A year ago, The Net Loft Watercolor Journaling Sessions Book Club decided to read the book, “Braiding Sweetgrass”, by Robin Kimmerer. Our previous Book Club selection had been Hannah Hinchman’s “A Trail Through Leaves: The Journal as a Path to Place”. At that time, one of the members of our group, Dannie, had mentioned that she was copying the author’s illustrations as she read the text, and I decided I would like to do that also, combining the notes I was taking in my journal with my own version of reproductions of the author’s original illustrations in the book.
I loved the book, and appreciated so much all that Hannah Hinchman shared, and I truly enjoyed this practice of combining my notes with copies of her illustrations, especially in light of the fact that we are a watercolor journaling group. I enjoyed imitating her strokes and following along her illustrative path as a perfect partnership to the listening I was engaged in with her words. It made total sense to me, as this was also a book that discussed the foundations of nature journaling, and so, when we started up with our new book club selection, I decided I would continue in a similar manner to combine words and pictures to my notes taken down as I was reading. The difference was, however, that in the first book, there were illustrations to copy, but “Braiding Sweetgrass” had no pictures, just words. This did not turn out to be a problem, due to the author’s descriptive writing style, and from the moment I started reading, visual images and pictures came to mind.
What I found in reading the book in this manner was, that reading in such a way that I had to contemplate and allow the visual pictures to come, caused me to read more slowly and think more deeply about what I was reading, because thinking in such a way as to create visual pictures that were then water colored, involved a more holistic mental experience that internalized and deepened my connection with the stories that Robin Kimmerer was sharing.
This process resulted in reading the author’s writings in a more attentive and interactive manner, and in such a way that often penetrated my heart in places that sometimes only visual pictures can reach. I found myself becoming still and listening, patiently allowing her to speak in such a way that I was more open to hear what she was saying. I often found myself asking her, “What are you really saying here? What is the message you are trying to convey? What is it that you really want me know and take to heart? “
As a result of this process of slowing down to draw, watercolor, and take notes, I only just this week completed the book. It had taken me a full year to work my way through the text, and in the process, I felt like I had spent this year close beside the author, listening for details that would allow my brain to wrap a painting around her words and sentences. My contact with her through these words was internalized and affected me deeply.
I have to say, I wish I could tell Robin Kimmerer how much I appreciate the time and care that she put into writing her book, the words she chose, one by one that became paragraphs that turned into pages, and into chapters, and assembled into a book which was then published and shared with us all. Her passion and ability to communicate in ways that pierced my thinking and enabled me to think more deeply about life and my relationship with the world around me, the people and our relationship to one another and to our environment. At some point, I hope to cut apart my pages into individual cards and place them in a basket I hope to weave with natural materials from places that hold meaning for me.
198 3x5 panels later, I want you to know that this time spent and this practice of journaling in words and pictures is a worthwhile endeavor, and I highly recommend it. You can start any time and begin in a way that suits you. I will treasure my pages, not because they are “pretty pictures”, but because of what they represent inside of my heart and mind, and because of the transformative power found in the interaction with words and pictures with the author’s writings that I experienced throughout this past year. It is deeply personal, yet one I hope that will be manifested in the context of community, as it proceeds from thought into action.
And now our book club moves on. Some of the people in our group have suggested another book that they feel would be one that we could study in depth in the same way that we studied “Braiding Sweetgrass”. This new book has been highly recommended, and I look forward to spending time with this new author. “Finding the Mother Tree” by Dr. Suzanne Simard, the world’s leading forest ecologist shares her story and reveals the connections of trees in relation to one another and to other living things in the forest, “ a moving, deeply personal journey of discovery”.
Our plan is to begin our reading on November 6, with a launch occuring during our regular weekly Watercolor Journaling Session at noon and 7 pm Alaska time. Some have read the book previously and plan to reread utilizing the practice of taking notes and drawing visual pictures inspired by the reading . We invite you to join in, in whatever journaling style that works for you. We are happy to help you set up your formatting, if desired. We invite you to join along in slowing down and listening to the author and taking time to generate and creatively integrate visual and written notes in response to the reading. If you need the link and are not presently a part of the group, let us know when you order the book, or if you have the book already, contact us with your request for the zoom link.
We have books if you need a book and we have art supplies if you need art supplies, but please know that you can use what you have on hand, and if you have the book already you’re welcome to join us, even if you don’t have any previous connection to our watercolor journaling group. We would love to have you there, and help you get started with this process, as it is a worthwhile endeavor.
Thank you for listening. It has been quite a while since I have written. We have been busy organizing and doing our best to create a better shopping experience for you, here at The Net Loft, focusing on what we do have versus our limitations. I have been also involved in pushing my way through piles of papers, making these moments journaling even more valuable in terms of mental wellness and emotional restoration. As always, I am here to help, and look forward to your presence either in person or online. Let us know if there is any way we can help you find what you need here at the shop. You are always welcome at The Net Loft, and hope you will take this opportunity to incorporate these unique forms of journaling into your lifetstyle, as I promise you will find your efforts rewarded, as you quiet yourself, and in the stillness, learn to express what listening looks like.
Best to you,
PS.. If you are interested in our Beginning Beginning Watercolor Journaling Sessions and Video Series, we have an Orientation coming up on November 4.
All welcome to join. Registration HERE.