Top 10 Inspiring Nature Books!

Reading nature books keeps me inspired to sketch, draw, write, ink and paint! With the holidays coming up, I thought I would share a list of my top 10 nature themed books. I hope you get some great ideas for yourself and gift giving!

“Reading gives us someplace to go when we have to stay where we are.”

~ Mason Cooley

The Laws Guide to Nature Drawing and Journaling, by John Muir Laws
This is an extensive guide to drawing nature (plants, animals, landscapes)! There are lots of examples and clear steps to follow. It took me awhile to read through, but I took a few minutes each morning with my cup of tea to read a few pages (instead of watching the news!) and I thoroughly learned a lot and enjoyed it!

Keeping a Nature Journal, by Clare Walker Leslie
A very down to earth written book, encouraging nature enthusiasts to focus on recording the information and basic sketches of the nature objects or landscapes they are observing. It is amazing what you can do with a few simple ink strokes and a splash of color here and there! A lot of examples and encouraging text guide and encourage the reader in a straightforward manner. It’s a great resource to keep referring back to!

The Hidden Life of Trees, by Peter Wohlleben
What looks like a short book with short chapters, is a very extensive coverage of all things trees – how they communicate, feel, share, protect and thrive. I’ve been reading chapters periodically over time so I can absorb the interesting information that seems to indicate the active life of trees and their social network. A walk in the woods will never be the same again after reading this book as you admire the wisdom of trees!

The Triumph of Seeds, by Thor Hanson
Seeds are part of our everyday lives, but often taken for granted. They exist in our morning toast, the cotton in our clothing, spices, trees and plants. This book covers very interesting topics such as the incredible energy contained in a seed, seed banks that save and preserve, and the incredible survival instinct of seeds. I wrote a blog post for Earth Day 2021 on this book which you can find at Seeds: A Celebration of Earth Day! This author has more books on my wish list on bees, climate change, feathers and gorillas.

The Language of Butterflies, by Wendy Williams
A lovely journey into the world of butterflies, their anatomy and the fascinating wonder of the monarch butterfly migration. One very interesting bit of information covered is how butterfly scales are being researched to design devices which help asthma sufferers. I had one of this author’s books, The Horse, on my wish list when I found this one and I was completely thrilled to find out she had also written about amazing butterflies!

Wesley the Owl, by Stacey O’Brien
This really is a remarkable story about a woman raising a barn owl in her bedroom for 18 years! I learned so much about owls — their sensitive temperament, surprising playfulness, direct communication and the amazing number of mice each owl needs per day. It really was hard to put this book down! It made me think about pets and how the bond between humans and animals can be so loyal and caring.

The Sound of a Wild Snail Eating, by Elisabeth Tova Bailey
There is a quiet peacefulness about this book as a woman bedridden with illness observes a common woodland snail in a terrarium on her nightstand. Focusing on the snail’s slow movement, the rows and rows of its teeth chewing through plants and mushrooms, she finds a sense of calm in this small part of the natural world. It’s a delightful, quick-read book, one to keep on the shelf to read again and again.

Secrets of a Devon Wood, by Jo Brown
This is an enchanting journal filled with gorgeous drawings of insects, plants and mushrooms! The pages in this book are an exact replica of those in the original journal that documents the small wonders of the wood behind the artist’s home in Devon, England. I love the scientific look of the page header where you can choose the weather symbol, day of the week, memo no. and date. There are a few empty pages in the back to draw in and I think the ruled lines of the page would be helpful as a guide for not only the sketch, but making notes and observations that look neat and tidy alongside the drawing. A book to treasure!

Gracelaced, by Ruth Chou Simons
Filled with stunning botanical watercolor paintings, this book has inspiring faith-based chapters to encourage the reader. There are small spaces for writing your own thoughts, or bible verses that are related to each message. The art is so beautiful, you will be enjoying these pages over and over! This book would make a meaningful gift with its thought provoking messages and incredible artwork.

