of Christ’s example. While hanging on the Cross he said, “Father, please forgive them, they know not what they do.

How’s that for finding the positive?

While I can’t come close to living like Christ, I can try to follow in His direction. And how good it feels to be set free like that! Even if it doesn’t seem like it…these bizarre life hacks (to find the positive in all situations) are for our own wellness. To give us life and hope.

Rough Sketch – Cicada Shell

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Vanity – n., 1 anything that is in vain or futile 2 worthlessness or futility 3 being vain, or too proud of oneself  (Webster’s New World Dictionary)

It is my love for nature… that is the reason why I decided to start, Let’s Paint Nature. I enjoy being outside and looking at every detail, inspecting things, learning about them, drawing/painting them, and sharing it, in the hopes that it will inspire others to pick up that pencil and discover their own nature and the One who created it for them.

Somewhere along the way however, I was more concerned with uploading pretty pictures (vanity). How ridiculous! In doing so, I lost that first love…..sitting in nature, getting dirty, and scribbling for the love of learning without a care in the world who saw it and who did not. Without concern on how the final product ended up.

I don’t want to only pump out pretty pictures.

I wish to inspire the amateur artist who loves nature. The one who wishes to get back into drawing like they did when they were a child. The one who says, “I would like to start a nature journal but…..”

No more buts. Let’s come out of our shell. Ha, ha, ha, ha, ha! Don’t worry about what it looks like, just put pencil to paper and go. Nobody has to see it. You love nature and you will love to draw too. And I promise not to pump out pretty pictures for the sake of a pretty web site.

Today during lunch I sat on my favorite bench beneath a maple tree near my work. To my surprise when I looked up, I discovered a slew of cicada shells, all clinging to the underside of maple leaves. How happy I was to discover this! Yes they’re kind of creepy looking….but wow!!!

I came home from work extremely excited to start sketching. That excitement stirred up that old feeling of wonder and purpose. Nature is amazing!

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Pretty paintings might happen and pretty paintings might not happen and that’s okay. It doesn’t matter. Becoming closer to nature through art is the aim.