Book Review: The Photo Ark

The Photo Ark Book

Joel Sartore’s idea in his book The Photo Ark is to document all of the species in the world so that we have them in photographic print to see them, appreciate them, perhaps be moved to save them, and recognize a respect for the natural world. These species are a part of our world and Sartore states, “When we save species, we save ourselves.”

If you love animals and have respect for the natural world, this is a beautiful coffee table book to display. Yet, it is not one that you will just leave there and that you never open, but one that is worth opening each day to take a gander at another beautiful animal — most you will have never seen, or, if you have, you did not know the species proper name.

Here they are on explosive, full color display to appreciate and “ooh and aah” over. During these days of being at home, especially for children, this is a wonderful book to use as a teaching tool. Looking for an easy, creative, imaginative activity for these days with your children at home?

The Photo Ark Animals

Pull this book out and let your children look through it at their leisure. When they find a species that they are curious about, have them pull out some paper and pencils and write down the name of the species on the paper and then all of the words, thoughts, images that come to their minds. Once this first step is done, the children will be ready to write a creative story about this species, or perhaps do some research on the species and learn even more, or create a little play about the species (perhaps more than one) that they can act out, or take inspiration to make a visual arts piece.

This book is so full of educational inspiration for children.

And what about for the adults in the room? In times like these, when disease is rising and threatening the human population, I am reminded how Sartore brings our attention to many of these species who may already be extinct or are going to be extinct soon. It provides me with new inspiration to not only care for man, but also the species we share our world with each day. Raising our attention to the threats we all face together connects me to these species in a way that is new and deserves true appreciation.

I cannot recommend this book enough to you. It is gorgeous, educational, inspirational – what more do we need from a book?

Creativity Burst: A Four Leaf Clover Walk

A Four Leaf Clover Walk for St. Patrick's Day
May the Luck O’ the Irish Be With You

May the luck o’ the Irish be with you today! Celebrate with a Four Leaf Clover Walk.

Even if you aren’t Irish, this is the one day that we all feel a little Irish as we celebrate the day together. Traditionally, I think of this day as one where people gather in pubs for a green beer, kids eat green cupcakes, gold chocolate coins jingle in pockets, and we lookout for little leprechauns of luck. OK, maybe that last one is only in our dreams. Yet, it is a day to remember the Irish and to bring a little luck into one’s life.

Today’s holiday is a bit different given we are asked to not gather together. No school, no work, no meeting at the pub — however, we are encouraged to get out into nature, as long as we keep our distance from one another. In that light, today is a perfect day for a four leaf clover walk.

It takes us out into nature. If you have children at home, what better way to spend part of the school day with them today? Bundle up and head to a park. When you arrive, give them the guideline that you are the hunt for four leaf clovers. If they have not seen them before, show them a few examples on line before you head out.

Now, these are not always the easiest to find. So, expand the hunt and let them find any items in nature that look like a four leaf clover, are just green, or any other item that remind them of Ireland. Afterwards, when you gather together, it will be a great opportunity to share what was found and why they picked up the items they chose. It is an opportunity to get creative and use one’s imagination in nature using this lucky Irish day as inspiration.

When you arrive home, pull out heavy card stock, glue, and any other art supplies you may have on hand and let your children create a lucky collage for the day. Not only will you have gotten out on an excursion for the day, but also had a chance to be creative on this special day.

Even without kids, take your own lucky break in nature and let your mind wander as to what reminds you of the Irish on this day. Pick up a few things and place them on your desk – or anywhere else in your home – to remind you of the beauty of nature and your own imagination to connect a holiday to the natural world.

It’s a lucky day! Get out into nature and find some four leaf clovers today!

On the Brink of the Spring Season

Cherry Blossom Blooms about to burst in the spring season
Cherry Blossoms about to Burst Forth!

We are on the brink of the spring season. Or so I keep reminding myself!

I don’t know about you, but it has felt like a very long winter to me. Even February, which usually slips away before I even had time to appreciate her. Ugh! This year is different. I feel like winter has lasted forever and I am ready to see small hints that spring is on its way.

My mind is already drifting to tiny ways that I can bring Spring into my days — even three weeks before she actually arrives. How about you? Are you ready for the change of seasons? For longer days at night? For warmer temperatures? Have you noticed the birds are chirping once again in the early morning hours. Nature is cyclical and if we just take care of our Earth, she will reward us with magic as the seasons change.