Around the World in 80 Plants, by Jonathan Drori
What a unique book that outlines 80 amazing plants from various parts of the world, including colorful illustrations of each plant! This is the kind of book that you can pick up, read about one plant and ponder it for a few days to absorb all of the interesting information. Once you finish, you can turn around and start again as there is so much to learn in each section and it’s full of surprises!

What are some of your favorite nature themed books? Let me know in the comments below if you have other recommendations!


#nature #naturejournal #watercolor #drawing #inspiring #trees #seeds #butterflies #owl #snail #woods #plants #write #ink #paint #holidays #gifts

Sketchbooks & Journals: Finding the Right Fit!

“One way to open your eyes is to ask yourself, ‘What if I had never seen this before? What if I knew I would never see it again?’”

–Rachel Carson

Collecting journals is a hobby of mine, as well as making handmade journals! I have made many leather journals for gifts and these are fun to personalize for each recipient. Upon looking at my bookshelf, I realized … I have a lot of journals! So, how many is too many and which is the best one for nature journaling or art journaling or simply writing?!

Here are a few of my observations on sketchbooks and journals that I’ve tested.

Handmade leather journals.

Handmade Journals: These are some of the leather journals I have made and used for art journaling. The process of cutting out the leather cover, dyeing and protecting it, then creating the binding is a really enjoyable multi-step process! I also make the signatures (paper booklets) to fit inside, attached with an elastic binding so that when the booklet is full, you can easily slide it out and slide in another. I have used these mostly for art journaling special quotes and inspiring messages from books that I have read (Brene Brown, Elizabeth Gilbert). The paper inside is sketch paper and can be used with pencil, pen, colored pencils, brush pen water based markers and light watercolor!

Purchased journals.

Purchased Journals:

I have been experimenting with a few different types of journals for nature journaling and Skillshare classes. Since I do a combination of pencil, colored pencil, brush pen markers and watercolor, I have been trying to find one that will work for all of those mediums.

These are the sketchbooks that I have tried and really like:

  • Strathmore Visual Journal, Mixed Media: the paper in this journal handles all of the mediums I use very nicely! And, I really like the spiral binding so I can fold over the pages. The thick, stiff cover provides a strong base for sketching. This is my favorite! (30 sheets, 5.5 x 8 in.)
  • Stillman & Birn Beta, Heavyweight: this is a popular choice for nature journalers and the most expensive in my list. It has thick paper that works very well with watercolor. Since the binding is stitched, it is easy to do a 2-page spread without interruption in the sketch. The cover is hard and makes a sturdy base for sketching in the field. I don’t do too many 2-page spreads, so this wasn’t an important feature for me and I prefer to fold the cover back which can’t be done with the stitch binding. (26 sheets, 5.5 x 8.5 in.)
  • Canson XL Series Mix Media Pad: the paper in this sketchbook is a little thinner than all of the other books I use. It seems fine for writing and taking notes with pencil, marker or colored pencils, but the pages ripple with watercolor which makes it less desirable for me. For this reason, this is my least favorite journal, but the price is reasonable for the number of pages (60 pages, 5.5 x 8.5 in.)
  • Leather Journal Vintage Writing Notebook: I love the rustic look of this journal with the leather strap closure and rough paper! This paper can handle all the mediums that I use and there are a lot of pages, so it will last a long time! (120 pages, 6 x 8 in.)
  • Inspired by Nature: This was a gift from a dear friend, and it’s a very special journal! The artist’s beautiful nature sketches are sprinkled throughout the book with plenty of blank space for creating your own drawings. Her sketches are so inspiring and are great examples of nature subjects with her notes and observations. These pages can handle anything from pencil to watercolor! (192 pages, 6.8 x 8.8 in.)

On my Wish List!

