Nature in November Watercolor Sketch

20161120_november_sketch

Green Valley Forest Preserves
32°F mostly sunny, brisk wind

When my nerves become anxious and I recognize that prickly, edgy feeling in my spirit, I know it’s time to distance myself from society. It’s my adult time-out. One I most willingly take.

I escape to a little corner of nature where I am actually alone. The chill in the air is welcomed, even though I’ve been spoiled with unseasonably warm weather in my area, that has now passed. The brisk wind makes my cheeks red and tells my flesh it’s back to the business of winter.

As I stand under the cold sun, I hear that familiar creaky trill of sandhill cranes. I look up and scan the sky. I know I’m looking for tiny specks, as their call is much louder and larger than their bodies, considering the height at which they fly, but for the life of me I cannot locate them. I’m glad I’m alone, for a stranger would have thought it odd, this human just standing still staring at a blank sky…no matter, I so desperately wanted to see them it would have been worth the embarrassment. My attempts fail. That’s fair. I will permit nature to have this mystery.

Walking on the trail I notice several galls on dried goldenrod. They are numerous. I love these “imperfections” in nature. The goldenrod with galls are actually more attractive to me than without. I inspect the gall and find a pin hole near the bottom. Escape route?

Just then I hear rustlings above me in the tree. I ignore it for a while, supposing it’s just the wind. But no, it is not the wind. It is a red squirrel. On first inspection it is as if he is eating dried leaves still remaining on the tree. He grabs it, places it in his mouth, crunches as he chews, while crumbs fall from his mouth to the ground. Why is he eating leaves, I wonder? However, I squint my eyes and realize, those aren’t leaves, but dried maple seeds…clusters of them. And that was the rustling I presumed was the wind, dried maple leaves scraping together by the vibration of the red squirrel climbing from branch to branch. He continues for quite a while. Eat on my friend. Winter means business.

Safe Space Watercolor

20161029_tranquil_home

Weathered but strong for the moment
A safe space made by man.
Time and the elements will destroy
But God in the heart of man, a safe space forevermore.
For no force against can deploy.

IMG_1483

My watercolor was made from this picture I took at CITW of a birdhouse on the fringe of a field with dried goldenrods still bobbing their heads in the breeze. It was peaceful to look at and I contemplate the story behind…think of the hands that made the birdhouse and the successful broods of birds now alive and flourishing because of this man made safe space.

Return to Retreat CITW

20161022_CITW_window_view

It is time once again.
I felt it stir within, an urgency to go back. A time to retreat.
As I grow, I am more in tune with my body and emotions. With the weight of work and family obligations I needed a time out. Silence is what I crave, giving me the ability to hear my own thoughts and process them. I get so little of it normally, so it was time to go back to Christ in the Wilderness for a solitude retreat.

IMG_1598

This time I stayed in the hermitage called, Mariglen. It has a fascinating view of the land and it’s a very popular spot for the birds to visit. You can read last years visit if you wish here, here, and here, when I stayed at the Paul of Tarsus hermitage.

IMG_1477

It may seem to some that staying at a place like this throws you into the dark ages, as there are no TV’s, cell phone service, and no WiFi. But oh, on the contrary! Being in the “dark” here contains more light than the brightest lifestyle back home, with all of its empty technology enticements.

20161021_CITW_SILENCE

IMG_1560

For the silence at CITW not only lets me hear the wing beats of birds, but I can also hear them cracking seed in their beaks. My soul craves this.

IMG_1593

Time on the trails gives me perspective. I ask God lots of questions and it’s quiet enough to hear some answers. Last year I pondered much on my past but this time it was more about my present and who Christ is to me.

IMG_1515

He is the Light, the Life, and my Hope. This is what He whispered to me in the wilderness.

IMG_1490

I also discovered other mysteries on the trail, like these bones most likely from a coyote. If you look close enough you can see fur, underneath the bones, closest to the grass.

IMG_1602

And on one of my nights I was indulged with this cloud bow. Great treasures are all around, even in the sky.

It was with a heavy heart that I had to leave, but when the time is right I will return. I know I bring home with me a little piece of this Peace, I am never truly far from it.

Autumn Harvest Watercolor

20161008_autumn_harvest

There are miracles in just about everything.
For example, think of the growing process in which these gourds and pumpkin developed: From a small seed by which itself is useless, but with the right combination, a combination we cannot materialize with our own human hands….sunlight, oxygen, soil, rain, in just the right amounts… not too little, not too much, can produce the most amazing fruits. Those fruits are beneficial to us, to nourish us, and bless us.

I want to view everything around me as a miracle and not take anything for granted. This way of thinking kills the negativity that creeps into one’s mind. When we choose to be thankful, when we choose to think positive thoughts, we choose to have a good day.  And then guess what, somehow the day is good.

These gourds and one pumpkin gave me an overwhelming feeling of thankfulness and blessing, especially because of the company I was in, sitting with a dear friend. I painted with brush in hand and thankfulness in heart.

Rice Lake at Danada Forest Preserves Watercolor Sketch

20160924_danada_rice_lake

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.