This year, I attempted to keep up with a bullet journal. I’m not clear on what the exact definition of a bullet journal is, but from what I see on social media it seems to be a personalized journal and planner often with your own doodles or sketches.
I say attempt, because I had a baby last winter so I definitely don’t have too much down-time for creative things. Hence why I didn’t really start my calendar designs until April this year.
I thought it was a great idea to design a a monthly planner spread because it forced me to practice drawing and calligraphy, even if it was only once a month. I also love to learn about plants in my area of the world, so every month I chose a plant that is prominent for that time. This helps me to keep up with learning about nature by drawing the plants and reading up on their history and uses – I wanted to include information about the plants in my planners with accompanying designs and calligraphy, but time was an issue this year. That’s what I’m hoping to do going forward – a planner that helps keep you interactive with nature and the seasons.
Anyways, it’s now already half way through October and it occured to me to share my designs on my blog. For this month, I chose crabapples.
I based the sketch on a photo I took :
And now the rest of my designs in reverse chronological order :
For September I chose wild grapes, which are still everywhere in my area. I love the sight of the grapes, demonstrating a ripening of Summer into Fall.
For August I chose chicory flowers for my cover design, and then wild lilies for the calendar.
Wild roses were the theme for July …
Wild Strawberries for June …
For May, my calendar remained incomplete, but my cover design was apple blossoms.
And violets for April :
The sight of robins around here signals the beginning of Spring. And for a long while, birds are really the only noticeable promise of the warmer season coming.
In January and February, I will usually see lots of them decorating crab apple trees. By the time it gets to April, they will be out hopping around in the fields and parks, presumably worm hunting.
It’s a very gloomy April here right now, but I do love the sight of these birds practically everywhere in the park when it is raining. On dark, overcast days the red of the maple blooms and the robins breasts appear so deep and moody.
I’ve been working on my bird sketches a lot lately. I never thought I would enjoy them as a subject as much as I do. Drawing animals and plants makes me feel so much love for the species.
Anyways, here is my little spring Robin <3
We have just passed the spring equinox and slowly we can feel things coming to life around here. In the northern hemisphere, there is no evident new growth or green yet, but the feeling in the air, and the songs of the birds promise that we will soon see flowers again.
While the landscape is still dead looking and colourless, the sun feels strong. It’s a good idea to get out and absorb some of its rays and the energy it offers.
Looking closely on the branches and twigs we can see buds slowly developing. They start to appear in February, taking their time until they will finally open, well over a month later. It’s funny that a lot of people in this region start to think about Spring already at the end of January, when really it’s quite a while away from that point! And it unravels so slowly and delicately … we don’t start to see colour and blooms until April. I think this is overlooked because most people don’t go outdoors much.
I thought this alder twig was a neat representation of this time between winter and spring. It still has its cones from last season while at the same time showing the growth of new buds.
One way that I am keeping with the seasons and connecting with nature is by working on my botanical illustrations and nature studies. There’s really nothing more beautiful and organic to sketch, in my opinion :).
Happy Spring! Do you do anything to celebrate?
Pine cones are amazing, am I right? I think I wouldn’t be wrong in assuming most women have a habit of collecting some beautiful woody ones when we happen upon them.
I mean why are they so pretty, yet sturdy and seem to have such a perfect design? After a while of contemplating a couple of large ones I had collected, I felt compelled to draw one.
It took me a few tries, but finally I came out with a watercolor illustration that I’m satisfied with. Drawing plants is a new habit of mine that I really enjoy. It helps you to understand the fine details of your subject and develop a deeper appreciation of it.
I was delighted to find out that this cone is from a White Pine tree, one of the first trees I learned to identify. Their needles are most commonly used for pine needle tea, and are said to contain 3-5 times more vitamin C than an orange.
Its surprising to me that I’ve lived around these trees my whole life and didn’t even know that they have edible and nutritional properties! I think this is the case for most people in North America, to be totally oblivious to nature their whole lives, and I think I will continue to have the same shock every time I learn a new edible species.
Anyways, one of the characteristics for identifying this tree is by its needles which grow in clusters of five.
After doing this study, I had to of course read all about White Pines and their cones, so the rest of this post is some interesting facts about that… If you’re ready to geek-out with me, read on …
I for one, was fascinated to find out – and I think you will be too, if you didn’t know it already – that all pine cones are female!
Okay, well there are male pine cones but they don’t look like what we think of as a pine cone. They are very small little tubular looking things that grow in clusters that come out in the spring.
On the Eastern White pine, the males are only 8-10 mm long, whereas the females grow up to 8 inches long at maturity.
The males have a very short lifespan of only a few weeks.The females on the other hand, can live for several years.
The male pollen cone clusters develop near the base of the tree, and the female ones are usually up higher. Males and females develop on the same tree, but their placement on different heights helps to prevent inbreeding.
Once a female cone is fertilized in the springtime by wind-borne pollen, it takes 12 to 13 months for the development of the seed. In August through September of the second year, the cone opens up its scales, releasing seeds into the wild which are dispersed by wind or squirrels. They then fall to the ground, and that’s when we collect them :).
