Keep Looking

You would think that finding the walnut-sized egg case of a praying mantis in a two-acre overgrown field would be like finding a needle in a haystack. And, indeed, it is. I walked deep into the field, following deer trails and battling thorns and waste-high goldenrod stems. I didn’t go out especially looking for the egg cases. I just needed to get out in the cold, to go wandering in a rare moment of sun, during this dark week in American history.

Finding hope in times of unimaginable tyranny and loss seems equally elusive.

But there, amidst a small grove of white pines, among matted goldenrod and tangled thorny wild roses, I spied it: one frothy egg case, and then another. In all, I found six.

So, my simple takeaway—as much for myself as for you: keep looking.

Upcoming Programs:

Technique Takeaway: Improving Your Sketchbook Layouts and Lettering
Friday 1/15/20, 2-3:30pm (PST)
 / 5-6:30pm (EST) $40
Register: Winslow Art Center
This program will offer approaches to thinking about page design and improving your sketchbook page layouts. We’ll also explore ways to add text as a graphic element, or simply as a way to capture additional information and meaning.

The Nature Explorer’s Sketchbook
Thursday 1/21/21, 6-7 pm, FREE; ages 10+
Register: Mohawk Hudson Land Conservancy
Ask questions and draw along with me as I share some activities and tips from my new book to spark your curiosity. This session is especially suited to the 10+ year-old artist, explorer, or nature lover — and adults who have wanted to try nature journaling.

28 Comments on “Keep Looking

  1. I love your advice to keep looking, Jean. I often tell my friends that the “secret” to my photography is persistence. I love your paintings of the praying mantis egg cases and recall a friend of mine telling me that the technical name for them is “oothecae” (or “ootheca” in the singular). 🙂

      • I usually try to include the Latin names for the bird and insect species that I photograph. Among other things, it helps readers from other countries identify the species, since the common names can be quite different in different languages.

  2. The pandemic has caused me to slow down my pace and often I find this frustrating, making me anxious. Your words and reflections strike a cord within me, reminding me to change my focus and look for the beauty…..always…. and in all situations.
    Thanks much for your words and the beauty of your artwork. I appreciate you.

  3. An instructive post, and beautiful one, in many ways.
    I love the dry grass against the blue sky. On my walk yesterday we stopped to marvel at an ochre tinged tree against just such a sky.
    (Thanks to Mike for the terminology!)

    • I debated whether to add that blue background, since it meant that the values of the goldenrod had to be strengthened to stand out against it. But I wanted the color and, in the end, it worked out. Winter skies can be so dramatic.

  4. What a beautiful post. This week has been hard…and nature is indeed a healing balm…That’s the first place I go in times of stress.

  5. Good morning, Jean. We often see praying mantises around our house during the summer, but I’ve never found an egg case. I can feel the crisp, breezy January air in your sketch of the two on the goldenrod. Beautiful.

    I’ve heard a few people say, in response to these dark times, that “this is not who were are.” Perhaps this is not who we are meant to be; yet, it feels to me like, throughout history, this is exactly who we have shown ourselves to be. My hope is that the continued exposure of this disgraceful tyranny and loss will so horrify and grieve us that we will determine to embody more of who we are meant to be and less of who we have shown ourselves to be. It’s a gossamer hope most days, but I keep watch for signs of hope—and beauty—wherever I can find them.

  6. Hi Jean, I resonate with your heartfelt sentiment. Thank you for putting it into words.
    What beautiful layout! I especially like the “Field” mimicking the goldenrod leaves. Today I will put on my micro-spikes and head off down the road and into the fields to find oothecae or other treasures that will surprise me. Be well. Judy

    • Hi Judy– The classic grid underlies this layout, with an intentional pull of the blue from the landscape to the closeup. I just came in from a run, so be forewarned that it is really cold out today. Hope you find some good things in the fresh air and the fields.

  7. Thank you Jean for sharing your finds and your feelings. Yes, it was a very bleak week in America’s history. Hopefully, it will not be repeated Ever. I am glad you are able to get outside in an effort to relieve some of the stress of this past year and past week. I went out the otherr night to watch the sandhill cranes fly-in. So very moving. Be well and peace be with you in the new year.

    • Seeing sandhill cranes on the Platte River is on my bucket list. I think it’s important to keep getting out and trying to stay grounded. It’s going to take more than a few walks in the field or sandhill cranes to make it through the next few weeks.

  8. This week has been a horror show, for us watching from across the border as well. The best thing was, I got your book!! Absolutely charming! I have to order another copy now, it was meant to be a gift and I’m keeping it! Haha…..

    • How nice to hear Sheryl! I’m glad that it brought a little cheer over the border. So sorry we are witnessing such a horrendous display of arrogance, ignorance, and lies.

  9. I have found these cases here in Australia, and didn’t know what they were. So good to know! I found a tiny praying mantis in my kitchen recently, so carefully transported it back out to the garden.

  10. One of my favorite children’s books is titled: Keep Looking! by Millicent Selsam and Joyce Hunt and illustrated by Normand Chartier. It is beautifully written and illustrated. I have used it many times to read to children who visit the nature center in winter or for whom we do outreach programs in the winter.
    A wonderful reminder to….Keep Looking.
    Thank you.

  11. How I would love to find one and sketch from my own observations. I found an ootheca when I was a young girl. I had no idea what it was. I put it in a jar and woke one morning to find hundreds of baby mantis’ inside. My mother of course told me to take them outdoors and free them for fear they’d die. I believe she had other reasons.

    • Ha! I believe your mother made a good decision. Sometimes the young eat each other, so best that they went off into the world. You never know…you may spy one. I find it helps just to be aware of the possibilities of what’s out there when I am hiking in fields or woods, etc.

  12. It’s so cool that you found those and isn’t it funny how once your eyes see something, they begin to recognize it more easily? I love those reaching-across-the-page dried leaf shapes. 🙂

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