Here are a few ideas as we all wait together for Spring to burst forth in full bloom:

  • Flowers! Purchase some and bring a burst of color forth in your home
  • Notice the blooms outside. Snap a picture. Some of these flowers are just so darn courageous!
  • Head to a baseball game.
  • Walk through some cool, crisp grass with your barefoot.
  • Listen to your favorite beach tunes – getting in the mood for summer.
  • Take a walk and observe yourself noticing nature coming alive.
  • Purchase a vegetable like asparagus, which is coming into season, and cook seasonally with your fresh produce
  • How about a spring sponge cake with homemade lemon whipped cream?
  • Go bird watching! They are back, mine as well watch them up close.
  • Light a candle that smells like spring to you.

Now is the time to get ready for the spring season All of these activities can help ease the transition from one season to another and ground yourself in nature. Do alone or share with some others. Whatever you choose, know that spring is about to burst forth and so are you!

Book Review: How to Go Plastic Free

Woman picks up plastic litter off beach
Just say no to plastic!

This past holiday season, I received a book titled, How to Go Plastic Free by Caroline Jones. The book’s tag line is Eco Tips for Busy People. In fact, the author spotlights 100 easy ideas. Well, not every one of these ideas is easy, but bringing our attention to the many ways plastic is a part of each day and the amount of plastic we are using and then providing ways to reduce our dependence on plastic is an admirable effort.

Just like the picture in this post, I am saddened when I walk on many beaches these days and see the mounds of plastic everywhere — and I do mean everywhere. It is particularly disheartening when I see plastic wrapped around the head of a fish, who has washed up on the shore choked to death by the plastic wrap. How to go plastic free is on my mind!

How to Go Plastic Free book

Anything that can help me reduce my plastic use and footprint is something I am interested in today. Some of Jones’ ideas include:

  • Using loose tea
  • Bringing your own container
  • Swap shower gel for soap
  • Buy toilet paper without plastic packaging
  • Say no to plastic bags when you purchase produce

Just these few suggestions can really make a difference in one’s use of plastic. Other ideas may take more time:

  • Make your own condiments
  • Make your own soda water
  • Go green with toys
  • Batch-cook baby food
  • Buy milk from the milk man

Some of these ideas require more time and money and these are often the barriers to ditching plastic.

The point isn’t to completely never use plastic again — although my personal opinion is the world would be a better place if we did so – but to raise our awareness and seek to reduce our reliance on plastic. All of this can help reduce our eco-anxiety too!

How to go plastic free or bust? Not quite, but this little book is a quick and handy resource to help get us started.

Mid-Winter Flowers

Mid Winter Flowers

Yes! This bunch of flowers have been picked just for you!

It seems a little odd to think of fresh flowers during these deep, dark January days. Unless you have a Birthday or particular celebration, flowers are not very seasonal this time of year. Even at the famous Pike Place Market here in Seattle, most of our local flower farms are selling dried stems that have a beauty all their own, but do not hold the scent and look and feel of fresh ones.

However, this is probably the time of year when we need a bouquet the most. I know Valentine’s Day is around the corner and the flowers will be pricey and in demand, but the quiet, slow, deep winter days where no flowers are to be found let alone thought about feels like the perfect time to treat one’s self or to pick a few stems for a friend or even plant a bulb inside your warm home.

Something about the flowers and their beauty can brighten an otherwise mundane day and remind each of us that the days are lengthening and that spring is not far away.

If a bunch of real flowers are simply not possible, you can definitely create a bouquet in your visual journal. Clip out all the flowers you see in your magazines and make the most beautiful arrangement of flowers you have seen. This is a simple yet wonderful way to dwell in beauty as you use your creativity and intuitive sense of what you are naturally drawn too.

Overall, flowers are alive and can be present with us throughout the days and seasons. It may be an upside down idea to have flowers in January, but that’s what makes it precious!

Book Review: Forest Bathing

Forest Bathing

A professor of mine mentioned one day that she was off on a Forest Bathing adventure with some friends one weekend last year. My ears immediately perked up! What is this Forest Bathing. I had no idea, but the idea sounded delightful.

Basically she explained that she did not know much about it either, but that she and her friends were going to the woods and be with the trees. So, she was not going to actually take a literal bath out there, but rather become immersed in the forest, i.e. in the natural world.

This idea was on my mind when I ran into this book:

Now here was an interesting book that seemed to know all about the subject. I bought it given all of my intrigue over the concept. First, it is a gorgeous book full of calm pictures of forests and trees that immediately relaxed me.

From there, I was amazed at the many different ways to be with the trees in nature, as well as how we bring ourselves to the forest. Much of the book incorporates meditations and mindful activities to practice when among the trees, which seeks to help people incorporate practices that will reduce stress, anxiety, and depression by sharing time with the natural world.

This may just be another gimmick in the realm of uber self-care practices, but I believe the notion of Forest Bathing can just allow us to be present to ourselves and nature when we are in it and also make it a priority to spend time there. I know for myself, I always feel rejuvenated to be on a hike in a forest – perhaps I will find more time in 2020 to Forest Bathe.