- All writings and photographs on this site are, unless otherwise noted, © Michael D. Barton.
- Wild Arts Festival, Nov. 22-23
- Wednesday photo of the week: making his own trail
- BOOK REVIEW: May the Stars Drip Down & a Nikki McClure art exhibit in Portland
- Monday thought of the week: let them once get in touch with Nature
- Upcoming nature events in Portland
- Wednesday photo of the week: nature play at OMSI
- Nature mentoring events with Jon Young
- Monday thought of the week: natural-born scientists
- BOOK REVIEW: Charley Harper’s What’s in the Coral Reef? A Nature Discovery Book
- Wednesday photo of the week: what’s in the creek?
I have posted about the Olympia, WA-based artist Nikki McClure before – about some children and nature-themed art on display (in the exhibit Nikki McClure: Cutting Her Own Path, 1996-2011 at the Museum of Contemporary Craft in Portland in 2011) and a quote from her that I used for a thought of the week in October. My wife loves her annual calendar, and we have several of her books. We also have a print of hers hanging up in our home. I was excited to learn that the original art for McClure’s 2015 calendar as well as original art for the new children’s book May the Stars Drip Down would be on display at Land Gallery in North Portland (from Nov. 15-Dec. 2, 2014). Last Saturday, my kids headed over to the gallery, where McClure was on hand for the first day of the exhibit. Sadly, my wife was unable to go, but I got McClure to sign her copy of Collect Raindrops: The Seasons Gathered.
May the Stars Drip Down (Abrams Books for Young Readers, 2014, 40 pp.) is a collaboration between musician Jeremy Chatelain and Nikki McClure. “May the Stars Drip Down” is a lullaby song from Chatelain’s band Cub Country‘s 2009 album Stretch That Skull Cover and Smile.
I am not familiar with the music, but the words work very well for a young children’s book, and McClure’s papercut art to match it is stunning. It’s amazing the level of detail, action, and beauty she conveys by cutting away from single sheets of black paper with an X-Acto knife. Like sculpting, she creates by taking away material from her medium, and I love seeing how her use of negative space (what has been taken away, rather than what portions of the paper were left intact) can really make the image. The following images are original artwork from May the Stars Drip Down, which do no justice to seeing them in person.
The lullaby follows a young boy’s dream following his mother reading to him before bed. Characters and objects throughout are from his own life. The soft blue colors enhancing McClure’s papercuts denote the night, while toward the end a bright yellow takes over as morning comes. The stars and moon are ever-present as the young boy explores among sand dunes, the winds among clouds, in a mountain meadow, and across a rocky coastline. Reading this I feel an never-breaking connectedness to family and nature come across the pages. The boy’s mother will always be his mother, and the sand, owl feathers, insects among the grass, and sea stars will always be part of us, as we are part of nature. Just as these family and nature connections are, May the Stars Drip Down is a beautiful – a beautiful message conveyed through beautiful words and art.
During the opening, McClure gave a talk. We did not stay around for that, unfortunately (you know, two kids, at a talk?). We did, however, go to a park we have not been to before and played on that cold, fall afternoon. While I would have loved to hear McClure talk about her life and art, going outside was much better for the kids. I think McClure would agree!
Learn more about McClure’s process for developing the art for May the Stars Drip Down:
It would be well if we all persons in authority, parents and all who act for parents, could make up our minds that there is no sort of knowledge to be got in these early years so valuable to children as that which they get for themselves of the world they live in. Let them once get in touch with Nature, and a habit is formed which will be a source of delight through life. We were all meant to be naturalists, each in his degree, and it is inexcusable to live in a world so full of the marvels of plant and animal life and to care for none of these things.
Hike series with Friends of the Columbia River Gorge
Hike series with Oregon Wild
Fall nature classes at Jackson Bottom Wetlands Preserve
November-June | Lunch with the Birds! | Hillsboro Parks & Recreation
November 15-December 16 | Nikki McClure art exhibit (talk/signing on 11/14) | LAND Gallery
November 15 | Workshop with Jon Young - Mind of a Mentor | 8 Shields PDX
November 15 | Scouters Mountain nature hike | Metro
November 15 | Hike with Marcy Houle | Forest Park Conservancy
November 15 | Susan Blackaby presents The Twelve Days of Christmas in Oregon | Annie Bloom’s Books
November 16 | Nature Days in the Park: Foothills Park | THPRD
November 17 | National Take a Hike Day – wherever, just get outside and take a hike!