I recently purchased an enchanting journal, Secrets of a Devon Wood by Jo Brown! The pages in this book are an exact replica of those in her original journal that document the small wonders of the wood behind her home in Devon, England. I love the scientific look of the page header where you can choose the weather symbol, day of the week, memo no. and date. I think the ruled lines of the page would be helpful as a guide for not only the sketch, but making notes and observations that look neat and tidy alongside the drawing.

Any of these journals would be wonderful for nature or art journaling! I find I switch from journal to journal, depending on what I am sketching or painting, if I need heavier paper for watercolor, or if I am just pencil sketching. There are so many journals to choose from in the store, it is easy to get overwhelmed with questions! Hopefully, my reviews will help you narrow down a few journals to try and test.

Overwhelming store choices!

Have you found a great sketchbook for nature journaling? Share your favorite journal in the comments – whether you use it for sketching, watercolor painting or writing!


#nature #naturejournaling #sketchbook #watercolor #writing #journal #collection #handmade #leather #artjournaling #bernoid

Nature Journaling Fall Finds!

Hello, sun in my face. Hello you who made the morning and spread it over the fields… Watch, now, how I start the day in happiness, in kindness.

~ Mary Oliver

When tree leaves change color and flower petals fade and flutter to the ground, you might think it will be hard to find nature objects to observe and record in your journal. Actually, the bareness of the branches high & low reveal treasures that otherwise were hidden behind the greenery!

What can you find on a fall or winter neighborhood walk? Looking down at the sidewalks and through the forest trails you can find colorful leaves, acorns, maple keys, mushrooms and fungus! These are all easy, fun objects to sketch with 3 techniques: graphite pencil, colored pencil and watercolor paint. You can use just one of these techniques for your sketchbook page, or combine all three!

Watercolor: Leaves are fun to watercolor paint using the “wet-on-wet” technique, blending the deep reds, yellows, oranges and brown spots. Sketch the basic shape of the leaf lightly in pencil, fill in with the lightest color (usually light yellow or green) using a small paintbrush (round 6) and watercolor paint. While the paint is still wet, “drop in” the other colors you see in the leaf using short strokes or dots. The paint will feather its way into the base layer, blending and blooming which is interesting to observe! Let it dry and then using a fine tip brush, paint thin, faint lines for the veins. Done!

Watercolor and colored pencils: Acorns and maple keys can be painted using the same technique. Start with a pencil sketch of the basic shape, paint in the base color with watercolor paint. After the paint is dry, add in the details of the seeds, veins and patterns with colored pencil lines or shading. 

Pencil or colored pencil: Mushrooms and fungus sprout in the wet fall and winter months and can be found on logs decaying in the forest and probably in your lawn or mulch! Sketching mushrooms and fungus with just pencil or colored pencil creates an interesting monotone drawing that highlights the shadows, spots and patterns. For mushrooms, sketch a basic dome for the cap, a cylinder for the stem, shade the areas where you see darker shadows or spots. Maybe you see the gills underneath, which are just straight lines radiating from a central point on the cap where the stem attaches. 

Whenever I sketch nature objects from my walks, I like to learn more about them by taking a photo and using the Google Lens button to help identify and read facts. I also like to see what’s inside some objects, like the acorn — I cracked it open and discovered the nut inside completely filled the shell and it had splits in it which matched up perfectly with the ridges inside the shell! You never know what you will find!

What fall nature finds are you observing in your neighborhood?


#nature #naturejournaling #inotice #iwonder #fall #sketch #watercolor #graphite #coloredpencils #curiosity #wonder

Book Spotlight: The Quintland Sisters

I share a birthday with 5 famous sisters! Many people may not have heard about these identical girl quintuplets born in 1934 against all odds in a small farmhouse in Callander, Ontario, Canada. I read a great book that follows the first 5 years of their lives in a fiction story, but the facts are true.


