Walden in the Forest

Last Wednesday, I drove to Los Alamos on a road that I hadn't been on since I was thirteen-years-old. That was the year when a feeling hit me: one day I'd live in New Mexico. It was beautiful and surreal to be on that road again with the golden light of an abnormally warm fall day lighting the path ahead.

I was driving to meet the Walden Forest School Co-Op for their weekly nature outing where the trees, fresh air, and trails are the classroom.

We hiked a trail together and the students taught me along the way - how to be light footed, the names of mysterious plants, and the feeling of bark after it has been burned. Before we walked, I asked the students to keep their eyes open for interesting details, but as it turns out, they reflected this task back to me.

When we arrived at the meadow we began with a drawing exercise to discover new textures and shapes through rubbings and tracings. The students leaped off to explore the river, grasses, and leaves and discovered the details that translate well onto paper, and the ones that resist.

The students dove deeper into drawing through examinations of plants as if zooming in with a magnifying glass. They drew these patterns onto their paper as an up-close investigation of the natural world.

After a break for lunch where we moved out of the falling shadows and into the sun, we opened our journals again to try a challenge of drawing nature without looking at the paper, but only at the subject at hand. The students worked with intentional focus. Jane kept her eyes glued to the rose hips while smoke from the fire pit whirled all around her. Sean worked alongside Ethan as both tried to document the grasses of the meadow.

It was magical how, in the light of the forest, everyone could take some moments to be present to the lessons offered when we take time to look.

To conclude, we all looked up and out, instead of up-close as we had been doing all day. We studied and recorded our surroundings with simplified line drawings of the trees that traced the blue sky.

Seeing small and seeing big, taking inspiration from the earth - it was a magical day with the Walden School Co-Op.

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