Embracing Art

I wrote this article for the Audubon’s weekly column:

Embracing Art
by Jennifer Schlick


Anything can be a “canvas” for nature tangles – even painted rocks.

I don’t remember the incident, but the story continues to be told about the day I came home “sick” from the first grade. My mom says she gave me a bath and got me settled on the couch – where all sick children wait for health to return. Eventually she got me to admit that I wasn’t sick at all. Apparently my class was making a farm mural. Each child was assigned something to add to the scene. I had been asked to draw a rooster and, well, I didn’t know how. My first traumatic art moment.

The following year, on one of those warm, wonderful, almost-summer days, the art teacher, thinking she was doing us all a big favor, took our class outside to sketch in nature. I remember this one and it still gives me a knotted stomach. I spent half the class trying to decide WHAT to draw, and the rest of the time trying and erasing until there was a hole in my paper. By this time, age 7, I had decided that I couldn’t draw and that art was not for me.

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The leaves on the left were part of the inspiration for my first ever “Nature Tangle.”

IMG_0724 Nest Box Nature Tangles

At one of our Secret Gardens Tours, I found this birdhouse decorated with Nature Tangles!

In my late thirties, in an attempt to face my fear of art, I signed up for a drawing class.  After introductions (and true confessions), my wonderful instructor said something that completely changed my outlook. “Drawing is a learned skill. It’s not that you CAN’T draw. You have never been taught. You have never learned to draw.” How liberating! I still “can’t” draw, but now I know it is not because there is an innate deficiency in my character, rather simply because I haven’t practiced drawing. Now, when I see opportunities to make art in community with others just for fun, I often take advantage. Such was the case a few years ago when at the Allegany Nature Pilgrimage I saw a listing for something called “Nature Tangles.” After a quick overview of this easy-as-doodling technique and looking at some samples, we took a walk outside looking for the patterns and lines and textures that might inspire our own creations. And once inside, transferring that inspiration to paper, we were all in the zone – uninterruptable, absorbed. When the announcement came that class was over, we were shocked; the time had flown by!

My drawing was no masterpiece, but it was good enough to display in my office! And the process was absolutely meditative.

Boy Fairy

One of Sarah’s wonderful fairy creatures – Boy Fairy

The Nature Center is pleased to offer you the opportunity to experience Nature Tangles (and overcome your fear of art?). On Saturday, August 15, 2015 from 1:00pm until 3:00pm, fine arts teacher Sue Yauchzy will lead us through a process not unlike the one I experienced at Allegany. She and I have had fun going through the art catalogs to purchase sketchbooks, pencils, markers, and erasers – all of which will be yours to keep after class so you can keep on doodling!

If three-dimensional art is more your cup of tea, you might consider joining Sarah Hatfield to learn some of her techniques for making imaginative creatures. On Saturday, August 22, 2015 from 10:00am until 12:00pm, you can turn pine cones, acorns and their “caps,” dried flowers, twigs, and bark, into fairies, birds, squirrels, or dragons. These whimsical creatures sit nicely on window sills and fireplace mantels, or tuck neatly into spots in your garden where they can stand guard over your flowers. I know there’s at least one of you out there who wants to learn how because you wrote it on the evaluation form after the Woodcock Whirl, where Sarah’s creations graced the tables.

Girl Fairy

Another of Sarah’s creations: Girl Fairy

The Audubon Nature Center is located at 1600 Riverside Road in the town of Kiantone, one-quarter mile east of Route 62 between Jamestown, New York and Warren, Pennsylvania. Learn more about the center and its many programs for adults and children by visiting http://JamestownAudubon.org or calling (716) 569-2345.

Jennifer Schlick is program director at the Nature Center.

Chautauqua Gorge…

… it’s just so beautiful.

I said to my sister, “I sort of want to take my camera out, but I have so many pictures of this place already.”

I couldn’t resist.

First I practiced with slow shutter speeds on a water fall:

IMG_5359 little waterfall slow shutter

Then I just had to capture this 1970s color palette!

IMG_5370 mini waterfall from above

Akeley Swamp: (Butterflies and) Wildflowers!

Our first attempt to see butterflies at Akeley Swamp was a washout.  We kinda knew it would be, which is why we didn’t bother with cameras.  But the wildflowers were riotous and the potential was great, so we planned to return in a couple of days when the forecast was more promising.