The Quintland Sisters by Canadian author Shelley Wood, was published in 2019 as a work of fiction to inform the public in an entertaining way of a forgotten time in Canada’s history. Even though the book is fiction, many of the names and events are real and actual newspaper clippings are cleverly weaved throughout to let the reader know that these children existed.

The story is told through the eyes of a young 17 yr. old nurse, Emma, who was present at the births and nursed them through their first 5 years. She expresses such a caring nature, seeing each child as an individual with unique qualities and personalities, rather than as a ubiquitous group of 5. She is the eyes inside the nursery showing them absolute love. Emma’s artistic talent highlights the inside story through her sketches of the girls while she grows up alongside them. Hers is a journey of caring in an otherwise world of living in a fish bowl.


The Dionne Quintuplets were born in Callander, Ontario on May 28, 1934 to impoverished French farmers who already had 5 children. The 3 room farmhouse had no electricity or running water, yet these babies, who were born 2 months premature and not expected to survive, became the first quintuplets known to have survived their infancy! The total weight of the quintuplets was thirteen pounds six ounces.

The Dionne Quintuplets (Amusing Planet)

A few short months after their birth, custody was signed over to the Red Cross (to cover medical costs) who moved them across the street into a dedicated nursery/hospital and Dr. Allan Dafoe (who delivered the babies) became a guardian and the primary caregiver.

The government soon stepped in, realizing the potential tourist attraction for the public, and the girls were made wards of the provincial Crown. The girls were on display two times a day behind a one-way glass where visitors would line up for hours just to get a glance of these extraordinary children. At the peak of this media circus, there were over 6,000 visitors per day! The girls were so cute and identical and their photos were used to make money and sell a variety of products, most notably corn syrup (which they added to the infant’s bottles). There were three Hollywood movies made about the quintuplets and they were visited by many famous people including Clark Gable, Jimmy Stewart, Betty Davis, Shirley Temple and Amelia Earhart (just 6 weeks before she went missing). Even though there wasn’t an entrance fee to see the girls, the influx of tourists to the area brought in millions of dollars through souvenir shops and guest services. The area quickly became deemed “Quintland” and became Ontario’s biggest tourist attraction of the era, surpassing the Canadian side of Niagara Falls.

The Dionne Quintuplets (Amusing Planet)

As WWII approached years later, and tourism dropped, the girls returned to their home across the street at the age of 9 to live with their parents. The family now lived in a 20 room mansion that was paid for by the quintuplet’s fund. Their lives were changed forever, and sadly as people stopped watching them, the rest of their story is quite tragic as a result of their exploitation. Two of the sisters are alive today (age 86), however the other three died at ages 20, 35 and 67.

Today, the site is abandoned with no historical plaque to mark the years of activity and interest around the quints. The original farmhouse was converted into the non-profit Dionne Quintuplets Museum and moved to the larger city of North Bay nearby. It features many artifacts from the quints’ early days and their growing years. 

The original Dafoe Hospital and Nursery, as it looked in 2017. (Shelley Wood)


The author’s wish, as expressed in The Jenny McCarthy Show, is that the story isn’t forgotten and that all children are special and need support and protection. The quintuplets are part of Canadian history and the hope is that no more children will ever go through this type of upbringing on display. The author has donated a share of the novel’s proceeds to the Canadian Centre for Child Protection.

Did you know about these identical quintuplets? I have always been fascinated by them since I was born in Ontario as well and I have the same birthday! Let me know if you read The Quintland Sisters; it’s a fascinating glimpse into an extraordinary time in Canadian history!



The Quintland Sisters by Shelley Wood

The Jenny McCarthy Show

CBC Sunday Magazine

Amusing Planet

Wikipedia: Dionne Quintuplets

#dionnequintuplets #quintuplets #drama #fiction #canadianhistory #history #canada #ontario #quintland #book #quintlandsisters #miracle #tourism #media

Travel Journal for Social Connection!