November 21 | Book talk: Welcome to Subirdia with John Marzluff | Oregon Wildlife
November 21 | Kids Nature Night Out: Geology Rocks | Tualatin Hills Nature Park
November 21 | Park After Dark: Owl Prowl | Cooper Mountain Nature Park
November 22-23 | Wild Arts Festival | Audubon Society of Portland
November 23 | Thanksgiving walk at Oxbow Regional Park | Metro
November 23 | Forest Fungi: Mycological Marvels of Tryon Creek | Friends of Tryon Creek
November 29 | Classroom Discovery Days: Marvelous Moss | Friends of Tryon Creek
December 3 | Night at the Refuge | Tualatin River National Wildlife Refuge
December 9 | Nature Night: Prowling for Owls! with Scott Carpenter | Audubon Society of Portland
December 12 | Kids Nature Night Out: Frozen | Tualatin Hills Nature Park
December 13 | Park After Dark: Owl Prowl | Tualatin Hills Nature Park
Regular nature outings (check websites for seasonal scheduling): Nature Days in the Park and Nature Mobile from Tualatin Hills Park & Recreation District’s Natural Resources, Honeybee Hikes at Leach Botanical Garden, Story and Strolls and Guided Nature Walks at Tryon Creek State Park, Ladybug Nature Walks with Portland Parks & Recreation, Puddle Stompers at Tualatin River National Wildlife Refuge, Bird Walks for adults and kids through Backyard Bird Shop, free field trips with Audubon Society of Portland volunteers, Library events with The Bug Chicks, Tadpole Tales with Columbia Slough Watershed Council, Farm Fridays at Zenger Farm, and Second Saturdays at the Water Resources Education Center in Vancouver, WA.
– $2 admission at OMSI the first Sunday of every month
– $3 admission at the World Forestry Center the first Wednesday of every month
– $4 admission at the Oregon Zoo the second Tuesday of every month
– FREE admission at the Portland Art Museum the fourth Friday of every month, 5-8pm
– FREE admission at the Portland Children’s Museum the first Friday of every month, 4-8pm
– FREE admission at the Oregon Historical Society & Museum every day for Multnomah County residents
*My friend Laura posts a monthly listing of kid and family-friendly events of natural, scientific, and cultural interest. November’s list is here.
Nature mentor and naturalist Jon Young, author of What the Robin Knows: How Birds Reveal the Secrets of the Natural World, will be in Portland again for two public events. Here is the schedule, with links to necessary information:
Saturday, Nov. 15, 9am-4pm | Workshop w/ Jon Young: “The Mind of a Mentor,” at Camp Collins in Gresham
I’ve shared this thought before, but since yesterday was Carl Sagan‘s birthday (November 9, 1934–December 20, 1996), I felt compelled to share some words from him again.
PT: You’ve said that when you were growing up you didn’t realize somebody could do science for a living. You envisioned being a salesman or something and doing science on weekends and evenings. It’s all too rare that someone as young as you were at the time becomes so enthralled with science. Are we essentially killing off the wonder in children?
CS: Every kid starts out as a natural-born scientist, and then we beat it out of them. A few trickle through the system with their wonder and enthusiasm for science intact.
PT: Why did yours stay intact?
CS: The main thing was that my parents, who knew nothing about science, encouraged it. They never said, “All in all, wouldn’t it be better to be a lawyer or a doctor?” I never once heard that from my parents. They said, “If you’re passionate about that, we’ll back you to the best of our ability.” In school, while there were very few teachers who excited me about science, there was no systematic effort to discourage me.
- Carl Sagan, in an interview for Psychology Today in 1996, from Tom Head, ed., Conversations with Carl Sagan (Literary Conversations) (Jackson: University Press of Mississippi, 2006), p.119
In the fall of 2013, I posted about the first two in a new series of children’s books from the Portland-based Pomegranate Books: Charley Harper’s What’s in the Woods? and Charley Harper’s What’s in the Rain Forest? Both combined beautiful modernist paintings of birds and other wildlife by Charley Harper (1922-2007) with lyrical and rhyming text from Zoe Burke. I’d already been a fan of Harper’s work, and was excited to learn that it would be used in books to teach kids about nature. They are splendid little hardcover books.
A third book has just been published:
In Charley Harper’s What’s in the Coral Reef? A Nature Discovery Book, we are treated to a rainbow of fish, coral, and other sea life as depicted in Harper’s painting, The Coral Reef. “Have you ever seen a fish / As close as close can be?” is how it begins, taking us from six species of Angelfish (“Two little Angels, not full grown / Are darting left and right. / And See? Those Rock Beauty Angelfish / Have eyes that shimmer bright.”) to parrotfish that “don’t squawk” and “Their friend the Turtle’s pointed beak” that “reminds me of a hawk!”
Burke’s words describe the many colors to be found in a coral reef, and clarifies that the names given to many fish are simply descriptive (“And you’ll never hear the Cornetfish / Play a tune or musical score.”).
Motion is important, too – a barracuda scares us away, a Fairy Basslet scoots around, and Blue Tangs glide past. In all, there are fifty animals that are featured in these pages!
A fold-out page at the end of the book shows the painting The Coral Reef in its entirety, while a guide gives you the name of every fish and creature. Charley Harper’s What’s in the Coral Reef? is a delightful continuation of a great series of books about nature for kids.
Pomegranate Books also sent me another recent title in their children’s catalog: BirdWingFeather, by Portland artist Siri Schillios. Schillios shares her painting of a dozen birds – with the whole painting on the right side, and nine close-ups from the painting on the left. The point is to look at all the beautiful detail in the art! This is an image-driven book (no words), and anyone interested in birds or just nature in general would probably love flipping through its pages and reveling in the colorful winged creatures.