Monday, October 5, 2015

Sunflowers, Rain Lilies and False Thistles (The Final Zion Prep Update)

8 days and counting! (In fact, between packing and traveling, things could get so busy that this may be the last prep post. 

thumbnail comp, graphite on Bloc Rhodia No. 13

Took some time out from all of the Zion prep for a week-long celebration of my daughter's sixteenth birthday. (Oh, they grow up so-o-o fast!) And then, to commemorate the momentous occasion, I knocked out an oil sketch of her tinted sunflowers as a little keepsake for her.

Kate's Sunflowers, 8"x6", Gamblin oils on Ampersand Gessobord

The weather is finally beginning to hint at autumn (at least at night, right around dawn, and in the evenings... mid-day? not so much.) And my hikes are becoming longer, and slower (which also means I'm getting to look, and perceive, more.)

Day Lilies, journal entry, w/c over pen & ink, Clairefontaine Douceur de l'ecriture

During one of these morning walks I paused to study a patch of rain lilies. At first glance I got the impression that the three-chambered seed pod grew out of the flower as both stood the same height above ground (pretty much the way a squash develops between the stem and the flower.) But, on more careful study I observed that there was a joint half way down the stem from the flower (with the upper stem segment telescoping out of the lower segment.) And, after evaluating several other flowers I reached the conclusion that -- after the flower has bloomed -- the lower stem continues to grow in height as the upper stem segment and flower begin to gradually wither and shrink. As the lower segment reaches the original height of the flower its tip begin to swell and the seed pod becomes visible. At full maturity the upper stem has dwindled to a short, string-like thread and the flower has all but disappeared. Fascinating!

False Purple Thistle (Eryngium leavenworthii) -- an indigenous plant popular with native bees,
w/c over pen & ink, Clairefontaine Douceur de l'ecriture

Then, later in the week (while out on one of my endurance hikes) I came across what I thought, at first, was some kind of purple thistle -- except it wasn't like any thistle I'd encountered before. The head was reminiscent of Scottish thistle (or, my wife said, a tiny purple pineapple) and the leaves were decidedly thistle-like. (The phrase "razor wire" comes to mind.) But the dry, woody stems were completely devoid of spines and easy to hold barehanded.

Nature is such a delight to behold when we simply learn how to slow down and open up to the wonders it offers us! I feel like a kid in the candy store (or John Muir in the mountains.)

Oh, one last note; the Park Service and I hope to offer two free journaling workshops during my residency (one toward the end of October, the other in early November.) So, if you're going to find yourself in the area and would like to join me for some nature sketching/travel journaling, check with the Zion National Park Visitor Center or stay tuned for updated details here.


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