My car thermometer read 47 degrees and the valley was full of mist.  I got there an hour before the other two.  I took a leisurely stroll up the trail and I photographed lots of flowers without the distraction of contrast-y sunshine.

More true confessions:  I don’t hike much in summer because I don’t tolerate the heat well and the bugs absolutely love me.  So, some of the flowers along this trail were strangers to me!  I was delighted by the cool temperatures and the opportunity to learn them.


Wild Phlox

In spring, I have to tell folks all the time that Dame’s Rocket is not Wild Phlox. I explain that Dame’s Rocket is a 4-petaled flower and Phlox has five petals… But until visiting Akeley in summer, I hadn’t ever seen Phlox – at least not that I remember.


Wild Phlox

Some of the plants had sparser blooms. I’m still not sure if they are a different variety, or just a younger, less robust plant.  It seems this variety had white blooms, while the other plants had pink.

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This St John’s Wort was familiar to me. I see it all over the place, along roadsides, in fields.  I know several other varieties, too, but didn’t find them at Akeley.  But this one:


St John’s Wort

This taller, bolder St John’s Wort was completely new to me!



I puzzled for quite some time trying to figure this one out. Leaves kind of like clover. Blossoms like peas. Turns out, it’s alfalfa.  Thanks to Kathleen for helping with that ID.

IMG_5222-Mystery Flower

Mystery Flower

I still don’t know what this one is. If you know, please tell me!
UPDATE:  Duh!  The Mystery Flower is Purple Loosestrife… I just didn’t recognize it with so few blossoms open.  Thanks to the folks on Flickr in the ID Please group for helping me out.  (https://www.flickr.com/photos/jenniferschlick/19572581449/)

There were also plenty of old friends:

IMG_5169-Tall Meadow Rue

Tall Meadow Rue

IMG_5132-Common Milkweed

Common Milkweed

IMG_5221-Swamp Milkweed

Swamp Milkweed


Queen Anne’s Lace (aka Wild Carrot)

IMG_5249-Purple Loosestrife

Purple Loosestrife



IMG_5237-Cardinal Flower

Cardinal Flower



My friends, Barbara Ann the Monarch Mama, and Jeff Zablow of wingedbeauty.com joined me as the fog was burning off and the insects were coming out. Of course, insects, unlike wildflowers, aren’t likely to sit still long enough for me to photograph… But I did get a couple:

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Ebony Jewelwing (a damselfly, not a butterfly!)

I saw three or four species of butterflies. (Jeff saw many more – but then – he’s experienced!) This is the only one that posed long enough for me to get the camera set up and shoot:



Many thanks to friends who lure me away from desk to go exploring nature!


Jeff Zablow: scouting butterflies

Jeff will be the First Friday Lunch Bunch speaker at Jamestown Audubon in June 2016! He promises to take us on a Butterfly Walk after his indoor presentation.


Barb: the Monarch Mama

Akeley Swamp is a part of the Pennsylvania State Game lands. Be careful and wear blaze orange if you hike there during hunting season. It is also designated by Audubon Pennsylvania as an official IBA (Important Bird Area) because it is a stop over for water-loving birds during migration.

Learn more:


Coming Soon: Audubon Days at Panama Rocks!

I recently wrote this article for our local papers:

Coming Soon: Audubon Days at Panama Rocks
by Jennifer Schlick

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Enjoying the Rocks (sans Lolli) on Mother’s Day.

OK, I’ll be honest: I don’t often go hiking places where I can’t take my dog. That’s why Panama Rocks fell off my radar. And then for Christmas, I received a season pass. So, on Mother’s Day, Lolli the Pup stayed home and I went with my husband and daughters to a place I hadn’t experienced in years. We picnicked first, then headed out to explore the trails, scavenger hunt clues in hand. We scrambled up to get closer views of some of the formations. We rested for a bit on a nice outcropping and set the camera timer to get a great family photo. We cooled off at the Ice Crevice where there was still snow! We read all the signs, and figured out all the clues – and yes! We found the treasure! We had such a great time I’ve been back twice since. Poor Lolli.

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Stay on the trail, or choose a more challenging path.

