Art education, inspiration and encouragement for children and parents in Arlington, VA
My neighbor texted me when he spotted the round lime green balls on the road in late October. I followed his directions driving in my car with my paper bags next to me.
There is something about the scent of fresh walnuts that take me to a special place. I associate these nuts with my father, who said "black walnuts are a delicacy". He'd spend a lot of time peeling the green husks, cracking the outer nut shell to get to the delectable meat inside.
I have tried making walnut ink many ways: with just green husks, with just black husks, boiling for an hour, for twelve hours, making a reduction. My findings are the same no matter how I do it I get the very same brown ink. There is only one way to make it darker and richer in my experience: add the ink to a cast iron pan and turn the heat up for 12-30 minutes. It makes a very dark brown/black ink. Play with timing to get different coloring.
Put your gloves on because all parts of this process will stain your hands for days.
The husks come off easily when a rock is used to press them open. These husks are green and not rotten inside yet. The black rot is okay to boil and use as ink. Black walnuts may have a walnut maggot inside to help it with the decay process. Gross but natural.
Cover the walnuts with water, bring to boil and then simmer. The husks will all turn black.
Painters filters can be found in stores that sell paint for interior/exterior use. I like to use these filters because the holes are more porous. Coffee filters often take away so much of the ingredient that the color suffers.
Interesting Walnut facts:
I love to hike, meditate, be in nature and make art to feel good. In this post I'll share how art helps our brains. Lately, I'm feeling loss and grief so making art has been really rewarding and important.
The reason art promotes well being is because it helps the brain to be strong, flexible, and produce feel-good chemicals like serotonin and dopamine. Art is known to increase intuition. It also has the effect of heightening awareness.
Art is completely and totally interesting and exciting and so it peaks curiosity and exploration. We all need something we want and can do when we feel bored, sad or powerless.
Art involves using imagination and can be done with simple tools. It's right here at our fingertips, paper and pencil or finger and dirt are all that's needed.
When I taught children I'd ask the class to get so quiet that we could hear the drawings being made. Their little pencils moving on the surface of the paper is an amazing sound. It is the sound of creativity inside their heads flowing out onto the paper.
Whether it's looking at an apple for an hour, or just exploring line, drawing builds mental acuity.
When we feel stuck in life, our thinking can get stuck too. Drawing can help by letting ideas flow out into the sketchbook. Filled with ideas our art is an act of courage because it means taking a risk and making something from nothing. It is our own creating, literally marking time with our imprint.
There are many good, real and researched reasons why art makes us feel good. The fact is that everyone is a creative person and so being engaged creatively is a natural thing. Getting creative again is a matter of choice.
I hope you find this energizing enough to give art a try, go to a gallery or museum and allow yourself to do nothing at all but enjoy the experience.
Hiking through the Grove of Patriarchs near Mt. Rainier, is magical, like all the children's books where the impossible becomes possible.
You can say it's just a log and my imagination is too vivid. To me, I just see it, I'm not trying to make something up, it's really there. And it's kind and knowing and what might be scary or unfathomable to some, is just nature being real. Remember, the fairy tales we tell, are so that we can imagine a better world.
Forest walking is a salve - apply often.
During a meditation, I saw tree roots just like the one I came upon in the Magnificent Forest located just inside Seward Park. "The largest stand of old growth forest in Seattle".
Going deeper in my meditation I could see the dark and rich mulch of the fallen tree. The richness of the mulch, the living organisms that were thriving and teaming with life and activity. Fungus, beetles, ants, worms, mice, moss. This tree isn't dead, it's recycling fully into new life - giving completely of itself for other things to live and grow and isn't that partly the definition of life. It's what my mother and father taught me was most important: to be present for others and to care for yourself first.
As I think of my parents and all they gave to me, to my sisters and brother, there was nothing they held back. They were like grand trees giving us shelter and protection, feeding us with the sugar from their roots to sustain us until that time when they would be gone. And from all that they were in their lives, will continue to sustain us as they move on and bring us a rich and deeply rewarding soil in which to be nourished.
