Receiving nature's gifts and giving back

The living world provides us with so much – oxygen, beauty, nutrition, inspiration… what can we, as botanical artists, give in return? Our gift is our time, our focused attention, our love. There is a reason that advertisers vie for our attention: they know that our time is our most valuable asset. Making the conscious choice to direct our attention to nature can empower us to take charge in other areas of our lives.

As you study, draw, and devote your attention to a plant, imagine it “receiving” your energy and wonder. Does it give back to you? A pleasant or pungent smell, a hidden surprise, a graceful visual beauty, a tactile texture, an edible gift? Consider ways that you nurture this reciprocal, forever cyclical, relationship with your plant subjects. Do you share its illustrated portrait with the world, plant its seeds, feed it back to the soil? Approach your practice not only with the clear vision of open eyes, but also with the empathy of an open heart. As you draw, commune with the plant and accept the knowledge that it bestows upon you; give it your full listening. Connection is what life is all about, and sharing it with others is the ultimate gift. When your drawing communicates your conversation with your subject, it is inherently enough, regardless of perceived quality. Connect with us for a zoom drawing workshop!

In a talk discussing plants recently, Robin Wall Kimmerer also said, “What it takes is attention, to know them well enough to call them by name. This is a powerful gateway to kinship and belonging.” As we study and draw plants, we get to know them, call them by name, learn their habits and patterns, develop relationships, and thereby find a way toward understanding and belonging in our ecosystems. We find this to be true in our drawing workshops as well – we develop appreciation, kinship and community together. We support each other in our attention to nature, celebrating this great world we get to live in. 

There are many ways to give back that affect positive change in the world. This year, we are donating money to The Ashokan Center and The National Tropical Botanical Garden to help them with their impactful missions. Ashokan is an independent, local music and nature nonprofit that inspires children to take action as environmental stewards, both now and as they grow into adults. And their living history programs provide a window into the past, helping students prepare for the challenges to come. The National Tropical Botanical Garden is dedicated to preserving tropical plant diversity and stemming the tide of extinction – through plant exploration, propagation, habitat restoration, scientific research, and education. NTBG’s Gardens and preserves are safe havens for at-risk species that otherwise might disappear forever. Learn about 5 ways to give back to NTBG this Giving Tuesday!

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