In the Midwest where chill reigns for a quarter of the year, you will find a solemn hearth if you’re lucky in the midst of the woods. Not every preserve has one, but when you happen to spot one, it’s like a treasure. This one is located at Knoch Knolls Park in Naperville, IL.
On this day, I only wish I had wood and permission to start a fire, like I did a few years ago at Heller Woods. Click here to see photo.
Instead of seeing the warm glow against the oak trees, I will settle for the warm sounds of nagging nuthatches with their nasally, “heh, heh, heh, heh” keeping me company in those oaks.
How is their sound warm, you ask?
It keeps me there a minute longer, no matter what the temperature, and suddenly the cold disappears.
Posted in art, Artwork, Birds, Chicago, nature, sketch book, sketchbook, watercolor sketching, white-breasted nuthatch, wildlife
Tagged art, Artwork, hiking, IL, knoch knolls, naperville, nature, nuthatch, oak tree, painting, sketch, sketchbook, watercolor, woods
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.
Posted in art, Artwork, Chicago, hiking, nature, Nature Sketching, sketch book, sketchbook, wildlife
Tagged art, Artwork, dupage county forest preserve, green valley forest preserve, hiking, journal, nature, painting, sketchbook, watercolor
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
He is the Light, the Life, and my Hope. This is what He whispered to me in the wilderness.
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.
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.
Posted in art, Artwork, Birds, chickadee, God, hiking, nature, red-bellied woodpecker, sketch book, sketchbook, Sunsets/Sunrise, watercolor painting, watercolor sketching, wildlife
Tagged art, Artwork, chickadee, Christ in the Wilderness, CITW, hiking, IL, nature, painting, red bellied wookpecker, retreat, sketch, sketchbook, solitude, Stockton, watercolor
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.
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.
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.
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.
Red Virginia Creeper is striking next to the cool blue color of the Lichen growing on this trunk.
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.
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.
Posted in art, Artwork, Chicago, hiking, Landscape, nature, sketch book, sketchbook, watercolor sketching
Tagged art, Artwork, danada, dupage forest preserves, forest, hiking, nature, painting, rice lake, watercolor
45°F cold rain
I am wearing my rain gear with layers of clothing bundled underneath as I walk on a grassy trail laced with mud. I don’t mind the mud nor do I mind the cold drizzle on my face. In a lifetime of Monday thru Friday, 9-5 numbness, the cold drizzle is a welcome. It makes me feel alive.
On a particular section of trail, I find a banditry of chickadee. Their chatter is loud and overwhelming. I do not know what they are saying for I do not speak chickadian. Perhaps I am the subject of their banter, disrupting them on a day where they do not expect many humans?
They unwittingly halt me in my tracks. As I stand there looking up, something tells me to look down….
At my feet, I discover another world…. a glowing white shelf mushroom carpeted by brilliant green moss, set contrast to a dark saturated tree stump. I no longer hear the clatter of the chickadees, because I am lost in the contour of the moss. My eyes follow every fern-like curve. I observe its green gradient from dark green- to medium- to light- to white tips.
The chickadees are not amused by my fern moss and mushroom rapture, so they maintain their scold. I know when I’m not welcome. I’m leaving. I’m leaving.
I walk away knowing the secret of where my beauties live…..under the chant of the chickadees.
Posted in art, Artwork, Birds, Chicago, chickadee, hiking, nature, Nature Sketching, sketchbook, watercolor painting, watercolor sketching
Tagged art, Artwork, chickadee, fern moss, hiking, moss, mushroom, nature, painting, shelf mushroom, sketch, sketchbook, watercolor