White Pine trees produce female cones after about 5-10 years of age, and continue to do so every year after.
Other Special Things About White Pines
They are the Provincial tree for Ontario.
The White Pine was a sacred tree to Native American people. The inner bark is sweet and edible in the spring, and the seeds from the cones are nutritious. The bark and resin were used for medicinal properties, and also to make baskets and seal canoes.
They are the tallest tree in North America. When Europeans first arrived here, there were immense spans of White Pine trees, some of them growing up to 230 feet tall. Many of these ancient pines were cut down to make settlements and ships. They now grow up to 110 feet tall ( I guess that’s because the remaining ones are not as old?).
Europeans were able to survive from scurvy and nutritional deprivation because of evergreen tea given to them by Native American tribes.
The White Pine was a favorite tree of naturalist and author Henry David Thoreau, one of my favourite philosophers.
Hi, and Happy February!
This month is when I really feel inspired to put things into action. January is still dark and slumber-y and a continuation of the winter rest period.
This year I’ve decided to do a bullet journal, which is basically just a planner that you make for yourself in a blank notebook, customized with your own drawings and designs, and whatever other pages you want to use, such as monthly goals, reflections and habit tracking. And of course calendars and weekly planners.
I chose this blank notebook from Rifle Paper Co, because I LOVE the design and colours.
I did do a cover for January, but I was too shy to post it because I was not happy at all with how my evergreen drawings turned. I used coloured pencils, which I’m not used to. But, I’ll show it here anyway. I’ve added the Norse runes associated with the season in the design.
I should mention if its not obvious, that I do the cover drawings separately
and then glue them in my notebook.
For February I decided to do a water-color design. I did some roses, even though we don’t have them naturally at this time of the year, but it is something we are looking forward to and they are a classical symbol of life and femininity, which has to do with Imbolc, explained below. I wanted to do drawings of foliage that are actually around at this time, so that’s why I still am sticking with some evergreen for February, as there is no new green sprouting yet. The leaves are a reddish brown because that’s the colour the wild rose leaves look during the winter. I’ve added some Norse runes again associated with Imbolc, which I’ll explain the meaning of below.
If you like this design and the meaning of the rune symbols, there will be a link at the bottom of this blog post to download a free printable version. You can print it out and add it to your own journal if you like. If you share it on Instagram, be sure to tag me @imbrittanyleah 🙂
Since I’ve decided to learn about wild plants and follow along with nature’s seasonal changes, getting to know the old earth-based traditions has been a natural offshoot of that, especially since I’ve always had a keen interest in ancient history.
I find that keeping in mind all of the old festivals throughout the year (there are 8), helps to be more grounded, intentional, connected to the environment and helps with planning ahead. It also just makes life more fun.
I find it necessary to mention that I am NOT a wiccan. I think that the gods and goddesses are archetypes of human consciousness and maybe represent aspects of nature and humanity.
Anyways, on with Imbolc …
The first and second of February are traditionally marked as the festival of Imbolc, in ancient Europe. It marks the divide between Winter Solstice and Spring Equinox and from now on, we will be noticeably getting more sunlight. It is a celebration preparing for Spring.
This time is represented by the goddess Brigit, who I think is an aspect of the mother Goddess in general. She is known to be a triple goddess, and during this time she is coming out of her crone phase of Winter and into the maiden phase of Spring.
She is a fire goddess, associated with light and sun. As such, this time of the year is when life is starting to stir again after a winter hibernation.
The symbolism of fire and light and return of the sun can mean for us new creative energy, sparks of inspiration and birthing new ideas.
Purification is also a theme of this time and I think this has to do with the purity of re-birth and new beginnings. Fire is associated with purification since it is a destructive force, and from destruction comes creation.
The name Imbolc means “in the belly” and so symbolically, life is not yet manifested, but is stirring. There is also an aspect of probability and chance involved with this time as it is unknown how the future will play out.
This brings me to the explanation of the Nordic runes representing this time. They are in order of how I wrote them on my calendar cover.
Pertho – This symbolizes mysterious, hidden potential. It is associated with fate and the role of chance with the evolution of things. It reminds me of a womb actually, which is probably why it is related to life that is not yet manifested.
Algiz – This is the symbol associated with Valkyries, female warrior divinities. It represents protection, and strengthening personal luck.
Sowili – This symbol is literally a sun wheel. It has to do with vitality, energy, action, success and goals.
Nowadays, we still have remnants of Imbolc in our yearly ritual of “Groundhog Day” which I think satisfies our need for omens in nature.
In the old days, Imbolc is when you would start preparing and planning for growing life and food for the year.
Most of us are not connected to the earth in that way anymore, however now might be a good time to think about what kind of metaphorical seeds you want to sow to be able harvest at the end of the year.
Basically, what kind of things do you want to have accomplished by the end of the summer?
Personally, I’m really excited for my second round of container gardening and I’m already thinking about what herbs I’m going to try to grow.
Thanks for reading and I hope you found some seasonal inspiration. 🙂