Summer moments of wonder


Summer sun through forest canopy

It's June! Officially the start of the summer months. Which signs of summer do you notice at this time of year? The light evenings? Watching poppies unfold? Insects buzz in the sunshine? Watching the sun set over the sea (or perhaps enjoying the British seaside drizzle with some Fish and Chips)? 

I started we are stardust as a way to share and celebrate moments of wonder for the natural world with our loved ones.

Both art and science require us to use our imagination to gain a deeper understanding of nature and our place in the world. Art is a creative expression based on our experiences of the world. Science is our search to understand how the physical world works. In the words of Professor Brian Cox, “deeper understanding confers that most precious thing - wonder.” That is exactly what we are stardust hopes to inspire: a moment of wonder.

So this summer I wanted to notice the signs of summer - the little moments of wonder we can discover as the seasons change.

Anatomy

A lungful of stars

Taking a deep breath and smelling the flowers and the heady scent of warm summer grass. And the smell of the grass after summer rains. There is a name for the range of scents you get after a summer storm - petrichor. It was coined by mineralogists in 1964 and describes the process of water falling and disturbing the scent molecules on dry surfaces, carrying them into the air. If you are in the countryside, the molecules will likely come from the trees and plants. I associate it with freshness and a revitalising of the earth...but that's probably because I have a lovely, dry nest-house to hide in! If you want to learn more about the smell of summer storm rains, take a look at this Scientific American article.

“On a deep breath you have more air molecules in your lungs than there are stars in the visible universe”

- Quote from the we are stardust Lungful of stars greetings card

Astronomy

Reach for the stars greetings card close up

The long summer days is something I love about this season. Lazy evenings in the garden, stunning sunsets after a days walking and the stars peeping through twilight skies. This year, the summer solstice is on Wednesday 21 June. It is the longest day of the year in the UK. On this day the Earth, which spins on a tilted axis, is inclined so that the northern hemisphere is as close as possible to our Sun. On the summer solstice the sun rises at its farthest point from the East and it sets at its farthest point in the West. You can read more about it in this BBC article.

I love drawing stars but they are so hard to capture in reality. My favourite design picturing the stars so far is the reach for the stars greetings card and limited edition print. Little pin pricks of glowing white through a blackberry ink sky.

Botany

Summer poppy flowers

Oh the green and the flowers! After months of winter and the emerging pale green spring leaves the riot of colours and green of summer is such a joy. A flower I love in our little garden is the Poppy. According to The Language of Flowers by Mandy Kirkby the Poppy was given the meaning of 'fantastic extravagance' during the Victorian era. 

"It is an intensely simple, intensely floral, flower. All silk and flame, a scarlet cup...like a burning coal fallen from heaven's altars."

- from Prosperpina, John Ruskin

The Opium Poppy was incredibly popular during the Victorian era, due to the exotic colours and extravagance associated with the Far East. This flower with its potential to harm has now been used to heal - the morphine from opium can be converted into apomorphine and used to treat the symptoms of Parkinson's - I have a Poppy greetings card all about it! The flower's silky, delicate petals were so hard to capture.

Zoology

Although many people hate them, I love the insects that thrive at this time of year - ants, bees, beetles busying themselves collecting food for their young ones. I created a whole card series about the amazing Bess beetle Odontotaenius disjunctus (actually found in North America not the UK) and their co-parenting skills. Read the card descriptions to find out more about how they raise their young and use a sophisticated language using something called stridulation. I still don't like wasps though, even if they do play an important part in the circle of life!

Bess beetle greetings cards

Which moments of wonder do you notice in Summer?

I'd love to know what you notice about the summer and if you ever wonder, why things are the way they are? Or try to sketch the beauty around you? Share your summer moments of wonder by tagging photos on Instagram with #amomentofwonder or using the hashtag #amomentofwonder on your tweets.

My Instagram followers had such beautiful answers to this question:

  • @heroinetraining Shadows everywhere (because there's actually sun). Such a novelty!
  • @petalandpress I've been noticing the dog roses unfolding just the last few days.so pretty.but then flowers I noticed last week are suddenly gone! Summer moves fast!
  • @walk_err I love the light in the mornings on my early starts, it's so nice to see the world wake up before you rather than after you!
  • @capturebykaye  can't believe how fast the year is going which is why I like to take pictures of gardens and flowers, to make the most of each season. Also, having breakfast outside.
  • @nination86 A warm breeze, the smell of sunscreen, the sound of the ocean if you're near it, not having to carry a jacket, scarf, gloves.... feeling light.
  • @prettynotinc ...things i do like are the longer sunlight evenings, june bearing strawberries and that my cats have more fun playing outside. :)
  • @hannahrbeal All of the above! Especially the long, light (and if we're lucky) warm evenings x
  • @niki.at.the.cottage Long light evenings....
  • @yoginilucy I love coming home in the evenings when it's still light, my plants growing like mad, picnics in the park, and swimming outdoors. Summer honestly makes me so happy, it's the best!
  • @jo_at_fablestitch The elderflowers coming out.
  • @lmj___art Sitting on the swing seat under a leafy canopy of trees when the moon and stars are out just before I go to bed, it really heals and calms my mind and body amazingly.

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