Do not go where the path may lead, go instead where there is no path and leave a trail. ~ Ralph Waldo Emerson

I had a fantastic time this week sketching, painting and telling stories in a community nature journal that has been travelling between members of The Nature Journal Club! 🌿 I let my curiosity lead the content of the pages and ended up sketching and learning about different subjects than I had planned!

This would be a wonderful way to keep connected with friends and family as we are still social distancing and the Canada-US border is closed. Here are some ideas to get started:

  1. Purchase a sketching journal (one that could be used with dry or wet colors).
  2. Post the guidelines on the inside cover (ie. You can nature journal in the book for 5 pages or 5 days, whichever comes first).
  3. Send it to a friend or family member.
  4. The recipient can sketch, write a story, poem, use pencil crayons or watercolor, record scientific facts – the possibilities are endless!
  5. The recipient can post photos on social media and then choose the next person to send it to, or choose someone from the comments on the social media post.
  6. It would be fun to collect photos of all pages in an online photo album so others can enjoy the creativity!

I had a delightful, playful experience with this Red-Breasted Sapsucker – a species of Woodpecker in the Pacific Northwest! This was at the Three Forks Dog Park in beautiful Snoqualmie, WA (see the scenic video by Presence Videography) I got close to him with the zoom lens camera and he would hop around to the other side of the tree, playing hide-and-seek with me for quite awhile! Fun! When I looked at the photos later, I realized he had a grub in his beak! (An interesting fact is that these woodpeckers drill horizontal and vertical lines of holes into the tree to find grubs – which is unfortunately often fatal to the tree!)

There are more resources and ideas for journaling on my Nature Journaling page!

What ideas can you share in the comments that will help us keep socially connected while we’re apart?


#naturejournaling #traveljournal #journaling #connection #socialconnection #travel #inspiration #family #friends #community #curiosity #poem #story

A History of Mother’s Day

My long-time friend from across the pond, MJ is my guest blogger today! We both live a long distance from our mothers which is hard around Mother’s Day, and particularly during a pandemic. Her historical coverage of this special day is an interesting journey through time!

This blog began as a book club conversation just after the UK celebrated Mother’s Day in March this year. We were discussing why Mother’s Day is celebrated on different dates in the US and Canada than in the UK, and my British friend explained it all started from Mothering Day in the UK when children who had left home for work returned to their home churches and to visit with their mothers. In honour of Mother’s Day, I thought it would be interesting to explore the history of the celebration and the reasons for the differences.

Turns out that historians can trace back some Mother’s Day traditions as far as the Ancient Egyptians – yes, the time when the Pyramids were built. The Egyptians celebrated Isis who is considered the mother goddess. In Ancient Greek times and throughout the Roman empire there were festivities that worshiped the goddesses Cybele, the great mother of the gods, and Rhea, the mother of Zeus.

Isis photo from Mystic Medusa Astrology

In the UK, Mothering Sunday has been celebrated since the 16th century. At that time in history, it was common for children to leave home and work elsewhere. It became a tradition that on the 4th Sunday of lent these children had the day off and they would return to their mother church, the church where they were baptized. The day became a Christian religious holiday and readings and gospels on that day were passages associated with mothers or allegories for mothers. It is believed that even the tradition of giving flowers on Mother’s Day dates back to this time. As they walked along the country lanes, children would pick wild flowers or violets to take to church or give to their mother as a small gift.

In 17th century England, when the Church of England broke away from the Catholic Church, the tradition of Mothering Sunday became more focused on celebrating mothers and became an especially compassionate holiday toward the working classes of England. By the 20th century though these traditional celebrations had diminished in the UK and were not celebrated by the British immigrants to the US.

