Drawing Botany Home–the first Teaser Tuesday!

Coming April 25, 2023!


In celebration and anticipation, please enjoy this teaser from the book’s prologue.

(More to come each Teaser Tuesday)

Prologue: The Comfort of Buttercups

(‘Reel’ available here https://www.instagram.com/p/Cm9nEYsN7X5/)

Ethnographers and geographers tell us that plants and place matter. Yet in a mobile world, both are easy to miss. In rural Montana, forty years ago, a Sunday afternoon erupts into conflict between my hippie mother and her American husband. When the argument turns ugly, I grab my younger brother’s hand flee out the back door finding comfort in the dependable appearance of spring-blooming buttercups.

It’s the first time I remember running out the backdoor, but it won’t be the last. I will gain much from plants: comfort, academic credentials, even financial security. But for years, I will understand their botany as the scientific discipline I first learned far from home. Then, in 2004, when a new job gave me reason to return to southern BC, I thought I was returning home to teach botany and ecology. Little did I understand how close my homecoming would come to failing. Discouraged and homesick, I did what I’d always done as a hippie kid when things got hard: I ran outside. I never went far—rarely more than a day’s drive—but I went with my field journal.  When my brother and I return to the most isolated of our childhood hippie houses in southern BC, recognition shudders through me. How many times, I wonder, did I flee family chaos for the tangled comfort of buttercups? How many of my family’s stories are woven with riparian willow and dogwood, shaded beneath a ponderosa pine, aching in the stubbled remains of a Douglas fir forest?  Faced with plants infused with memory and meaning, I finally understood how drawing plants in place was more than mere comfort; it was a practice that could question my most deep-seated assumptions about home and family, discipline and practice, place and community. It also, I realized, allowed me to learn not just about, but from plants. As a botanist and artist in search of a rooted life, what lessons could matter more?

Come with me.


The World Out There

Hamilton Arts and Letters just released a lovely new issue called The World Out There including, as described by the guest editors, Alec Follet and Matt Zantingh, an “eclectic grouping of written and visual texts” that address how “art can help us see our world for what it is or even imagine better alternatives.” I’m honoured that my piece, “Carrying Capacity,” is included (click on the link above to see the Table of Contents with hyperlinks for each piece). Initially written just after our stalwart dog, Shasta, passed away, “Carrying Capacity” considers how what we carry–the companionship of a dog, art supplies–might change how we care for the world.  As I have struggled to make sense of life in the midst of a global pandemic where so much I took for granted has been upended, I’ve been returning again and again to the question of how best to cultivate care. It is no small comfort to see the works of others who have also been closely considering the complicated relationship we have with each other and with the more-than-human world.

Carrying Capacity • by Lyn Baldwin