nature study

Foxglove

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There’s something I love
About the towering foxglove,
How the Staggering spotted Blooms
Grow Straight and tall
How the color fades and tapers
And how the baby buds enthrall
You with their stature.

-Mrs. Karl T. Cooper, Jr.

 

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Queen Anne’s Lace

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Each flower is a hand’s span of whiteness

Her body is not so white as
anemone petals nos so smooth-nor
so remote a thing. It is a field
of the wild carrot taking
the field by force; the grass
does not raise above it.
Here is no question of whiteness,
white as can be, with purple mole
at the center of each flower.
Each flower is a hand’s span
of her whiteness. Wherever
his hand has lain there is
a tiny purple blemish. Each part
is a blossom under his touch
to which the fibres of her being
stem one by one, each to it end
until the whole field is a
white desire, empty , a single stem,
a cluster, flower by flower,
a pious wish to whiteness gone over-
or nothing.

William Carlos Williams, 1883-1963

 

Field Guides for Nature Study

 

How and Why Wonder Books are really wonderful reference books.  We find ourselves coming home from a nature walk and rereading this one, just to be sure that what we saw was in fact an American Copper Butterfly.

A Golden Nature Guide of Insects is another favorite of ours. It’s much smaller than the how and why wonder book of Insects and easily fits in a pocket or purse. It also has full color pictures making it easy to ID insects.

What do you use on nature walks?

Gift Ideas for Children: Something to Read Edition.

Is it too early for a Christmas wish list?

Nope!

Here’s ours:

Animalium

Botanicum 

I have been eyeing these two books for months. The illustrations are just stunning! And with all the weed bouquets that grace my vases and captured caterpillars that fill my Mason jars, I like to think that my children our budding naturalists. These are sure to help them along the way.

The Golden Book of Birds

The Golden Book of Birds, 1945, Little Golden Book

I have been thinking of getting this one for my youngest naturalist. Such a dear little golden book!

 

The MouseWife

We are big fans of Rumer Godden in this household. My girls’ favorite so far has been The doll’s house. But Fu-Dog, The Kitchen Madonna, Impunity Jane and The Mouse House are also much loved by them. We have not read The Mousewife yet and it looks like an endearing tale.

The Magic Nesting Doll 

We have the Lion and the Lady which is such a beautiful book.  Jacqueline Ogburn and Laurel Long make an extremely talented team both the storytelling and the artwork are arresting.

What’s on your wish list this year?

Margins

bird

“Birds know themselves not to be at the center of anything, but at the margins of everything. The end of the map. We only live where someone’s horizon sweeps someone else’s. We are only noticed on the edge of things; but on the edge of things, we notice much.” Gregory Maguire out of oz

Photography by Kateri Maw 

Northern Mockingbird

Nature Study With Milosz

I remember my first encounters with particular birds. For example, the golden oriole seemed like an absolute miracle to me, with its unity of color and its flute like voice. And it was precisely birds, it seems, that I looked for in nature books as soon as I learned to read – books that would soon become my cult objects.

from Milosz’s ABC

Well, my great hero was Linnaeus; I loved the idea that he had invented a system for naming creatures, that he had captured nature that way. My wonder at nature was in large part a fascination with names and naming. . . Eventually I turned away from Darwinism because of its cruelty, though at first I embraced it. Nature is much more beautiful in painting, in my opinion.

– Milosz, Paris Review Interview 

In keeping a nature journal, we do both: naming and painting (or drawing). Through the mediation of painting, we have a deeper encounter with beauty. Through the identification by name of the things we see around us, we begin to perceive and intuit order within the jumble that meets our senses. The nature journal may be essentially more poetic than scientific. But Milosz implies in one of his interviews that poetic truth is a higher good than the knowledge aimed at by modern science.

In a 1991 poem, Milosz pays tribute to Linneaus, who rejoices to pick up the task of naming the creatures where Adam left off. Milosz sees this work of naming as a great accomplishment of the human race: a liberal art. He associates the classification of natural phenomena with the singing of Psalms: “How manifold are thy works, O Jehovah!”

In the poem, Milosz invokes clavecin and violin, Latin hexameter. Nature paintings, atlases, like colorful lexicons give us a “language of marvel.” The world manifested in nature paintings is deeply related here to the worlds of music, poetry, the Classical languages.

In particular to Latin. If Latin is the eternal language of the Church, it is also the language in which the creatures find their official Adam-bestowed names. When we make our own nature sketches, we engage in a spiritual exercise: doing for ourselves, as we must, what greater than us have done far better. Our souls grow, with a combination of humility and audacity. When we make our nature sketches, it might be fruitful to label them with both their local, vernacular name and their full multi-part Latin title of nobility. These old names. . . are like prayers.

– Mrs. Aldertree