Sketching in the Rain

I love rain! The pattering sound works solace for my soul. For an introvert it’s also often more peaceful walking in the rain, because so many people stay inside, leaving the road or trails to me and the few other people who don’t worry about melting. When I was running track or cross country in high school, I usually finished third or fourth in races– unless it was a rainy day. Then I often won, because I found the rain invigorating, while most of the other runners were psyched out by it.

I also love sketching, but it’s not always easy to blend the two. A couple of weeks ago I was sketching wolves at the Wolf Center when it started to rain, and suddenly my pencil ground to a halt on my paper. The paper in my sketchbook was heavy enough to stand up to getting rained on, but it turns out that graphite pencils don’t work on ordinary wet paper. No problem; I switched to a watercolor pencil and continued to sketch the wolves. That worked okay, but I really prefer the finer lines and detail I can get with my trusty mechanical pencil with .7mm or .9mm lead or with my favorite– a Ticonderoga No. 1 (extra-soft) pencil sharpened to a good point.

When I came home from that sketching session, I did a bit of research and found the “All Weather Sketchbook” by Rite in the Rain. My order arrived last week, and I’ve been eagerly awaiting a rainy day, so I could test it out. Today fit the bill, with heavy rain off and on all afternoon. I hurried out with watercolor pencils to draw the remaining colorful trees in our yard– I really love the soft look of fall colors on a rainy day. At first that worked beautifully, but as it rained harder, my drawing liquified and ran off the paper (onto me). At that point I pulled out my Ticonderoga pencil to sketch a tree that has already lost all its leaves. It worked wonderfully! This paper is really cool and stood up to getting heavily soaked. And now I don’t need to take weather into account when I schedule sketching trips to the wolf center or zoo!

Sketching in the rain
Sketch on Rite-in-the-Rain paper

A Time for Everything… but Not Time for Everything

I’m pondering these words and thoughts today. There is a time for everything, but there certainly isn’t time for everything. I’ve been feeling stretched thin recently, between having an older dog, most likely in his final months (a sobering reminder that his time to die is approaching), and spending more time visiting and helping my parents as they get older. Nathaniel and Meghan will soon be in NYC, bringing our two delightful grandchildren to the East Coast for a month, so I am very much anticipating a time to visit and to babysit (a time to laugh). I’m also doing what I can to help Arielle with her wedding planning (a time to dance!). This is just a small sampling of what’s been on my plate recently or will soon be on it, and I’m realizing my plate is overly full.

I have been preparing for and leading lively Sunday morning discussions on Sabbath and rest, which takes a lot of time, but also reminds me weekly of the need for downtime, for quiet, renewing and refreshing time in God’s presence (a time to be silent). As I take some time to be quiet and evaluate how I’m spending my time, I am realizing that it is time to drop some of what I am doing, so that I can fully appreciate the things that it is really time for.

Time is passing, as it always does, and I want to be sure I don’t miss that which is important. When Rowan needs extra attention, as he does more and more, I want to be relaxed enough to be fully present with him. When I am, I cherish that time, knowing that it is precious and irreplaceable. When my parents have an appointment or would like to have lunch with me, I want to be available and not rushed, fully present with them and enjoying the time together. When my children and grandchildren are here, I want to be a relaxed mom and grandmother, ready to sit on the floor and play with blocks, calm enough to peacefully rock a crying baby if needed. And through it all, I value evening walks with Stephen and quiet times hanging out together (hopefully soon by the fireplace, if it’s cool enough).

And now it’s fall, my favorite season of the year, and time outside enjoying nature adds color to all of life. Sketching, whether autumn colors from our deck, or birds at the feeder, or wolves at the wolf center, calms my soul, helping me to be quiet and still enough to notice with wonder God’s fingerprints in the world around me, so easily missed when I rush through packed days. And then I am more likely to hear his still, small voice helping me sort through all I could do to know what is best to do.

