Monday 16 January 2012

A Tuesday Walk with Swans and Templars.

I'm not one for New Year Resolutions.

After too many years of writing lists of resolutions that were too suspiciously similar, it finally twigged that maybe it wasn't working for me.  So, instead, I think about things I'd like to try to do (or not to do, as the case may be) in the upcoming year.  More tendencies, than resolutions.  Not nearly as intimidating.

Three of the things I've been wanting to do this year are:

- get out of the flat more.  (When I'm in a writing or painting frenzy, I've been known not to step foot out of the front door of our small flat for days on end.  Washing my hair happens less frequently and I start to talk to myself.  Not good.)

- go for regular walks in nature.  (Though I live in a city, I live at the southern edge of it, a ten minute walk away from forest and river.  Getting out into nature helps to clear out the cobwebs, and leaves me feeling creatively re-charged. My husband also mentioned that it puts me in a better mood.  My boys nodded vehemently and tripped over each other in a dash to open the front door for me.)

- improve my drawing skills. (I love to draw - always have.  There is a wonderful trance-like state which drawing induces in which time slips by and I come out of it feeling relaxed and strangely energized.  I have only haphazardly worked at honing drawing skills over the years, and now want to really improve.)

The idea is to combine all three and once a week go for a long walk down by the river and through the forest, bring back a few items, and sketch them.  I've taken inspiration from Milly at her blog Drawings from Nature.  Each week last year, she would go for a lake-side walk near her home, bring back items she found - feathers, leaves, shells - and would do a coloured-ink drawing of them.  They're gorgeous.

Last week, Monday was to be the day.

Ok, so last week the walk happened on Tuesday and the drawing not till Sunday, but it not being a Resolution, it doesn't matter.

It began behind the soccer stadium.  Hmmm...not exactly nature, but funky architecture, rather like a huge ammonite.  Once down the steps, the landscape changed.

Patterns of ice and mud and leaf.

The morning grass was still frosted.

The cold, jade green mill stream.

This red squirrel was balled up against the biting Winter wind.

I came across one of those scenes where you just know there's a story behind it.  That's frost on the sweater.

Ah! the home of the Order of the Knights Templar.  On the other side of a huge iron fence were two very big, very loud dogs.  Protecting the Grail, perhaps.

From there, I veered through a forest toward the River Isar.  

There was a sound like large sticks hitting the water with tremendous force.  It was a group of swans - accompanied by gulls - landing on the river.  I've heard that a swan's wing can break a man's arm.  I believe it.

Feather and frosted leaves.

I counted 60 swans in total.  Rather, that's when I gave up.  There were a few more.  To the left is a young one, still grey and fuzzy.

I continued walking along a path that ran parallel to the river on the right, the zoo on the left.  At one point I heard the most absurd sound which was like a man doing a very bad impression of a Formula One racing car.  The culprit: of these two camels.  Or dromedaries...I've never managed to keep them straight in my head.  

Standing on a bridge looking South.  One could follow the river back to its origin in the Alps.  With the wings of a swan, I should like to have done so.  

Stations of the cross.  

A nineteenth century grotto built around a spring which was to refresh pilgrims on the Jakobsweg - (Way of St. James).   There is now a large sign warning not to drink the water.  

As I climbed a steep hill out of the river valley, I looked down to see a makeshift home in the now exposed woods.  Whenever I see something like this I always wonder, and am filled with a strange melancholy.  The romantic in me likes to think that the person or people who inhabited the hut did so voluntarily.  A small settlement in the woods on the edge.

The Templars again, this time from above.

I returned with a twig, a leaf, and a swan's feather.  On Sunday afternoon, I finally got around to drawing them.  (Don't worry, I won't be posting each sketch.  These are rough exercises.)

The lovely thing about sketching in this way, is that it allows me not to be preoccupied with the finished drawing: not to get frustrated because it's not as good as I wish it were; not to feel that it's pointless because it will never be as good as someone else's.  It's the process which is important; not the outcome.

A good lesson.


  1. The themes of our postings seem so similar this morning! What with swans, and walks by the water and frost and things. Lovely to be able to walk with you a while via your blog!

    Loved your drawings and your enthusiasm also. I'm afraid I tend to be one of those people who wishes they could draw, then not attempt to actually sit and try because I grow frustrated by my ineptitude. At least with photoshop you can delete layers or edit back to rectify any mistakes. Using a pencil on paper just seems so final somehow! The lovely Carrie, of Windsong and Wordhoards tried really hard to encourage me to at least make an effort last year and I DO keep thinking about picking up a pencil and giving it a go.....I just never seem to get around to turning my thoughts into action. Story of my life really! Gah!

    1. ... and to add to the mix, they are riffing on swan stories this week over on "Merry Sister of Fate."

  2. Great idea... I think if there were sons to open the door for me, they would - and SHOVE me out! This time of year its harder to go walking, unless of course I want to strap on the snow shoes and bundle up and go for an adventure.

    I like your sketches and wouldn't mind seeing more of them from your walks.

  3. HMMMMmmmm, I thought I left a comment earlier, but I don't see it now, so forgive me if this is posted twice.

    I really like the way you rendered the texture of that stick in your drawing! I'd enjoy seeing more of your sketches as well and always appreciate taking a virtual stroll with you :~) Here's to lovely outdoor adventures in 2012!

  4. Happy New Year and here's to your walking, collecting and drawing. I really enjoyed seeing your walk.
    I spent a few days last week thinking instead of doing, the minute I get outside amongst nature I feel better and soon find something I want to draw.
    I really believe in the more drawing you do, the better you become at it. Also last year having that weekly routine really worked for me. It is so nice to hear I inspired you!
    Post your drawings, then it is another reason to do it. I will let you into a secret, I didn't know if I could complete the year, it felt great when I did it.
    I will look forward to seeing your drawings, have fun. millyx

  5. That was so inspiring, in it's simplicity. Wonderful photos.

  6. I like the way you've come up with an integrative plan ... and I enjoyed walking in nature, along with you, via your photos. I would love to see your sketches ... show or don't show, but know that one person is interested in witnessing your process and progress. Lynn, you inspire me ...

    Oh, and I'd like a print of the last photo you showed (just sayin') ... you really are a good photographer ... you have a great eye for composition.

  7. Thank you, I enjoyed the walk tremendously. What an amazing world you have all around you. If I lived with this outside my door, my problem would be the opposite, spending enough time in my studio!

  8. Thanks, Kate. And I fully agree with Carrie - you should give it a go. You have a marvelous sense of composition. Swans and winter walks! The castle ruins you visited are beautiful.

    I've been hearing about all the snow in your neck of the woods, Valerianna! Winter with a vengeance. Today it's a cold, rainy November-like day. Think I'll give a walk a miss. I think I will post more sketches, thanks. It will help to motivate me, I think.

    Thank you, Donna, and thanks for the link to "merry sister of fate". I wasn't aware of that site before. I'll certainly add it to my list!

    Sticking with that for a whole year is incredible, Milly! I'm afraid I'm far too undisciplined...but, perhaps saying that I'll post pictures of the sketches will help give me that extra motivation...I look forward to seeing what you come up with this year.

    Lois, thank you. I'm glad you enjoyed the post.

    I've never considered myself much of a photographer, Jan - so thank you! I do enjoy fiddling with my (idiot-proof) camera. And it seems that the more simple the subject - such as the feather on wood with natural light - the better the shot. (Let me see whether I still have the feather photo on my computer...)

    Thanks, Sharon, good to have you along for the walk. It's crazy that I don't get out there more often - but it's one of those things where I tend to take for granted what's right around me. This year I hope to open my eyes a little more.