I’m spending more and more time in nature. Connecting to the natural materials I use in my projects in the most beautiful way - lying under a tree, gazing up at the sun streaming through the leaves.
My passion for spending time in nature all started a few years ago when I was making wooden pendants and buttons from fallen, foraged branches. I was curious about the wood I was working with. When you go to Bunnings it's easy enough to know what timber you're working with (Tassie oak, pine) but out in the bush how do you know if it's a red gum or red bloodwood (both native Australian trees)? You get yourself a nature guide and start learning to identify trees, that's how.
Of course it goes further back than that to the time I read Tolkein's Gown by Rick Gekoski and learnt about provenance for the first time. In the world of collectibles and antiques, provenance is Queen. When you know the history of an item and who made it, it becomes more valuable. This knowing satisfies our deep human urge for story. It's our need to connect on a deeper level to the world around us. Knowing where my materials come from connects me to them. It makes me think about how and where they were made. I want to use materials that have integrity. Materials that have been humanely and responsibly made or harvested.
It goes back even further to my days as a medieval re-enactor, sewing my own costumes and making my own leather armour out of natural materials. You can't go to a shop and buy a 12th century style cotton dress to wear to a feast. You have to make it yourself. You definitely can't buy a suit of armour at the local two dollar shop. Well, not one that can withstand being hit repeatedly and very hard with a big stick. Of course in the middle ages polyester and viscose hadn't been invented so the clothes I made were all made out of natural fibres - cotton, wool, linen and very rarely on my uni student budget, silk.
If I dig through my memories for long enough it probably all goes back to when I was a child bright eyed with the wonder at the beautiful, mysterious, unfathomable world around me. Spending hours digging in the dirt and watching snails make their silvery trails as the wind slowly along the garden paths. Connecting with the secrets of nature in the best way possible - open minded, curious and barefoot.
Provenance, natural materials, my own curiosity and insatiable hunger to learn have led me to spend more and more time in nature learning about the plants and creatures around me. I'm devouring books on the natural world (The Hidden Life of Trees by Peter Wohlleben and The Genius of Birds by Jennifer Ackerman are two current favourites) and buying field guides like they're going out of fashion. As well as learning the names of things, I'm also learning to deepen a connection to place, to be with it through the seasons and to learn that everything has a cycle.
The more time I spend in nature, the more at peace with myself I feel. Being barefoot on the grass satisfies my deep need for connection. Only instead of connection to people through community, I'm connecting to nature through place.
The most wonderful thing about spending so much time in nature is the incredible beauty that surrounds me all the time. All I have to do is open up my eyes and ears to hear the caw-caw-cawarah of a currawong. Or the sound of water running over rocks. To see the flight of a honey brown beetle. To feel sharp twigs and bare earth under my feet. To taste the rain in the air. To feel fully alive.