Another from the Hocker and Codger archives.
Our house faces pretty much due East. At this latitude, that means the sun rises too far south in the winter to shine in our windows. I miss it! But these days the sunrise point is slightly further north— and its arc is a little higher—every day. The growing light is a wonderful thing.
Meanwhile, we’re enjoying peripheral sunrises. I especially love the time just before the sun comes up, when the cool snow highlights contrast with the warm cloud glow. This is a digital sketch from yesterday.
Every year, a river’s channel shifts as water, waterborne sediment, and freeze/thaw forces erode its banks and deposit sediment in its path. Some rivers, such as ones bedded in rock, shift very slowly, over thousands or millions of years. On the other hand, soft-bedded rivers can shift their beds by several feet a year.
I’m particularly aware of these fast-shifting “sand-bed” rivers because there’s one visible from my studio window. Wunachích t’aakhéen (the Salmon River) makes its loopy way across the flat sweep of glacial outwash on which the town of Gustavus is built.
As sand-bed rivers shift, they leave beautiful traces on the landscape. Sometimes those fossil channels are visible in aerial and satellite photos. But because they’re elevationally subtle, fossil channels are often hidden under forests or human development.
I recently built an art/science lesson around this story of meandering rivers. It starts with basic earth science background: erosion and deposition, river migration. Then students use the art elements of line, shape, and color, and the design principles of emphasis, rhythm, and movement, to create artworks that convey river channel migration over time. Here’s an example:
So far I’ve taught the lesson three times: once to teachers, and twice to 7th grade classes. I’m still working out the details, but I’m getting some positive initial reactions! Teachers: if you’re interested in learning more about this “River Rhythms” art/science lesson, let me know.
Originally published in Strawberry Point News, Gustavus, Alaska.
Two years ago, a naturalist friend and I started collaborating on a regular “field notes” column in our local monthly newspaper, the Strawberry Point News. After a great two-year run, and a huge amount of work by its volunteer editors, the paper went dormant in 2020.
Since I’m in the middle of a website re-design, it seemed like a good time to give the Field Notes features a new life online. I’ll post some of my favorites over the next few days. Today’s is the very first one, published in December of 2018.
My co-author, Codger, is the incomparable Greg Streveler. Thanks to Jen, Patrick, Britney, and David for giving us the space in the paper.
Made it to the last day! The prompt is “Skeletal”
The prompts are “shoes” and “webbed.”
Today’s Inktober.com prompt is “float.” I started with the waves, then spent some time musing: what might be floating here?
And of course the answer was Banjo Woman, star of my last year’s inktober series, floating in for a cameo.