And what of our own roots? How do we nourish them and seep them deeper into the earth what is our larger Mother. In what ways can we find love, peace and harmony in our own knowing and deepening our gifts to feed and to be fed. How can we continue to grow as straight and brilliant as our parents? In this loss we feel when they are gone from us physically, we reach beyond our senses to be with them still.
There were times my father was so critical of me that I had an inferiority complex. In truth, I am that critical person, and I am lucky to also know that my father loved me deeply even though he could really push my buttons and me his. So aside from all that, I ask myself to consider the roots of the tree that is Him, that is me, to see in the center of it, the nutrients that we shared in the best of times for in the end that is all that matters and all we will remember. That is all we will re-member.
Fallen trees have not fallen, they have released what they are to expand into a place that we can't see with our eyes. What is left is a physical structure that we see as decay, or we can see that decay itself is life teaming with new energy and commitment. It is the continuation of the life of the tree in a new and renewing form. It is the same with people. Death is not sadness, decay and loss, even thought that is how we experience it. From a distance it can be seen as a release toward greater potential. A potential that in this world we can barely fathom.
Grieving is how we process our own loss of what was, Living again, is how we enter into what is. What is now, is all there is and in that place are all gathered as one where, as Jesus said: all things are made new. He was the ultimate human being that gave every thing he had to love us and to give us lives that are more joyful and more full. Looking to the physical is not the way to anticipate the things we really want and need, but to be here physically holding the light, using it to ground into the earth with our roots what it means to us to be alive and full of love.
Words are a means of telling a story but a walk in the woods is an experience that transcends the need for words. Take a walk and breath the oxygen the trees give. And in accepting that breath the trees are given the same gift.
The crickets are singing outside the open windows as I speak to you this day of the beauty of life within. There are many things we can do, and lists we can make to accomplish this and that, but at the end of the day when we lay our head on the pillow, we only want peace.
Art is like prayer when in the zone, there is peace in the doing because I'm not really "doing" anything, just "being" creative. To find inspiration and encouragement for making art it's necessary to let go of all that I've been thinking and doing, so I can just be. I take one day a week to have a day of rest and I make myself rest. It's work to rest-I have found-because I am so used to doing.
I read a lot, take naps. I fast. I go outside. I pet the cats. Nothing much happens on the outside, but on the inside I become more aware of my always talking mind. And after some time, I just feel like I do right now. The questions, examination and process just get quiet and I enjoy the sound of the refrigerator hum, the crickets, the typing of the key.
After a day like this, all the things I would have done are still there to do, but now I've been thoughtful with those things as they have crossed my mind during my day of rest. I have a different way of seeing those things, I might tackle a project differently, let it go completely. My mind is in newness and so is the world and how I approach it. It's a golden place to start.
Take a day of rest whenever possible. Don't wait until you are so tired you have to take a vacation. You will end up getting more work done by not working. When you go back to work, you will have a new and fresh approach and the work might change in direction. Being creative takes energy, rest is part of the process. Renewing and regenerating within, makes it possible to hear and feel the buzz and hum of flowing in gratitude.
Be thankful for all that is around, under and especially inside. This is the place to begin again.
Animals are naturally good at being in the state of grace.
A stranger will be living alone in my house, sleeping in my bed and cooking meals in my kitchen. This is what happens when a house sitter found on line enters into an agreement based on the ad I placed.
II'm just beginning my explorations into ink and dye making and I'm so excited! What I love about making ink from natural ingredients is that I can find what I need in my yard, the refrigerator, the sidewalk. I'll share two of my favorite resources and a short video here.
I listened with all my body to a NPR broadcast: Elizabeth Layton, a seventy year old,depressed housewife took a drawing class and it changed her life. Layton felt her sadness lift as she used colored pencils to illustrate herself, husband and her everyday life. I remember thinking "There is hope for me."
Susan Ball Faedar has been teaching people about the Japanese culture through textiles. Having just finished her last tour there, she is now free to work on her own art. On my way through Lewisburg I stop to have lunch with my friend. Our time together consists of conversations about the time we have left to get out all the creativity we want to express.
It takes courage to admit to yourself what you really think and feel about what you are capable of. At least that is true for me. When I think about making art, I never just jump up and say oh yeah, let's make a masterpiece right now. I hope that's what will happen, but then there are so many doubts.