“I Noticed Nature Subtly Dictating My Brush Strokes…”

An Essay by Janimarie Lester DeRose

Art in Nature Specialist for Nature Families

I am a clay artist working in Cache Valley, Utah, a beautiful home of farms and marsh land, tucked in the Rocky Mountains.  Recently, I was surprised at how starkly cold the decorated surface of my pottery was. Black and grey silhouettes of birds and tree skeletons graced my forms. It was February and a cold and lingering winter in Utah. I was working daily in the studio, and it was not till I looked back at the photographs from the year that I noticed the extremely strong connection between the seasons and the way I decorated my work. It was as if nature was subtly dictating my brush strokes.

In the spring, my art echoed the marshes that grace Cache Valley. Light blues and chartreuse circles with brush work of birds and reeds, brought a serene quality, full of new life to the pots.

Later, as summer sat heavily upon us, reds and oranges emerged with Red-winged Blackbirds and Poppy’s smothering the surfaces.



And as autumn seeped into the mountains, I was drawn to a simplistic branch and berry design, leaving expanses of open space.

fall 2


This new awareness of how deeply my creativity is connected to the natural world’s cycles, has brought me a sense of settled balance and belonging to my home.

Making art in all seasons with our children, or even by ourselves, connects us more deeply to the places we live and the natural cycle of the seasons.  Whether you are an experienced artist or simply playing with art with your children-I hope you enjoy this connection as much as I do.

end photo

Remembering Why…

Essay by Kyle Koyle

todd biking girlsSometimes I need to remember why I do things. I’m talking about the basics here: eating, breathing, sleeping. Now this isn’t going to be a reminiscent article about the struggles of life. This is an article about its depth. For example, think about the WHY of eating. We all perform this action because at some point during the day we become hungry. Our bodies require food to live. In short, we eat to stay alive. But why? Now this is where my opinion comes in, heavily. I say we eat to enable us the opportunity of what comes next. To keep us going for other less obvious necessities of life: laughter, work, wonder, friendship. From the standpoint of a parent, reasoning the WHY into any situation is parallel with the amount of effort required to make that situation successful.

Recently, my husband and I endeavored to take our three children on the scenic bike path that follows I-70 from Dotserro to Glenn Wood Springs [Colorado]. It’s about 16 miles right along the river and quite literally underneath I-70. This part of the interstate is highly scenic with narrow canyons, white water rapids and towering mountain tops. Now, let me preface the trip with the fact that my eldest child is 8 and a decent bike rider but hasn’t mastered the art of stopping your bike before getting off first, my 2nd child is terrified of riding a bike, and my 3rd child loves doing “tricks” on the back of our bike tag-along trailer — which may or may not involve adding a significant amount of instability to both parent and tag-alonger. In the weeks leading up to our esteemed weekend trip, I estimated 8 skinned knees, 4 skinned elbows, at least 20 random shin bruises, 12 complete melt downs, 3 out of control bike accidents that ended with at least one child in a ditch, about a bazillion inhaled gnats, 1 run in with a group of horses, and last but not least, hearing the phrase “I’m not getting back on!” 15 times. Needless to say, I asked myself more than once, WHY?

My husband and I have nothing to prove to any other family. We don’t seek out painful, impractical situations to put our children through. We thought this bike trip sounded, wait for it……..fun. Now playing video games is fun, having a picnic is fun, swimming is fun, reading is fun, the list can go on and on. Why did we pick biking 16 miles down a winding somewhat precarious bike path? It was not one of life’s basic necessities. Here is the humdinger. How could we get to the other necessities of life without it? Laughter, work, wonder, friendship. Eating doesn’t create the next moment anymore than breathing ensures you’ll get a chance to meet up with an old friend or laugh at joke. If we hadn’t created, with our own blood, sweat and tears, a chance to live, countless moments of living would have been lost.

girls river  char on bog bridge

We live in a society of fear. So many fears. If we only take care of our basic necessities, which I realize is a definite first-world privilege, will we eventually forget to ask the other “why”? Why push yourself, why pull others along, why explore, why learn, why try?

John Muir, the Scottish naturalist, father of the Sierra Club and world renown environmentalist put it very well, “Everybody needs beauty as well as bread, places to play in and pray in where nature may heal and cheer and give strength to the body and soul alike.”

Now is your moment to remember why…

char climbing


A Walk in the Winter Woods

An Essay by: Karen Rent


My day did not start out that great. I woke up feeling tired and unmotivated, definitely not on the right side of the bed. I had various plans, a trip to the library or the rec center, maybe swimming at the YMCA, but none of these things worked out and my kids were driving me batty. So we bundled up for our daily walk a bit earlier than usual. As soon as we stepped outside, I noticed a change in everyone. The cold, fresh air was blowing the frustration away.

We recently moved to Keene, NH. We live in a subdivision at the edge of town and are lucky enough to have woods nearby. With each walk we’ve been venturing further and discovering more about our woods. This walk was particularly memorable.

My kids, my dogs, and I entered the woods via our usual path. We made our way across the frozen pond, cleared of snow by some neighborhood kids for hockey. A birch tree stands in the middle of the pond. Molly and Eli like to duck under its branches and hang out in their “clubhouse”. We hung out there for a while and “made some soup” out of bark and twigs. Molly loves to make soup in the woods. Eli loves to do whatever Molly does. I love to watch and taste their delicious creation.


Often we stop at the pond but today decided to venture further. As we headed back into the forest, Molly noticed that not just the ground was covered in ice, but the trees too. Everything seemed to shine with a thin layer of ice. My “Frozen” loving daughter was excited. We celebrated by stopping at a frozen puddle to “make some more soup”. As we were stirring up the soup with some sticks, I noticed something through the trees. We walked closer and found the coolest shelter I have ever seen. Holy cow! The shelter was spectacular! Built in the branches of a fallen hemlock and hidden off the trail, I couldn’t help but feel like we were trespassing in someone’s special place. I think Molly and Eli may have felt the same way too because instead of climbing into the enormous shelter, they chose to make their own shelter in another nearby tree, or perhaps they just prefer their birch clubhouse back at the pond. I was so excited! The shelter was really cool, but what made me more excited was the fact that there are others in the neighborhood that love the woods as much as we do.


Lately I have been worrying a bit about my kids growing up. I want my children to grow up outdoors, and I know we will continue to spend lots of time outside, but what happens when they start spending more time with other kids in the neighborhood? I worry that they will be playing video games at the neighbor’s house instead of roaming the woods, but today’s walk gave me hope. I love the hockey pond. I love the mystery shelter builder. I love knowing that there are others in our neighborhood spending time in our woods. Most of all, I love watching my children learn and grow with each walk that we take together in our woods.