Don’t discount the weeds

Since I’ve been rambling on about politics too much again, it’s time to get away from that. I stopped watching TV almost completely several years ago and I’ve never gotten into the streaming services. Instead, I began watching more YouTube videos. It’s very odd that I made this transition. I thought reality TV was total garbage from its inception and YouTube is filled with videos made by content-creators, mostly with no professional experience at media, but I’ve found that I enjoy the amateurish quality (reality) with all sorts of videos, including many crafting, needlework, frugal-living, and homesteading channels.

Last week, while watching a homesteading video, the husband narrated most of the video, but for a few minutes the wife discussed her homeschooling ideas and she mentioned a nature journaling project she’s planned and that her daughter was excited about. She held up the book pictured above. Her few minutes uplifted me and made me feel a flash of hopefulness for the future. Here was a young mother, homeschooling her daughter and putting together a nature journaling adventure. I found she had been captivated by Edith Holden’s nature journal for a long time, just like me. I found another video by this young mother from 5 years ago, where she talked about starting a nature journal. She showed a flower press her husband made for her. It’s reassuring to see young people, who just set out and try to learn new skills and make things, using simple supplies or things they have around the house.

About 5 years ago, I bought that very same Edith Holden book, when I was learning how to make junk journals. I saw numerous videos where pages of this Edith Holden book were used in junk journals, so I bought this book on amazon – used, in very good condition, for $3. Junk journaling is a free-spirited move away from the commercialized scrapbooking of a few decades ago, where you can make your own books and journals using all sorts of materials, including, old books, junk papers, pages from books, old greeting cards, scrapbook paper, and even envelopes. I discovered junk journaling on YouTube and it opened the door to another crafting adventure for me. I’ve made numerous junk journals, but haven’t had the heart to tear any pages out of my copy. I prefer to draw inspiration from and cherish the entire book.

Edith Holden was an English artist and art teacher at a girl’s school, who also worked as an illustrator for some nature publications and children’s books, according to her Wikipedia bio. This book contains absolutely beautiful sketches and watercolors of plants and animals, along with nature notes, poetry and quotes. In 1906, she created this diary as a model for her students. She died in 1920, but this diary, left to family, wasn’t’ published until 1977.

While many people associate nature-journaling and watercolor painting as some hobby of British upper-class ladies, drawing and sketching were actually very important skills before photography existed. People couldn’t just pull out a cell-phone and snap a photo or google things for information.

The British military also taught military officers watercolor painting, as part of keeping ship’s records of where they travelled. The entire idea of drawing pictures of nature was very important in early America too, as colonists set out to learn about this new land.

From 1804-1806, Lewis and Clark were sent by President Thomas Jefferson to explore the new land America acquired after the Louisiana Purchase. They did not have an artist on their expedition, so between the two men, they filled 18 small notebooks with details, maps they created, and illustrations they drew. Neither was a trained artist. Here’s a link where you can read their journals and look at their maps and illustrations. The Lewis and Clark Expedition is one of the most fascinating adventure stories in American history. President Jefferson commissioned the Corps of Discovery in 1803 and he picked Captain Meriwether Lewis to lead the expedition and William Clark, another officer, was the second in command. Lewis was an Army officer, but he had no formal education until he was 13 years old according to his Wikipedia bio. President Jefferson set about making preparations for this expedition, which included extensive training for Lewis:

“In 1803, Jefferson sent Lewis to Philadelphia to study medicinal cures under Benjamin Rush, a physician and humanitarian. He also arranged for Lewis to be further educated by Andrew Ellicott, an astronomer who instructed him in the use of the sextant and other navigational instruments.[28][29] From Benjamin Smith Barton, Lewis learned how to describe and preserve plant and animal specimens, from Robert Patterson refinements in computing latitude and longitude, while Caspar Wistar covered fossils, and the search for possible living remnants.[30][31] Lewis, however, was not ignorant of science and had demonstrated a marked capacity to learn, especially with Jefferson as his teacher. At Monticello, Jefferson possessed an enormous library on the subject of the geography of the North American continent, and Lewis had full access to it. He spent time consulting maps and books and conferring with Jefferson.[32]

Several years ago there was a hobby that took off called “geocaching,” but the real-deal caching was a matter of life and death, not fun and games like geocaching. During the Lewis and Clark expedition “caching pits” were dug and used to store supplies and it required skilled trackers to relocate those caches in the uncharted wilderness. Truly, the Lewis and Clark journals are something every prepper should take a look at, because it’s amazing the things you can learn from their grueling journey.

Ulysses S. Grant, the famous Civil War general and US president, was also an artist. He began watercolor painting as a young man and studied art while a cadet at West Point. Grant was known for being a rough and tough general, but he was also an accomplished watercolor artist

My road to actually making junk journals started as a child, when I created scrapbooks and journals, often cutting pictures out of old magazines, pressing flowers, and using found items around my home. Back then, I didn’t think about needing certain supplies or having to follow certain rules. Like most kids, I just set off and explored new things. Some worked, some didn’t, but I felt a sense of joy and enthusiasm that can fade as you grow older and start thinking you need to use certain supplies when doing things. Scrapbooking became a popular craft a few decades ago, with mountains of “must-have” supplies being touted and sold. I have a lot of those supplies still, but I didn’t enjoy that structured way of scrapbooking

While battling cancer in 2003-2004, I purchased several books on making handmade books and it made me feel hopeful, but I didn’t feel confident enough to start making my own handmade books. That inspiration came after coming across a junk journaling video on YouTube, then realizing there was an entire junk journaling community there. As I watched more channels, I realized some were skilled artists, others brand new crafters, but what I loved was absorbing all these ideas and beginning to feel, “Well, I could do that too!” That’s what inspiration is – when you move from letting doubts hold you back, to actually taking those first steps setting out on a new path. Inspiration can come in many forms, from faith, from the beauty of nature, from poetry, books, art, but it can also come from ordinary people cheerfully showing how they’re doing something that you’ve thought about, but weren’t sure how to go about it.

The junk journal on the right remains one of my favorite junk journals, even though neither is some stunning journal or remotely art. I made these from old books, using old calendar pages as the pictures on the covers. Inside each book I added all sorts of junk, from old cards and post cards, to even labels from packages:

Amidst all the media noise our modern life is filled with, we can choose to work at unplugging a bit and really looking at the world around us.

Rather than focusing on all the bad things happening, even small things, like enjoying a beautiful sunset or spending a few minutes watching birds, or even admiring some small wildflowers growing in the crack of a sidewalk, might give you a moment’s peace or hope. You might not have any interest in nature journaling, but we can all benefit from the gifts of nature, that don’t cost a cent.

A.A. Milne, the English author of the Winnie-the-Poo books said, “Weeds are flowers, too, once you get to know them.” Beauty can be found almost anywhere, if you open your eyes and look for it.

Have a nice day!

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