This past weekend, I stood in silence. Staring at a small selection of drawing supplies. I had wanted to buy some artist pens. Mine had dried out. Mine that I bought eight years ago, to illustrate an archaeological dog burial.
Clearly, it was time for some new drawing tools. But there were no pens to choose from there.
I almost walked away.
But I kept looking. Maybe I missed something.
Maybe… I could buy some pencils.
My inner critic’s voice began, “We have boxes and boxes of pencils at home.”
“Yeah, but not pencils for drawing.”
“How can a pencil NOT be for drawing.”
I looked again.
I was almost in tears with the thought of buying them.
(Treating myself to art supplies can be a pretty intense experience.)
A small “artist pencil kit” caught my eye.
Three pencils, a kneaded eraser, two graphite sticks, and a woodless pencil.
And cue the critic:
“You’re going to spend almost ten dollars on something you don’t even need? Something that the kids are going to break, the dog is going to eat, and you are going to lose!?”
“Yes, Yes I am. Because I want to draw. Because I need to draw. AND it comes with a tin case.”
So now, I have a brand new set of pencils to entice me when I get that little whisper of a sense that I might like to draw.
And how glad I am. For I got that sense tonight, when I couldn’t sleep.
I started thinking about leaves.
This all started late last week when I was walking down the road with my two boys. We took the back alley on the way to the bakery. I had spent most of the week feeling under the weather and was quite unaware of the autumnal changes taking place outside.
“Wait! Wait! Kids! Come here!” I called out. They must have thought I found a frog or a grasshopper, because they sure came back quick.
“Do you see how the color of the leaves is so yellow? And it makes the back of that building seem more purple than it ever has before?”
My oldest, interested and sure it must be some kind of magic, replied “Yeah, I do! What’s that about, Mom?”
“What colors make purple?” I ask.
After a little thought and some guessing, he came up with “Blue and Red”
“Yes! Is there any yellow in purple?”
“No….” (He says it in a voice that shows that thinks he might be getting tricked.)
“And that is why the yellow and purple make each other stand out so well!”
And thus began our seasonally appropriate lesson on colors.
And several stops on the way to the bakery.
And a trip to the park. And some lessons on photography.
And a photo session that became what my son called the “Color Catch”
And left me thinking of leaves and trees.
And thinking of times when I was learning my leaves and trees.
And so, here comes that whisper.
It’s caught on something.
It’s drawn to a time.
A time when I took certain routes around the campus of Southern Illinois University, just to visit certain trees.
I may have been dating a forestry major.
But to tell the truth, I was in love with the trees.
So I started thinking about my beloved tulip poplar.
Just outside the Liberal Arts building.
I’d visit it everyday.
I miss the unique blossoms and the strange seed pods.
But I remember the leaf shape so well.
A few image searches left me longing.
Wondering how that tree is now.
And drawing the shape and uncovering the vein pattern.
I was suddenly grateful that I was treated myself to those pencils this weekend.
I needed them, for not just any pencil would do.
Memories of my wonder that exists in leaves continued to grow.
I thought of sweet gum.
This spectacular tree can have any range and combination of colors at any time in the fall.
It was a childhood favorite of mine.
We had one at the house where my dad lived. Each fall, I would collect the funny round, poky, seed capsules and deposit them in hoards in the backyard. I loved them.
Come spring when my dad mowed the yard and found those caches of prickly seed capsules… well he didn’t like it so much then. But, I bet it would give him a big laugh now.
And so, I gave my try at playing with pencil shading the beautiful leaf shape and delicate intricacies of the seed capsules.
And was quite pleased with the process.
And quite delighted to rediscover the joy of being drawn into to nature, one smooth graphite stroke at a time.