Wednesday, September 12, 2012

lessons in noticing

we were invited to participate in a small group activity of nature journaling with some fellow homeschooling friends.  this is right up diana's alley - she loves to draw and observe and be out in nature (though she reasonably takes issue with pesky insects that drop down unexpectedly from trees and buzzing or crawling ones that come to investigate her snacks).

our location du jour was the ucd arboretum.  we've been there plenty of times before, but never in this particular location.  unlike the missouri botanical garden we frequented in st. louis, which had a single main entrance, the garden collections here are spread out along a long curve and are accessible at multiple locations.  we've always parked at one end and wandered through the australian collection, redwood grove, and east asian collection.  this time we went to the white flower garden and gazebo.

on the walk in, we passed by the vet buildings and stopped to look at some horses standing near the fence.  they obligingly stood still as we looked at the structure of their legs and feet.  diana and i have expressed to each other our mutual dissatisfaction in our efforts so far to draw horse legs and feet.  taking a look at the real animals, watching them shift their weight, seeing how their knees bend differently depending on whether they are the forelegs or hind legs, all of this gave us insight and perspective we hadn't noticed before.  diana remembered something she had read about elephant feet and that they actual walk on their toes and that led us to wonder about the structural/anatomic differences in human vs elephant vs horse feet.  (idea for studying foot morphology sometime, perhaps?)

this particular entrance to the arboretum was graced with a gorgeous curved wall of botanical art representing different plants, pollinators, and other insects that could be found here.

the art was continued on the outer walls of the nearby restroom, too:

as we gathered together to begin the journaling, the facilitator/teacher/guide? started off with an activity - an "i spy" game with the restriction that color could not be used in the description.  someone could ask if the "thing" was a specific color, but that information could not be volunteered.

i was tickled by some of diana's choices.  things that were there but not immediately seen; characterized by the absence of something - a hole at the base of a tree.  another was invisible, but not all the time; it depended on your perspective - a spider web.

when brainstorming about what kind of things we can notice in the natural world, she mentioned patterns (daddy would be proud of that answer) and the breaking down of symmetry.

we scattered to "find the things that speak to us" and set about noticing and documenting.

afterwards, we gathered again as a group and shared what noticed.  it was interesting to see how individual perspectives were reflected in what was noticed and how it was recorded.  some curious similarities and differences appeared as we reflected.

diana's drawings:

i had purchased this for diana last year on a whim. i'm glad it is serving her well.

i participated in the activity, too.  my method of capturing what i noticed was through photography; my journal is here in my blog:

the incredible strength of branches that are nearly horizontal
what can this eye see?

a calloused old joint?
the sticky slime trail glittered in the sunlight - it attracted me to an otherwise drab area.  i wish i could have captured the sparkles through my camera lens.
the shadows reminded me of sunprints i've (hoped to have) made

i noticed a lot today.


  1. Here is a link to a sun print kit:

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