Mother’s Day as is celebrated today has no relation to the history of Mothering Sunday at all though. It began as an antiwar movement in the late 1800s in response to wars raging in the US and Europe. Julia Ward Howe wrote the Mother’s Day Proclamation and then in1872 she began promoting Mothers’ Peace Day. At the same time, Ann Maria Reeves Jarvis created Mother’s Day Work Clubs. The clubs were started to reduce disease and to decrease infant mortality through education and assistance. However, as the American Civil War waged on, the focus of the clubs became more related to maintaining neutrality and to providing help to soldiers on either side of the war.

In 1905, the year Anne Marie Reeves Jarvis died, her daughter Anna Jarvis began her quest to have Mother’s Day recognized as an official holiday. In 1907 she held the first Mother’s Day celebration for her mother at St Andrew’s Methodist Church in Grafton, West Virginia. She was wearing a white carnation, her mother’s favourite flower. By 1911 most states were recognizing the holiday officially or unofficially but in 1914 Woodrow Wilson declared it an official American holiday that would be held on the second Sunday in May every year. With the popularity of Mother’s Day in the US on the rise, it revived the celebration of Mothering Sunday in the UK, which is now often referred to as Mother’s Day. Throughout the world, it is now a holiday that is celebrated on dates that are important to each country. Some of the dates are based on important religious dates, but some are other important dates, such as International Woman’s Day in many countries, or in Thailand, it is celebrated in August on the birthday of Siriki, the current queen (to see dates for other countries click this link).

By the early to mid-1920s Mother’s Day had become a commercial success. Hallmark was already making Mother’s Day cards and the white carnation came to symbolize it. Anna Jarvis was not happy with this and began to protest the exploitation of Mother’s Day by businesses. She wrote the following: “To have Mother’s Day the burdensome, wasteful, expensive gift day that Christmas and other special days have become, is not our pleasure. If the American people are not willing to protect Mother’s Day from the hordes of money schemers that would overwhelm it with their schemes, then we shall cease having a Mother’s Day—and we know how.”

Anna Jarvis never made a penny from Mother’s Day and died at the age of 84 broke and in Marshall Square Sanitarium.

As a tribute to my mother and Karen’s mother, who live so far from us, we are both sharing this blog and wishing our mothers a wonderful day.


Greek Reporter: Mother’s Day Has Its Roots in Ancient Greece

#mothersday #motheringday #blogger #ukholidays #usholidays #ukcelebrations #uscelebrations #history #historyofmothersday #celebrations #motherhood #motherlove #isisgoddess #rheagoddess #cybelegoddess #whitecarnation #carnation #hallmark #taggersextraordinaire #bestlifebooklife #family #love #flowers #happy #usmothersday

Nature Journaling for Relaxation!

A unique way to enjoy the beautiful outdoors is through nature journaling! There is a world of infinite beauty in forest trails, ponds and your own yard if we slow down, observe and listen. Nature offers us peace and a place to find calm in our busy lives.

Here is a short video of what nature journaling means to me as a calming, solo activity, but also as a way of sharing a common interest in a community of nature enthusiasts!

Nature journaling is an activity for all ages and can be done as a family with toddlers to grandparents! It is the process of observing plants and animals out in the field, then sketching and recording the details in words and drawings. Look for patterns, colors, shapes and measurements. It is not an art project to display, but rather your personal journal for expressing and learning about what you have observed! In my neighborhood, we have a continuous parade of wildlife that passes by our property, and what better way to learn about them by sketching the animals or their habitat and researching interesting facts!

You might wonder, why can’t you just take a picture, then sketch at home? Try stepping outside and sketching in the field! You’ll notice the feelings of the experience as you listen to the birds, feel the breeze or the sun’s rays. It can be done in all seasons and you can even get sketchbooks called “Rite in the Rain” which are weatherproof! It can be a mood shifter for redirecting anxious feelings and promotes relaxation which is good for your overall health, both physical and mental! It’s a journey to learn about the plants and animals you are observing, creating a memory, noting fun facts, measurements and color. 

There are only 2 supplies you need to get started!

