Jessica AllenSummer, August

Familiarity

Jessica AllenSummer, August
Familiarity
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Without the attainment of familiarity, the significant remains invisible.
— Bernd Heinrich, The Geese of Beaver Bog

When I created this website I was migrating away from a Blogger blog toward a place where I could more appropriately share my photographs. My clos(er) observations of nature were enhanced when I was provided the opportunity to caption my images with essays.

The space has undergone some changes over the years - notably, the brief inclusion of a retail Shop at Cattails & Cobwebs - but it has always been my observations of the natural world which drive my posts and inspire me to make my photographs in the first place. In 2015 I began documenting the species found (and cultivated) between our Two Gates and my lists have been invaluable to me as I continue to learn more about my suburban habitat; from season-to-season I consult my lists of Flora, Fauna and Fungi to remind myself of the names of plants, animals and the mushrooms and slime molds found around our property.

I enjoy sharing my images on Instagram but recently the process feels tedious - and rather valueless. My observations pile up in a meaningless grid and get lost in cyberspace; what value is there in such a meaningless undertaking?

I’ve been reading Nathaniel Wheelwright and Bernd Heinrich’s The Naturalist’s Notebook over the past few weeks and am planning to begin using the calendar journal in 2020. In the next few months I am practicing using the advice provided by its authors…and I’ve been adding semi-daily observations and questions for further study to a (for now, unpublished) Notebook. I’ve decided to do this to familiarize myself with Wheelwright and Heinrich’s method of nature study before I begin using the journal in January.

So far my notes have included observations of robber flies, grey squirrels, ambush bugs and ruby-throated hummingbirds…all of whom are familiar to me. Using the methods of observation suggested in The Naturalist’s Notebook I have taken the familiar and breathed new life into it - learning about the life cycles of the robber fly and ambush bugs, the breeding season of grey squirrels, and the territorial behavior of hummingbirds. Plus, my intentional focus has introduced a new species of insect to my life list - the grass carrying wasp! In addition to making these personal notes, I’ve joined numerous online citizen science projects.

My words and pictures feel valuable and sharing them with others now feels…significant. ❤

Jessica Allen explores the fields and forests of Pennsylvania with her artist-husband, Michael Allen, and their son, Benjamin. She shares her observations through words and pictures of everyday magic and beauty she sees in her world.