Jill Bliss

October 5, 2010

book[s] of the week: secret teachings of plants, wild trees, the shallows + what i’ve been up to

this time last week i turned in a mess of projects to my publisher and my printer and then realized i was totally exhausted in every way possible, and on my way to major health issues if i didn’t take a break from my daily ties and obligations. so my dog went to her favorite kennel, and i went to the coast!

i brought one book with me, bought two more at the local book store, and read them all for three days straight between longs walks on the beach and frequent naps. the weather was sunny but not hot, and the town and the beach were pretty deserted. perfect!

[a tricolor sage plant from the garden temporarily living in my studio while i draw it]

i’ve been wading through the secret teachings of plants for so long i should just buy my own copy rather than keep renewing this library copy! it’s definitely a crazy hippie type of book with lots of information to dig through, but if you also love the idea that plants are people too, there’s lots of gems, such as:

“spend a great deal of time with the plants you are drawn to, greet them with the seasons, see them in all manner of dress, come to know their moods and relations, and let your relationship grow with the years and close association. this takes time, as all worthwhile things do. you are establishing a deep intimacy with another living being. one that has a life as important to it as yours is to you. one that has a history, ancestors who have shaped the life you see now in this one moment of time. one that has hopes and dreams, a purposeful existence. one that has friends, offspring about whom it cares, troubles with which it must struggle each day.”

[a cluster of mini mushrooms spotted on a hike through the hoh rain forest]

the wild trees is much less esoteric, and an awesome read about a group of tree climbers/scientists who have devoted their lives to exploring the crowns of redwood trees. you may already know that redwoods are my favorite, and that a single redwood tree has it’s own ecosystem high up in it’s crown thanks to soil buildup. thickets of berry bushes, ferns, other trees and small animals can spend their entire lives in a single tree. a favorite quote from this book to complement the last one:

“there’s always a moment during a climb when you lose yourself, you don’t have a name anymore. when you find yourself in a place in nature where if you make a mistake you will die, you become open to what’s around you. you start feeling the limits of your perceptions as a human being. you perceive time more clearly in [the ancient] redwoods, and you see time’s illusory qualities.”

[another view of the tri-color sage plant, and the artwork i'm working on]

lastly, the shallows: what the internet is doing to our brains. this may seem an unlikely book to follow the previous two, but it’s also a study in different ways of thinking/perceiving – the author explores how different technologies through the ages have shaped our thinking and our world. in-depth analysis and effects of written language, the printing press and typewriters, books, radio, tv, and now the internet.

“we seem to have arrived at an important juncture in our intellectual and cultural history, a moment of transition between two very different modes of thinking. calm, focused, undistracted, the linear mind is being pushed aside by a new kind of mind that wants and needs to take in and dole out information in short, disjointed, often overlapping bursts – the faster, the better.”

[ack, not happy with this new process yet!]

as a professional artist, i’m very aware of how different technologies and tools can affect myself, my thinking and my work. i constantly toggle between the linear mind necessary for the business and practical side of things, and the free-spirited open mind necessary for creativity and growth.

as a small side example: the artwork i’m currently working on, shown above! as a result of my last collaboration, and also that my favorite pens are no longer made, i’m trying to incorporate paint in my work. after years of drawing with pens, drawing with a brush and paint is such a different experience! i’m still not entirely comfortable with the slowness involved and the amount of patience required while waiting for the paint to dry, or even the unexpected line quality! but i do love being able to create my own custom colors! i’ll keep at it, and it’ll get better.

0 Responses to book[s] of the week: secret teachings of plants, wild trees, the shallows + what i’ve been up to

  1. angela :

    LOVE this post. Thanks for the update, Jill. I think I might need to borrow that hippie plant book. I once took an herbalism class where we harvested stinging nettle with our bare hands, trying not to get stung by asking the plant for permission. Good stuff.

  2. Dora :

    Hi! I love reading through your blog and been inspired by your art!
    I really want to get that plant book, it sounds a lot like one of my favorites “The Secret Life of Plants” you should check it out , I think you would enjoy it!

  3. jill :

    hi dora! you’re right – the secret life of plants is a great book too, and just as “wacky” as this one!

  4. Pingback: book of the week: gimme refuge + what i’ve been up to « Jill Bliss

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