Welcome!

Welcome! This is a place to share how we celebrate & deepen our relationship to Nature. Here you will find stories, images, & ideas about wilderness, human nature, & soulfulness. Drawing from the experiences of everyday living, the topics on this blog include: forays into the natural world, the writing life, community service, meditation, creativity, grief & loss, inspiration, & whatever else emerges from these. I invite you on this exploration of the wild within & outside of us: the inner/outer landscape.



Monday, June 21, 2021

Monday Musings NATURE PRACTICE

TEALarbor stories’ Monday Musings are simple practices for exploring the inner/outer landscape. 



Move as fast as you can for one minute through a nearby natural area and pause; then move as slowly as you can through the same area. 






All blog images created & photographed by Jennifer J. Wilhoit unless otherwise noted. Please circulate images with photo credit: "©2021 Jennifer J. Wilhoit/TEALarbor stories. All Rights Reserved."

Friday, June 18, 2021

Bark

I was hiking through the forest with a friend today and I noticed a piece of alder bark on the trail. It wasn’t just the thin outer layer, as I usually find; it was a quarter-inch-thick hunk of beauty—like a miniature artwork framed and ready to hang on the wall. 

 

In my early morning quiet time today, a few hours before that hike, I suddenly recalled a tree outside my childhood home and my young obsession to peel off its loose bark. That sycamore was my favorite of all the trees on our property; the interesting shapes and coloration of the shedding bark reminded me of the jigsaw puzzles I loved to piece together as a young girl. 

 

A friend who is new to the Pacific Northwest mentioned that she can only identify the native hemlock tree from a distance, by spotting its droopy top. I thought about this while brushing my teeth this morning. I can easily spot the hemlocks at the landscape level but standing among the tall trunks I get confused about which bark belongs to them. I made a mental note to check my field guide; by the time I’d finished brushing my teeth, my thoughts had roamed and I forgot all about it. 

 

Thirty years ago, I taught myself how to create handmade paper from junk mail. In an early experiment to include natural items in the paper pulp, I gathered a bunch of madrone tree bark; its rust and tan colors and wafer-thin texture enticed me. I added brown paper shopping bags to that pulp. The result was a spotted, wrinkly, textured paper of dark brown and auburn. I still have some of that barky paper. 

 

It is these small details that inspire deeper connection with inner nature and biological nature: moments of noticing what is around me, 

exploring shapes and textures and colors in nature, 

learning the names of things and forgetting and relearning, 

testing out nature on inside projects, 

calling a tree by its name or a bark by its furrows …

 

What an abundance of opportunity! In a few days, it will be the summer solstice (June 20th): may you find your own moments to explore in the coming season. 





(Orig. posted in June 2018)

All blog images created & photographed by Jennifer J. Wilhoit unless otherwise noted. Please circulate images with photo credit: "©2021 Jennifer J. Wilhoit/TEALarbor stories. All Rights Reserved."





Wednesday, June 16, 2021

Image of the Week

"Painter's Delight"




All blog images created & photographed by Jennifer J. Wilhoit unless otherwise noted. Please circulate images with photo credit: "©2021 Jennifer J. Wilhoit/TEALarbor stories. All Rights Reserved."

Monday, June 14, 2021

Monday Musings CREATIVE PRACTICE

TEALarbor stories’ Monday Musings are simple practices for exploring the inner/outer landscape. 



Draw a rough sketch of your favorite tree.






All blog images created & photographed by Jennifer J. Wilhoit unless otherwise noted. Please circulate images with photo credit: "©2021 Jennifer J. Wilhoit/TEALarbor stories. All Rights Reserved."

Friday, June 11, 2021

into this window

I don’t know what to write. 

I’m sure it has all dried up once and for all: 

no more ideas, no more words, no more inspiration – 

because I’ve already used far too many words in chapters and letters and emails this week. 

 

My words are spent. And so am I.

 

And then the fat breeze wedges its way through the narrow opening of my office window and suddenly I am renewed. 

 

I look toward the location from which I feel sure the breeze has come and,  

instead of finding some answer about the wind, 

my eyes hit the wall of “yellow-green” 

(an actual color according to Crayola) and 

 

I become somebody else. 

I become somebody brand new and flourishing in the late spring breeze. 

I turn my face to catch that breeze, to see if the breath of out there can become the breath of in here

And it works. 