If you haven’t been in a while (or ever?), I encourage you to join the Audubon Nature Center staff and volunteers at Panama Rocks on Saturday or Sunday, August 1 and 2, 2015.

The trails are rugged, but not too difficult. Or, you can MAKE it difficult by scrambling up the rock faces, or squeezing yourself through narrow passages, the most famous of which appears on the map as Fat Man’s Misery.

The park has been privately owned and in operation since 1885. The current owners, Craig & Sandi Weston, purchased the park in 1979 and have been working to restore historic buildings and protect the natural beauty for the thousands of visitors that explore from May through October. During one of my visits, a conversation with Craig & Sandi’s son Jonathan about partnerships led to this grand experiment – a collaboration between Panama Rocks and Audubon Nature Center.

IMG_4933 - Ferns and Rocks

Experts will be on hand to teach about the geology and trees found in the scenic area.

August 1 and 2, 2015 have been dubbed Audubon Days at Panama Rocks. Nature Center staff and volunteers will be available at the Rocks to answer your questions about nature, programs at the Nature Center, and more. In addition, there will be activities for children, guided nature walks, and maybe even a few of our education animals. Folks who join or renew their membership in the Audubon Friends of the Nature Center group will get 14 months for the price of 12. There will also be a drawing for a free one-year membership.

I’m especially looking forward to the geology and forestry walks that will be led by Tom Erlandson and Dan Anderson. Both are retired instructors from Jamestown Community College and both have a wealth of knowledge to share. At 10:30am, you may choose either Geology or Trees. The walks will repeat in the afternoon as follows: On Saturday, Geology is 1:30pm and Trees is at 3:30pm; on Sunday, Trees is at 1:30pm and Geology is at 3:30pm.

Dave Moller and Gary Cuckler

The duo “Steel Rails” (Dave Moller & Gary Cuckler) will play on Saturday from 2:00 until 4:00pm. Maybe longer!

Saturday visitors will enjoy music by Gary Cuckler and Dave Moller from about 2:00pm until 4:00pm. Sunday visitors will be serenaded by Bill Moran. We’re working on a few other surprises… but not everything was in place when this article went to print!

Panama Rocks is open daily from 10:00am until 5:00pm during the spring, summer, and fall. Every day, including during Audubon Days, regular Panama Rocks admissions will be in effect: general admission is $7.50, children ages 6-12 are $5, children ages 5 and under free. Panama Rocks is generously donating a portion of each admission to the Nature Center on Audubon Days, so your fee will be helping TWO nature organizations at the same time!

IMG_4607 - Found the Treasure!

Test your puzzle-solving skills and see if you can find the hidden treasure.

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Signs along the trail teach about human and natural history.

We are hoping to make this the biggest attendance weekend of the summer for Panama Rocks. And since word of mouth is always the best advertising, won’t you help us spread the word? Tell your friends – in person, preferably, or if you are on Facebook, join the event at https://www.facebook.com/events/ 692951320836189/, then invite your friends to go with you. Bring a picnic, blanket, lawn games. Perhaps you know people who are coming to Jamestown for the Lucille Ball Comedy Festival. Maybe they would like to spend a morning or afternoon exploring nature before heading downtown.To minimize the impact on the scenic area, please plan to picnic on the upper grounds where picnic tables, trash cans and recycle bins are available. Folks are asked not to take food or beverages into the scenic area – only reusable water bottles are permitted.

Panama Rocks is located at 11 Rock Hill Road, Panama, New York. Learn more about the park at their website, http://www.panamarocks.com/. The Audubon Nature Center is located at 1600 Riverside Road, Jamestown, New York, one-quarter mile east of Route 62 between Jamestown, New York and Warren, Pennsylvania. Learn more about the Nature Center at http://jamestownaudubon.org.

Many thanks to Jonathan & Holly Weston for starting the conversation.

Click here for more pictures.

Jennifer Schlick is program director at the Nature Center.

26 hour vacation

I got to visit one of my favorite places in the world yesterday and today.  I tramped around in the mud finding and losing and finding secret places.  I sat on the porch in the morning and watched and listened to the birds (including Indigo Bunting, Scarlet Tanager, and Yellow Warbler, just to mention the most colorful).

In the evening, I tried photographing the fireflies.  I hope to try again before the season is over…