The North Carolina Arboretum is a fun place to sketch, even in the winter when the quilt garden is colorless and more like a worn duvet right now. The grounds are mostly gray, but you still get a sense of anticipation, of possibility.
I sketched this skull at an exhibit about dangerous plants. While I sketched, a video played behind the fake cholla cactus. It was this man impaled on a cholla bud.
Chollas are ridiculously beautiful to look at. They look like teddy bears with halos, glowing, luminous. They beg you to reach out and touch them.
And this is a bad idea.
The video at the Arboretum reminded me of a cholla encounter I witnessed in the desert outside Tucson ages ago. My roommate, Anne, got into a situation with a cholla. First it was a couple of fingers stuck on a bud. The normal reaction is to pull the thing off with the other hand, which leaves the victim completely incapacitated by a cholla handcuff.
We sought help the first place we found...a run-down wild West themed park where we had to navigate fake gunfights in the streets in order to get to the first aid office where they pulled cholla spines out of Anne's fingers with needle nose pliers.
The day ended in the saloon with the fake cowboys and fake dancing girls. The beer was real and my respect for the cholla was cemented.
Oh how I wish I'd had a sketching habit then!
The few times I did sketch in my journals over the years make those particular journals my favorites to skim back through. The visuals bring back vivid memories of not only the things I sketched, but also of the rest of the day in a way that writing about things and taking photographs never seem to do.
The few sketches I sprinkled in my written journals don't just remind me of what I saw. When I look back at an old sketch, I remember how I felt, things I smelled, the quality of the air, sounds, tastes...the entire gamut of the experience.
For me, nothing captures life like sketching it. Nothing brings back the memories so vividly or so intensely.