 

My plans got scattered around and dislodged yesterday: 

 

the Internet was inexplicably out for more than a couple of hours just after dawn;

I opted to attempt to catch the Wi-Fi signal from the local Starbucks – from the quiet of my car – 

            so that I could proceed with my first client appointment of the day;

I encountered a stranger passed out in her SUV near the bottom of our driveway – her vehicle 

            still running and in gear, no emergency brake in use, her sleeping foot on the brake pedal,  

            her head flopped like a rag doll atop her steering wheel – and it frightened me because I 

            didn’t know the origin of her unconsciousness or the state of her wellbeing, and I helped 

            her;  

an hour before I was supposed to leave for an interesting, two-day creative class, I learned that it 

            was cancelled…and I was then at a loss as to how I would spend the rest of the day,

            motivation for serious work long since transformed into inspiration for learning a new art

form: an energy that cannot be reconverted back to productive work projects;

the focal point of all my nonwork time over the past few weeks has fledged the nest, or been 

            consumed by a predator: both are plausible options

 

Into this window of my home, of my heart, of my life

that fat breeze arrives; 

it just keeps on coming, and coming, and 

falling into my waiting arms like a beloved friend. 

 

The scatterings of my day get sewn back together.

Glued. Collaged. 

Woven.

 

The birds keep flying into view and saying, “Look at me. Be intrigued. Learn and get inspired.”

 

And I see that the words have arrived too. 

They are not all gone, they still flow and curl and spiral into patterns that become a more complete story. 

They have wings, and they take flight.





                                                                                          

(Orig. posted in June 2018.)


All blog images created & photographed by Jennifer J. Wilhoit unless otherwise noted. Please circulate images with photo credit: "©2021 Jennifer J. Wilhoit/TEALarbor stories. All Rights Reserved."

Wednesday, June 9, 2021

Image of the Week

"Pine Siskin"


All blog images created & photographed by Jennifer J. Wilhoit unless otherwise noted. Please circulate images with photo credit: "©2021 Jennifer J. Wilhoit/TEALarbor stories. All Rights Reserved."

Monday, June 7, 2021

Monday Musings WRITING PRACTICE

TEALarbor stories’ Monday Musings are simple practices for exploring the inner/outer landscape. 



Write a free-form poem about Earth. 






All blog images created & photographed by Jennifer J. Wilhoit unless otherwise noted. Please circulate images with photo credit: "©2021 Jennifer J. Wilhoit/TEALarbor stories. All Rights Reserved."

Friday, June 4, 2021

Diary of One Hundred Days: True Confessions

I impulsively committed to a creative project challenge in late February without knowing exactly what I would do for my creative output.

 

The challenge was to create every single day in a row for one hundred days. 

 

I initially chose a theme of spirals which I tired of about a month into the challenge. On Day 51 I switched to a more general theme of “inner/outer landscape.” That worked well and I felt a new creative freedom. 

 

I used a variety of media – nature objects for outdoor sculptures, multimedia collage, watercolor. I also used nature photographs that I’ve taken and printed out: for collage, mandalas, and as inspiration for paintings. My daily time commitment ranged from five to forty-five minutes, but I usually spent just ten to fifteen minutes a day creating my little pieces. (My current book project, TEALarbor stories, and other professional commitments are my primary occupations and are also very time costly.) 

 

None of my mini creative projects felt complete, so I began calling them “drafts” –in-progress pieces that I can finish later or combine with other little pieces to create a complete something.  

 

I have never been formally and extensively trained in anything “art-y.” I have taken some one-off classes over the years but more out of a need for visual self-expression or for the good company of other creatives than to learn new techniques. When I call myself a “dabbler in creativity” I don't do so out of humility, I do so because that is truly how I see myself … dipping my brush into this or that, trying things until I tire of the clumsy effort, reaching broadly with a variety of materials, but mostly reaching deeply within to see what my inner landscape offers me in that moment.   

 

Some of my closest family members have balked when I call myself a “dabbler” – particularly when they first saw it appear in my professional bios, published on the backs of my books, and even in my casual writing. They remember when I was two and fingerpainted, when I was three and held my first crayon, when I was five and held a fat marker, when I was eight and held a slimmer colored pen. They recognize me now as a writer and published author. Over decades, they have watched me being creative

 

I know I’m nitpickingly parsing words here, but I feel as if I’m a creative, not an artist. 

