Learning to sketch something in nature,
keeping a nature journal,
has been one of those humbling
anthropocentric moments. With photographs,
it seems I try to express what I see in nature.
Influenced by Ansel Adams,
the effort is to express what I felt
when I saw what I saw.
Nature sketching seems different.
Nature sketching doesn’t seem to be
about producing art,
or even communicating something I notice.
Instead of trying to express something we see in nature,
drawing something we see in nature
seems to be about us learning to see,
deeply,
closely.  In sketching,
nature is revealing
something to us,
rather
than the other way around.
Both
produce
awe and wonder.

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It is Jeanne Finley who has led
me to this experience. She and her husband Bill
came from Virginia to Turtle Rock Farm
and stayed in the strawbale hermitage
one autumn so Bill could visit with
college buddies from Oklahoma State University.
We three
became fast friends
partly because we are oriented
in nature; partly
because Jeanne and I are both writers,
partly because we three
care about and are involved in work
that promotes the future health of all life
on Earth.
In the last few years,
they continue to visit us in Oklahoma
and I have visited them on the East Coast.
I have envied Jeanne’s ability to sketch nature
since I first cast eyes on her journal,
lying on a table in the hermitage.

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I am thrilled
that they return in a couple of weeks
and that Jeanne will lead her second
nature sketching workshop here.
When we gathered the morning of her first
workshop,
I had no idea I could draw anything.
But with a few basic instructions,
she sent us out
to see. And I did see
a tree
I see
almost everyday,
for the first time.
I have framed the sketch
I made of that Oklahoma-shaped cedar
to remind me
that I can see
if I stop and look
carefully,
pencil to paper.

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A tree on the farm I often photograph,
trying to capture its plaintive beauty

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The drawing of that tree, as it showed itself to me
in my first attempt at drawing anything.
(Rabbit and Squirrel,
I needed a lot more time with!)

Jeanne’s sketches,
journals,
are beautiful. Lovely pictures,
they are;
but, more compelling than their artistry,
those collection of sketches
reveal something even more valuable:
that she knows many, many parts of nature
intimately.
Now that is something
to which one can
aspire.

To join us for Jeanne’s Nature Sketching Workshop,
Saturday, June 27,
go to the calendar page on our website:
www.turtlerockfarmretreat.com/calendar