I will probably post some musings and prayers in the coming weeks, but won’t be doing so regularly, as that is one of the things I’ll be letting go as other things take priority. This week I will especially be pondering these verses. I think most of us are familiar with the thoughts in verses 1-8, but as I read verses 9-14 this morning, I was really struck by the peace of verses 11-13, and I am writing them out to post on my desk this week.
    There is a time for everything,
       and a season for every activity under the heavens:

    a time to be born and a time to die,
    a time to plant and a time to uproot,
    a time to kill and a time to heal,
    a time to tear down and a time to build,
    a time to weep and a time to laugh,
    a time to mourn and a time to dance,
    a time to scatter stones and a time to gather them,
    a time to embrace and a time to refrain from embracing,
    a time to search and a time to give up,
    a time to keep and a time to throw away,
    a time to tear and a time to mend,
    a time to be silent and a time to speak,
    a time to love and a time to hate,
    a time for war and a time for peace.

What do workers gain from their toil? 10 I have seen the burden God has laid on the human race. 11 He has made everything beautiful in its time. He has also set eternity in the human heart; yet no one can fathom what God has done from beginning to end. 12 I know that there is nothing better for people than to be happy and to do good while they live. 13 That each of them may eat and drink, and find satisfaction in all their toil—this is the gift of God. 14 I know that everything God does will endure forever; nothing can be added to it and nothing taken from it. God does it so that people will fear him.
Ecclesiastes 3:1-14

Enjoying evening light from our front deck

Sketching Wolves!

I spent a couple of blissful afternoons this week sketching wolves up close at the Wolf Conservation Center (WCC) in South Salem, NY. The center is home to four ambassador wolves who educate the public about wolves, and to red wolves and Mexican gray wolves– both critically endangered species. The WCC participates in the Species Survival Plan (SSP) and is involved in the captive breeding and release programs for these endangered wolf species. Because some of the red wolves and Mexican gray wolves may potentially be released into the wild someday, they have a minimum of exposure to people, and I haven’t seen or sketched them.

The ambassador wolves are gray wolves.  Atka, the oldest at 14 years old, is an Arctic gray wolf. The other three are Canadian/Rocky Mountain gray wolves. Alawa and Zephyr are five and a half year old littermates. Nikai, their younger brother, is two and a half. Atka lives by himself in his own very large enclosure, and the other three live together next door to him. Today I especially enjoyed observing some of the dynamics between Alawa, Zephyr, and Nikai, and I took notes and did some sketches showing just tail carriage. One of my longer term goals is to learn more about wolf dynamics and body language by watching these three younger wolves.

One thing I’m interested in seeing is how my sketches change and (hopefully) improve as I keep going back and sketching. I haven’t been very experienced with wolf sketching, and their proportions are a bit different than dogs, so I have some learning to do (which is always a good thing!).

Here is a sampling of my sketches from yesterday, some fairly quick, some a bit more detailed when the wolves were still for longer:

napping wolf sketch
Alawa on the rock
Wolf naptime

Below are some of my sketches from today. I started out with graphite pencil (usually my medium of choice), but after a while it started to rain, and graphite doesn’t work on wet paper, so I switched to an indigo watercolor pencil, which was very happy with the large raindrops on my paper. I also tried capturing some wolves running– a challenge, but fun to work at.

Wolf body language and tail carriage
Running wolf sketches
Howling wolf sketches
Atka the Arctic gray wolf and Nikai Canadian/Rocky Mountain gray wolf
Napping wolf

Positive Perspective- Musings and Prayer

There is so much in the news right now, between natural disasters, interpersonal violence, and ugly politics that if I dwell too much on those situations and issues I can easily feel overwhelmed and discouraged. I need to remind myself to focus on what is good and right and beautiful, in order to keep a positive perspective, even while considering how to respond to the various situations that present themselves. In fact, I find that, rather than being an escape, focusing on that which is good helps me then have a better idea of how to respond appropriately and constructively to situations that need my attention.

Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.    Philippians 4:8

We can choose what we allow our minds to dwell on. In this passage Paul points us in the direction of uplifting meditation.

Monday: Let’s discipline our minds today to focus on things that are just and honorable. Pray for a growing ability to recognize truth.

Tuesday: Let’s ask God to give us an appreciation for purity and true beauty, then look for such things today.

Wednesday: Do you tend to dwell on that which is commendable or that which is unattractive in others? Choose to focus on others’ strengths and see how that affects your attitude and speech.

Thursday: Throughout today let’s be alert for excellence, whether man-made or in creation, and stop to think about what makes it excellent.

Friday: Let’s look for reasons to praise God and people today. Be sure to give sincere praise wherever praise is due.

Saturday: Think about these things… Make the choice to dwell on that which is good and uplifting and encouraging.

Autumn Maple