Bees and Spiders and Snakes, Oh My.

“Develop a boundless ethic which includes all living things.”

Watercolor of a pine warbler by Virginia Nature Artist Karen Hines

I had just finished finished typing this paraphrase of Albert Schweitzer’s advice when a small warbler hit the sliding glass door beside my desk.  I ran out to scoop her up off the deck.  She didn’t seem to have broken anything but was obviously in shock and so I kept her warm in my hands until the shock of the accident wore off.  Happily, after about thirty minutes she seemed perky enough to sit in my grapevine wreath (aka recovery room).   Later when I checked on her, she flew off like a little jet to join her mate in the big oak by the porch.   I think Dr. Schweitzer would have been pleased.

The real challenge is to treat even the less adorable living things ethically.

I have collected quite a few examples of cute, cuddly creatures on my “Mitzi Katzen” Pinterest board that are much more endearing than bees, spiders, snakes and other less popular creatures.

Still, I have been inspired to paint many interesting bees and spiders and snakes. Many less than cuddly things do have their endearing qualities and a special function in the Web of Life.

Hardly a day goes by that I don’t discover something new and fascinating in nature that I have never seen before like this little spider with a shiny, metallic pink body that I found today in the garden! Pretty!  (Metallic Crab Spider, Philodromus marxi)

Metallic pink spider on a leaf As fascinating as I find most animals and plants there has to be a balance of compassion and survival.  I do kill poison ivy, eliminate yellow jacket nests and do not welcome poisonous snakes into my yard.

However, the little pink spider happily scurried away.

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A Noisy Silence

May has been a silent month.  A month of quiet activities that revealed the noises that so often go unnoticed, nature’s background music.  Just like chamber music in an elevator, the  sounds of nature need to be the center of attention to be truly appreciated.  With windows wide open the silent house is filled with birdsong and chipmunk chatter.

As I write its early morning just before dawn of the first day of June. A “quiet” time filled with the chirps of insects and frogs and the songs of birds rising early to meet the new day. A noisy silence that soothes the soul.

The month of May was not without its hectic days when the mind becomes distracted by traffic, technology and responsibilities of today’s world and neither will the month of June be without stresses.  More reason to put a little silence at the top of my to do list.  Nature’s melody will be in the background waiting to take center stage.

Watercolor of a wood borer bee by virginia nature artist Karen S. Hines

Wood borer bees filled today’s silence with buzzing and boring as a fine dust of wood fell silently to the ground.

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In the Blink of an Eye

April is one of those months that passes in the “Blink of an Eye”.

In April, after anticipating the coming of Spring through long winter months, nature hits the fast forward button. One minute tree limbs are skeletal and the next covered with unfolding leaf buds. One minute gelatinous masses float in the pond and the next minute fat little tadpoles are thick in the water.

In the Blink of an Eye

It is April. In the “Blink of an Eye” tadpoles wiggle free from the masses of eggs in the pond.

The first tadpoles of April appear seemingly overnight.

The first tadpoles of April seem to appear overnight.

In the “Blink of an Eye” colors pour across the landscape like paint on a palette.

April Color

April Color

In the "Blink of an Eye" the petals of Dogwood and Redbud trees will loosen and drop to the ground in the April woods of Virginia.

My watercolor of Dogwood and Redbud trees decorating the woods of April.

Bright flowers of the Redbud and Dogwood trees are here too short a time.

In the”Blink of an Eye” it will be May Day.  Perhaps then life on Earth will settle into a slower pace where writers and painters can blink and not miss an inspirational moment.

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Peepers and Other Clues That Spring Has Arrived!

If you take the time to really listen to Nature, it isn’t any secret that Spring has arrived.  As the first full day of springtime dawns today here are some of the clues that have heralded its arrival to the mountains of Southwest Virginia.

“10 clues that let me know Spring is here.”

  1. The last of winter’s ice has receded from the warming water of the pond.

    The last of the winter ice recedes from the pond

    The last of the winter ice recedes from the pond

  2. The serenade of the peepers has begun. (You can learn about these little frogs and hear their chorus at
  3. Masses of frog eggs have appeared among the  bright green algae in the pond.First frogs of Spring.jpg
  4. Green sprouts of chives, daffodils and crocuses have broken ground and leaf buds are bursting  open in the underbrush of the woods.

    The Lenten Rose is one of the first plants to bloom in springtime.

    Lenten Roses, watercolor by Karen Hines.

  5. The purple “Lenten Roses” are blooming in my neighbor’s yard.
  6. The Northern cardinals are waking before dawn to begin singing their mating songs.
  7. The Tom Turkeys are escorting flocks of hens out of the woods and into my yard.

     Wild Turkey and Dogwood  from a watercolor " Virginia Gentleman" by Karen Hines

    A Wild Turkey stands behind the blossoms of a spring flowering Dogwood tree ( Virginia’s State Flower) in” Virginia Gentleman”, watercolor by Karen Hines.

  8. The air smells of damp earth and catkins  have appeared on the pussy willows.
  9. The sun spends more time in its journey from sunrise to sunset.
  10. And Nature is calling me to record the wonders of the season on paper with watercolors!

I hope that you have a moment today to appreciate the clues left behind by Nature that the earth is slowly awakening from it’s winter sleep.

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The Light of Spring

“A light exists in spring

Not present on the year at any other period-

When March is scarcely here.”

Emily Dickinson

Spring Chicks_edited-1

Spring Chicks, watercolor by Karen Hines

It shines with the promise of new life.  It reflects off new fallen snow with bright green shoots of daffodils breaking the surface.

Although March has just begun,  the meteorological spring has passed and the Vernal Equinox approaches and Nature will celebrate the coming of Spring as the “Earth laughs in Flowers”.

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Deep Freeze

The pond is frozen.

winter watercolor painting of two deer

“Quiet Pond”, watercolor by Karen Hines

The New River Valley has finally taken a plunge into the deep freeze of winter. The fickle sun brightly beckons me outside but the thermometer sitting on 8 degrees over rides the urge to walk about.  Only a walk to the bird feeders and baths today.

I spent the past few days of snow and frigid temperatures reading an exciting novel set in the 1700’s and marveling at the ability of the characters to survive winter in the Scottish Highlands without the modern conveniences of my world. 

My lights are still on, the house is warm and the refrigerator is humming.  Only the logs burning in the fire and a respect for nature’s fury connect me with my own ancestors from that century long ago.  

Grey cat sitting by a fire

My “Tiger” by the fire.

Stay warm!

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Woodland Calligraphy

Naturalists and artists tend to appreciate details within the big picture.  We marvel at the the shapes of shadows, the perfect hexagons in a comb of honey and the curly-cues and flourishes of tendrils.  In these are the characters, alphabets and language of the forest.

I’ve always loved the graceful, natural shapes in beautiful writing. Grapevines are the calligraphers of the woods.  interesting grapevine design

They wind their way through the trees in flowing shapes that surely must have inspired the cursive of early manuscripts.

Without the lush foliage of summer, the woods reveal the artistry of the vines.

grapevine shapes

This vine cast a single musical note in shadow to its left on the forest floor.

grapevine 7_edited-1

A very talented teacher of calligraphy once challenged me to appreciate the beauty and artistry of the handwritten word and to make each character an intertwined part of the message.  The vine’s record their  journey through the trees in woodland script like the free flowing ink from a calligrapher’s pen.

“Man′s beauty is in the beauty of his writing.”  (author unknown)   

  Might we also say “Nature’s beauty is in the beauty of her writing.”

Grapevine Calligraphy

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