 

I have worked professionally with many artists and fine craftspeople over the years, an extension of my lifelong love and pursuit of the creations of “makers.” Most of these wondrous individuals have been formally trained and do their art and craft as their primary occupation. I have such deep respect – bordering on sacred reverence – for these people. When I pick up a brush or collage materials, I know that I am just playing and that my livelihood is not inherent in that act.

 

During this springtime hundred days from February to late May 2021, I: 

 

…stretched. 

…persevered.

…sweated.

…reveled in the act of showing up to the practice.

…drew little sketches of birds, trees, leaves, and flowers that I never considered part of the hundred-day challenge, never posted online, never counted in my tally of one hundred.

…posted things online (one of the accountability requests of the challenge) that I wouldn’t otherwise share. 

…hid some of my clumsiest pieces and made extra creative works to cover that day’s commitment to post. 

…learned some things about my process, my outcome, my shortcomings, my strivings, my strengths. 

 

But best of all, I have continued creating since the challenge ended and I have an overflowing well of ideas for more projects.  

 

The day after I completed my hundredth creative draft, I tore apart my art shelves and spent the next twenty-four hours organizing all of my creative supplies, cleaning up my workspace, and starting fresh on some new projects. 

 

I would do the challenge again (though not soon). But I would do it differently. 

 

What will you do over the course of one hundred consecutive days? 


 































































All blog images created & photographed by Jennifer J. Wilhoit unless otherwise noted. Please circulate images with photo credit: "©2021 Jennifer J. Wilhoit/TEALarbor stories. All Rights Reserved."

Wednesday, June 2, 2021

Image of the Week

"Gifts of Life"




All blog images created & photographed by Jennifer J. Wilhoit unless otherwise noted. Please circulate images with photo credit: "©2021 Jennifer J. Wilhoit/TEALarbor stories. All Rights Reserved."

Monday, May 31, 2021

Monday Musings GRATITUDE PRACTICE

TEALarbor stories’ Monday Musings are simple practices for exploring the inner/outer landscape. 



Express your thanks to someone who helps you today. 








All blog images created & photographed by Jennifer J. Wilhoit unless otherwise noted. Please circulate images with photo credit: "©2021 Jennifer J. Wilhoit/TEALarbor stories. All Rights Reserved."

Friday, May 28, 2021

“Exquisite”

I grew up thinking that the word “exquisite” was snooty: a word made up of the most rare consonants, and only to be used by the rarefied. 

 

“Exquisite” had some vague connection to polished gemstones, strung on gold chains, around elegantly-adorned women’s necks.

 

“Exquisite” was a relic, an old-fashioned word, to be used by the doddering gray-haired ones. And here I am with my own ample patch of gray hair and not nearly as swift or steady as I once was. So is this why the word is suddenly cropping up like weeds everywhere in my writing? How is it that this outmoded language has begun to show up (repeatedly) in my manuscript, in blog posts, in email notes … even out of my mouth in the most unexpected moments?

 

It is because of this Earth. 

Nature. 

All things growing, 

blooming, leafing, crawling, flying, scratching, swimming, planted and rooted, foraging, 

blowing. 

 

This blog is obsessively filled with over ten years of nature reveries, praises, poems, images, experiences, expressions, paintings, and passions delighting in the exquisite natural world. Beautiful, amazing Earth!

 

But “exquisite” is now in great company with other obscure words that have more recently crept into my expressions: 

 

lovely. 

sumptuous. 

grand. 

marvelous. 

rich. 

wondrous. 

brilliant. 

awe-inspiring. 

 

This new lexicon comes directly from the unfathomably vast treasure trove of the natural world. The gratitude and blessings (two more long-ago-unfamiliar words) we can experience from daily abidance in nature are nearly inexpressible in everyday terms. No wonder we reach deep, wide, far in clumsy attempts to shape into sentences that which is so much broader than the boundaries of alphabets: 

 

this exquisite, pearly, gem-filled natural world.




(Orig posted in Ma7 2017.)


All blog images created & photographed by Jennifer J. Wilhoit unless otherwise noted. Please circulate images with photo credit: "©2021 Jennifer J. Wilhoit/TEALarbor stories. All Rights Reserved."



Wednesday, May 26, 2021

Image of the Week

"Sparkling Gems"















































All blog images created & photographed by Jennifer J. Wilhoit unless otherwise noted. Please circulate images with photo credit: "©2021 Jennifer J. Wilhoit/TEALarbor stories. All Rights Reserved."