Sunday, November 29, 2009

Back at Home

Thank goodness for my maple tree. It is my only decoration as November turns to December, and like clockwork, it turns brilliant red every year during this next week. It greeted us on our return from Arkansas a little less orange and a little more red.

Every other house in the neighborhood may have their lights strung and inside trees decorated, but we wait a few more weeks into Advent. I love Thanksgiving so much, it is hard for me to switch gears towards Christmas. The trees around us in this southern part of Mississippi still wear their autumn dresses. I'm not quite ready for red and green until I see the leaves of my maple painting the brick sidewalk and green grass in front of my house. This eases me into December towards Christmas. For now, I'm still at home and content to see a few more autumn leaves fall slowly and silently to the ground.

Posted by Picasa

Thursday, November 26, 2009

At Home

Oh, yes. I was at home among these huge rock formations at Petit Jean State Park, and it was even chilly enough to wear the fingerless mittens I made while snapping photographs and touching the rocks. We hiked Bear Cave Trail, Rock House Cave Trail, and visited a few overlooks including one over the rushing Cedar Falls. We saw rocks shaped liked turtle shells, skull caves, pictographs and a grinding stone left by Native Americans at Rock Cave, and buzzards soaring off the cliffs just feet away from us.

Today I am thankful for enormous rocks, trees, leaves, buzzards, fresh air, and rushing, falling water that sparks imaginations and souls-- and my community of family and friends.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Going Home

I expect to see lots of these today on the six hour drive from Mississippi to Arkansas. We are going west and north, so I hope the trees in Arkansas are even prettier than here. They might have already peaked, but I'll be looking out the window to see. I have my knitting, some reading, and some thinking/writing to do.

This will be my first trip to Arkansas in about 3 years. It stretches my soul back in time to childhood and college days. The memories are pulling me in even before I have left this home of family and friends. This is home, but Arkansas is "home home." I always feel different when I am there.

Posted by Picasa

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Education Photography

After a year of blogging and taking photographs to use on my blog, I have accumulated many, many photos of children in learning situations-- at school, at home, at church, on field trips, and at special events. I am discovering that education photography is a dominant theme in my photos alongside the documentation of creative endeavors such as knitting and sewing and observational photography of nature. My students at school know that "Mrs. Owen" grabs the camera all day long even in the most ordinary (extraordinary?) moments and have heard my frustration when I discover that I have accidentally left it at home.

My education photographs serve several purposes for me. They help me document, share, and reflect upon my work. They provide fodder for thinking of the next step. They capture moments of inspiration and creativity. When I review a set of photos after a day's work, I am noticing, imagining, wondering, and dreaming. I see questions, quiet moments, exuberance, teamwork, solitude, thinking, frustrations, reading, reflection, connections, joy, sadness, puzzlement, and possibilities.

This may sound strange, but I think that I pray through my photographs-- for each child and for hope. I am the one who is learning.

Posted by Picasa

Wednesday, November 18, 2009


On Tuesday morning, I chaperoned a field trip of fourth graders to the Mississippi Museum of Natural Science and the Davis Planetarium in Jackson. They were required to take notes about sea creatures and other animals in field study booklets prepared by one of the teachers, and they took notes with gusto! They could have taken pages and pages of notes. I had to pry a couple of girls away from taking notes about bats so that we could meet the rest of the group by the appointed meeting time.

When I was a girl, I liked to play "research" with my encyclopedias and magazines. I made up assignments for my little sister. I took notes on articles and wrote summaries. I walked to the library most days during the summer to do research and read. No wonder I ended up being a librarian!
Posted by Picasa

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Monarch Hospitality

This female monarch butterfly visited our backyard butterfly bushes this afternoon. She stayed around for at least 3 hours-- until the sun started setting. She fed on the fresh, white flower clusters with purpose and was not easily frightened away by my presence or the bees that kept fighting her for the best feeding spots. At one point, she was on the same flower with two large bees.

When I first caught a glimpse of the butterfly outside, I thought I might have seen a bird. Monarchs are some of the largest butterflies that I see out there. I was so excited to discover another migrating monarch. Since our caterpillar rearing in April, I have learned so much about these remarkable creatures, and I feel some kinship with them. I'm on their side, and I hope that she can make it all the way to her winter roosting spot. Through our garden hospitality, I'm honored that I can give her some new energy for her journey.

Posted by Picasa

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

New Camera

Thanks to my recent birthday, I have a new camera-- a Nikon D40. I've been eying it for a while, and now I'm loving it. These shots of my pets capture their personalities so clearly.
Posted by Picasa

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Nature Exploring and Creating

The Mississippi Environmental Education Alliance hosted a fall conference that I attended over the weekend. My friend Sarah Campbell wrote about several workshops (including hers) from the conference on her blog here.

The last workshop was led by Robin Whitfield who had also made a presentation about her work the night before. This session was a hands-on exploration of our outdoor surroundings at the conference center. After demonstrating some art techniques Ms. Whitfield likes to use, each participant was encouraged to gather materials, take a walk, observe nature, and explore the trees, leaves, water or whatever we saw using art. While photographing a large mushroom, a wolf spider walked across my art materials. Some folks experimented with leaves while others chose water. One of Ms. Whitfield's creative techniques is "dipping" or trying to capture a print of water surfaces with paper.

Ms. Whitfield also led us in a group project focusing on process in the style of artist Andy Goldsworthy. She photographed each stage of our work for documentation. While she had a direction in which she wanted to lead us, she was also open to what happened when we were actually creating. We improvised with what was around us. When the wind started blowing our leaves off of the paper, we added sticks to hold them down, and the sticks became part of the art. When we were running short of time, we changed our group project to one large piece instead of three. When one participant was stung by a bee, we moved our group project work area to another location.

Through all of the workshops at the conference, I was introduced to many resources for helping children learn about the environment in Mississippi. Through Ms. Whitfield's workshop, I was introduced to a whole new way of interacting with nature through art. It is through art that Ms. Whitfield learns more about the swamps through which she kayaks and the woods through which she hikes. I can't wait to share what I learned from Ms. Whitfield and others at this conference with my students and children.

Robin Whitfield demonstrated a combination of leaf rubbing with crayon and stenciling with homemade black walnut ink.

Outside, participants formed a circle from leaves collected around the conference center.

The leaves were printed with watercolor and black walnut ink mixtures and stenciled with black walnut ink that was sprayed and brushed onto the paper around the leaves and sticks. Originally, Robin had wanted to use a moth stencil in the center of the circle, but a participant suggested using a large mulberry leaf as the focal point. Here, we rubbed soil found on-site around the mulberry leaf to stencil its image onto the paper.

Our Group Project

The Process (a slide-show of my photos from the workshop)

Posted by Picasa