  1. Sketchbook, journal or paper
  2. Pencil, watercolor pencil or black ink marker (waterproof Micron 05 pen or thin sharpie)

Once you have recorded some basic sketches and observations, you can color your drawings with watercolor pencils, watercolor paints, colored pencils, markers or simply outline them in black marker.

While nature journaling, there are some questions you can ask yourself that nature journalist and Scientist John Muir Laws inspired, 1. I notice, 2. I wonder, 3. It reminds me of. Here’s an experience I recently had in my own backyard! I noticed a large scattering of pine cone scales under the big evergreen tree. A busy squirrel had been taking apart the cones to get at the 2 seeds that sit on the inner part of the cone on every scale. There were still a few seeds lying on the ground so when I picked them up and broke them open, I discovered they were full of pine sap! I wondered if the squirrels were eating the pine sap? When I researched this, I found out they do indeed eat the sap. The sap had the most amazing pine fragrance, but had a sticky texture. It reminded me of the sap I saw as a child oozing from the bark of evergreen trees that I accidentally leaned against!

I hope you will give nature journaling a try! Feel free to contact me with questions or to see a list of my most favorite resources as well as sample journal pages.

Some great resources and events to get started and inspire you are:

What items in nature can you find to sketch and research?


#naturejournaling #notice #wonder #remindsmeof #outdoors #travel #forest #ponds #familyactivity #allages #plants #animals #calming

Summer is coming! Adventure videos sure to inspire you!

My guest blogger today is an avid outdoor explorer and technology enthusiast! Combining these 2 interests led to the perfect combination for his hobby: adventure videography! His videos capture beautiful scenery, route maps and drone tips. I get to enjoy these locations, too since he is my husband! Enjoy David’s creative tours through Presence Videography for awesome outdoor activities.

We have had the most gorgeous spring weather in the Pacific Northwest this week! With summer just around the corner, it’s time to start planning activities to enjoy the summer.

To inspire you, we have several new adventure / aerial / 360 videos from the Pacific Northwest of our biking, kayaking and hiking trips. Choose your adventure and enjoy! Subscribe to get notified as new adventures are posted.

For more descriptions and locations to explore, visit Presence Videography on YouTube!

Here is a sample of few of our favorites:

Presence Videography graphics by @NickHoulding,

What adventure will you choose this summer?


#videography #biking #hiking #kayaking #pacificnorthwest #adventure #explorer #scenery #drone #tour #travel

Seeds: A Celebration of Earth Day April 22!

In celebration of Earth Day on April 22, I would like to honor seeds! Seeds are all around us and a part of our daily lives, hidden in plain sight! We may take them for granted, but they really are a very important part of our plant life, food production, clothing and thousands of other products.

They give us food and fuels, intoxicants and poisons, oils, dyes, fibers and spices. Without seeds there would be no bread, no rice, no beans, corn or nuts.

The Triumph of Seeds, by Thor Hanson

For an interesting journey into the world of seeds, I recommend the book, The Triumph of Seeds – How Grains, Nuts, Kernels, Pulses & Pips Conquered the Plant Kingdom and Shaped Human History, by Thor Hanson. Hanson is a biologist living on an island in Washington state and his book brought to life three details of seeds that I had not thought about — their self-contained energy, the existence of seed banks, their endurance and ability for survival.

Self-contained energy. Seeds come prepackaged for root growth — they don’t even need to make new cells to do it! As mentioned in the book Seeds, Carol Baskin who is a science teacher at University of Kentucky tells her students that “a seed is a baby plant, in a box, with its lunch.” While germination (the process by which an organism grows from a seed) details vary, the importance of water is constant. Some seeds dry out, using a thick, protective coat to protect them from moisture so they can remain at a near standstill for months, years or even centuries until conditions are right for germination. Other seeds, such as the avocado seed needs constant moist conditions for sprouting.

