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.
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."