I include a lot of my thoughts, feelings, and routines on a roadtrip to teach at the Monterey Bay Birding Festival. I talk about my growing conviction that this kind of work is part of my mission in life. I am working to build this mission into my own career and my own way of contributing to the world. This video is dedicated to Robert Laws and John Muir Laws my mentor. And even though I did not know Robert Laws personally If it weren’t for him and the lineage through Jack, I would not be half way as far along the path that I am on.
Do you want to experience nature with fresh eyes? Do you want to notice, understand, and remember more of the vibrant world around you? This fun class will teach you the tools used by the greatest naturalists of all time. Using pencils, ink, and watercolor we will create sketches and take notes in the field.
Come join a group of motivating people to learn more about nature while also practicing your artistic and scientific skills. The class will take place on four Sundays in a row at a variety of locations in Sonoma County. Be ready for fun and challenge that will boost your observation, your confidence, and your nature journaling skills.
For more information or to register check out: SRJC catalog
Come with me as I peruse the pages of my last journal, sharing drawings and peppering the video with rants about the benefits of journaling. One journal usually spans three to five months of my life.
This video is meant to entertain and motivate you to learn faster, try harder, and push your edges…
Here is a practical technique that you can apply to learning almost any new skill but is especially useful for nature artists and nature journalers!
I have been unintentionally doing this for a while and have only recently recognized the value and started to conceptualize it.
Do you have information dense places that you seek out to accelerate your learning?
Do you have trouble drawing, painting, or journaling in public places? If so, my next post is for you!
In this audiorecording, I continue to describe more of my adventures and observations with the Hadza hunter gatherers of Tanzania. This time, I visit a different group and describe more of what I learn about their archery equipment and how they make their arrows. In the photo below, you can see the fletching style on one arrow and a bunch of shafts on the ground.
Necessity is the mother of invention. One guy is holding an arrow shaft between his toes and he shapes while the man in the foreground uses the back of his sandal as a cutting board for trimming the feathers on his newly made arrow. He wore a Hadza-style tire sandal on one foot and a”Croc” type shoe on the other.
This photo shows a still smoldering charcoal pit. The Iraqw tribe are mostly subsistence agropastoralists but they make charcoal to be sold for cash. The production of charcoal for cooking fuel is one cause of deforestation in this area. The trees chosen for charcoal production are often the important habitat trees for the animals the Hadza hunt such as birds and Galagos.
In this photo, you can see what I think is some species of Cordia with edible berries. We spent almost an hour gleaning fruit from this tree. This tree is also the source of the arrow shafts and bow staves used by the Hadza. Talk about a multipurpose plant! Further research on this tree in its human ecological context would be very useful. Fortunately for the Hadza, it seems that the Agropastoralists often leave this tree when they are clearing areas for cultivation, probably not for the fruit as much as for the valuable fodder the leaves provid.On this trip we also saw some cool cucurbit species growing wild including a jelly melon, which I have grown in my garden in California.
On this eventful day with this group of the Hadza, this guy shot a hornbill and another guy shot a Goshawk. These were some of the most interesting bird species that I saw close up during my entire trip to Tanzania. What is it about killing and eating a hornbill or a bushbaby compared to chicken or pig that affects modern Westerners? For more about this topic see Eating Biodiversity.
In this video you can see part of the fletching process.
I practice archery and I fletch my own arrows so I have a lot of appreciation for the speed, efficiency, and artistry of the Hadza fletching process. It takes me twice as long to fletch a single arrow.
While the Hadza worked on arrow shafts, I was busy drawing the plants, animals, and material culture that make up their daily life. This journaling process was the backbone of my trip and the basis for the book that I put together when I got back home.
On my third day with the Hadza I tag along with the women for a little bit to learn about some of the plant resources they gather and use. When I get back to camp I spent some time reflecting on some of the complexities of my observer/tourist role and the implications of cultural tourism on the Hadza way of life.
Some of the questions that I ask are: What is authenticity? How is the Hadza’s daily life curated to provide an “authentic” experience to tourists?
Part of my intent with my Tanzania trip was to be as transparent as possible. I’m recording my impressions, I’m recording what I see, and I am recognizing that I am part of the equation. I am not objectively floating above the landscape. In these audiorecordings and in my book you can see how I try to pay attention to and process my conflicting feelings around cultural tourism, my role in it, and my relationship to the Hadza. While it might be easy to imagine some isolated stone age tribe living in harmony separate from everyone else, it would be a disservice to all involved to project this blindly onto the Hadza. The truth of the matter is that we live in a much more complicated and inextricably interconnected world.
In the above photo you can see two Hadza and Yussef the motorcycle driver walking past several spiffy safari Land Cruisers parked outside the Hadza camp. Some days there would be more than 5 groups of tourists that might come through and visit one Hadza camp. They would often be led through the same series of activities and hear the same speech from the cultural tourism guides. “And here you can see how they make fire with sticks, and now you can see how they smoke marijuana, and now you can see how they shoot the bow, and here are the women cooking baboon, etc.This photo would have looked more “authentic” if it were not for the bright green shirt of Ita, the motorcycle driver, and Zacharia in the frame. I noticed in myself the automatic desire to snap photos of just the Hadza with their bows and animal skins and to exclude the modernly dressed guide and driver. This is one way in which the bias and expectation of outsiders can influence how the whole experience is curated. When I look at a lot of the photos about the Hadza and videos of the Hadza online the Swahili speaking guides and the drivers and the other Tanzanians are usually not present in the photos. I understand the aesthetics behind this but what is the meaning? How would you feel if you were one of the guides and you notice that the tourists are always avoiding you or even shooing you out of the frame when they are taking shots of the primitive Hadza tribes-people?
If you are interested in learning more about my trip you should check out my book, Intertropical Impressions Volume Three.
On my second day out hunting with the Hadza I experimented with doing audiorecordings during the trip instead of trying to take notes in my small pocket notebook. It was my first time trying this and was a bit hard because I felt self-conscious talking to myself in English while following these guys on their subsistence hunt. Once I got over that it turned out to be a much more efficient and safe way to record information while running over rocks, dangerous steep gullies, and seventeen kinds of spiny plants. Part way through you can hear the loud sounds of humans, baboons, and dogs clashing violently. You can hear some of my personal questions and train of thought around the human ecology of Hadza hunting.
Here is my recap from the rest of that day. In this recap I share some more of the complexities and reality of how these people actually live and my own personal experiences in the moment. For example, how they shared food with some of the agropastoralists and how they stopped to get soda at a weird little shack. I talk about my own reflections around the concept of a “curated experience” and some of my hidden biases around what to portray and what not to portray in my photos.
During my trip to Tanzania, I used my nature journal and my pocket notebook for drawing and writing and I used my phone for photos, short videos, and audio recordings. With this diverse toolbox I tried to document my observations, feeling, and impressions.
In this particular recording I give some of my observations about agriculture, tourism, and my personal reactions to the land of contrast.
Most of these observations I make in messy notes in a tiny notebook in the moving bus or car, a practice I have kept up on my last three tropical expeditions. Even though I get car sick I find that there is so much to see during these trips and I have so many ideas that it would be a waste not to record them. The notes are almost illegible because they are made while in motion. I also use this book when I am on fast paced walks or hikes that do not allow for me to pull out my big nature journal sketchbook. On this trip I began the pattern of rereading these notes and elaborating on them verbally with an audio recording. I plan on repeating this system in the future.