One amazing story about a 2,000 year old date seed that came to life, demonstrates the energy storage power of seeds! In the 1960s, archaeologists at the site of the Siege of Masada in Israel, discovered date seeds beautifully preserved with scraps of fruit still clinging to the seeds. Four decades later, museum workers decided to plant one of the date seeds and were wildly excited to see a lone shoot poking up through the potting soil. Named Methuselah, the sprouting palm now stands ten feet tall with its own gated garden, watering system, burglar alarm and security camera! It’s the oldest known example of a naturally germinating seed.

Seed banks. An unsuspecting building stands in Fort Collins, Colorado containing laboratories and cryogenic vaults built to withstand earthquakes, blizzards, power outages and fires. Over 2 billion specimens are housed here at the National Seed Bank which aim to save the range of genes that make them useful from flavor and nutrition to drought tolerance or resistance to disease. The cold storage preserves the seeds for a certain amount of time, but seeds need to be rotated out and in to keep them viable. “The best way to preserve these seeds is to plant them. Keeping seeds planted allows those varieties to continue adapting.” as explained by the Seed Savers Exchange in Iowa. It’s amazing to know that our seeds are protected and used to allow plants to evolve and adapt to future growing conditions!

Endurance and survival. Seeds travel for survival through wind, water, animals or birds. Cotton is an interesting example of a seed that travels very successfully by both wind and water. Cotton seeds are covered by fluff containing thousands of fiber strands which enable them to travel easily by wind. Interestingly, the same fluffiness that keeps cotton aloft in wind also helps it to float in water for up to two and half months by trapping air bubbles in the many fibers! This explains how Charles Darwin matched cotton genes in the Galapagos Islands as the same cotton from the South American coast.

The survival instinct of seeds is incredible — their legend lives on in children’s books such as one favorite that we read to our kids as toddlers, Belly Button Boy by Maloney Zedauskas. It’s a charming story about a boy who loves to play in the dirt, but refuses to take baths. As dirt piles up in his belly button, he wakes up one morning with a green leafy plant sprouting from it! It’s a fun journey through his navel garden dilemma to encourage children to keep clean!

One final story from our own backyard. I noticed a large scattering of pine cone scales under the big evergreen tree. A busy squirrel had been taking apart the cones to get at the 2 seeds that sit on the inner part of the cone on every scale. There were still a few seeds lying on the ground so when I picked them up and broke them open, I discovered they were full of pine sap! I wondered if the squirrels were eating the pine sap? When I researched this, I found out they do indeed eat the sap. The sap had the most amazing pine fragrance, but had a sticky texture. It reminded me of the sap I saw as a child oozing from the bark of evergreen trees that I accidentally leaned against!

What are some fun seed stories that you can share in the comments? Have you watched a maple key twirl gracefully in the wind to the ground?


#seeds #earthday #seedbank #endurance #survival #travel #plants #pinecones #nature

The Little Oath That Could!

One of the best things about this past year is discovering a little company called Let’s Make Art! Their free tutorials have provided many hours of watercolor painting and learning new techniques in a fun and no pressure format.

To begin each lesson, the artist, Sarah Cray, recites an oath that is wonderful and inspiring!

I promise to be kind to myself.

I promise to not compare my work.

I promise to have fun!

I thought… this oath could be applied to so many areas of our lives — work, education, creativity, sports, etc. I added the oath to my art journal as a reminder to be kind to myself in the creative process. I see so many people post a photo of their painting on social media and express how unhappy they are with the end product. This makes me sad and I want to share a few quotes that keep me inspired.

Art is a process, not a product.

Life is a journey, not a destination.

Talk to yourself the way you would talk to someone you love. ~Brene Brown

A lot of things have been done, but they gave not YET been done by YOU! ~Elizabeth Gilbert

So, pause and practice self-compassion by repeating the oath and moving forward with your projects, memories and ideas with confidence!


#bekind #nocompare #havefun #lma #letsmakeart #oath #art #journey #creativity #selfcompassion #kindness