I love the first snow! A fresh snowfall creates a new canvas to observe the details of the forest and field. A curled tendril of the fox grape leaps into view no longer obscured by the brown wash of late fall. Tracks identify dens that have been passed unnoticed a full season and now mark new spots to draw my attention in hopes of getting a glimpse of their makers.
I love the different textures and patterns of the dead and dormant plant life so noticeable now against the snow. So much so, that my parka pockets are usually packed with seed pods, leaves, twigs, and bones. Some of this bounty I’ve been able to use teaching about nature but most of it just fills boxes that I occasionally pull out and ponder.
Recently I found a different use for this dried collection I have amassed. On Thanksgiving we were visiting the US Botanic Gardens to enjoy some lush greenery and saw they had a display called “Seasons Greetings” in the exhibit hall. We wandered into an unexpected treasure of fantasy miniatures adorning a display of hobby trains. The entire set was created out of natural plant materials.
The display is the work of Paul Busse of Applied Imagination. He has been designing and installing these art installations for over 20 years at museums, botanical gardens, even local libraries. His materials are gathered from his surroundings in Kentucky, so many of the features should be recognizable to those of us who wander the northeast woods. Oak apple galls became fairy heads. Locust pods shrouded a woods woman as a skirt. Acorns lined a bridge as cobblestones. It was an absolutely incredible sight!
I knew I was hooked on his artful use of plant material when walking the other day a glimpse of a club moss strobilus poking through the snow became a trident for Poseidon. Why Poseidon? Haven’t a clue, but I think my mental catalog of dried goodies usually sorted by angiosperms, gymnosperms, nuts, drupes, berries, terminal buds, etc. is starting to be converted into an art supply list!
There are so many ways you can look at forest and field. As source for fuel, materials for building, a place for contemplation, a venue for exercise, a living learning lab. This winter, I think I’ll opt to channel Mr. Busse and view it as a source for inspiration and art!