"The trail at Kanawha State Forest is six miles uphill, a slow six miles, so you get to watch everything along the road that is growing. We were out there at least once a week. That's how the nature journaling came about. We would come home and study to see what we had learned.
"One day, Joan Steven and I were biking with Helen Chilton. Helen has studied every plant and wildflower. She spotted a putty root leaf. It's a pinstripe leaf in the forest that starts in September and goes through April. It's warm. When you have a snow, the leaf's warmth will melt the snow, and you can see that it's an orchid. "Through the Master Naturalist program, Willis teaches the tree class and does a tree hike in the woods. I taught one nature journaling class. I take hikes with people in the forest to look at flowers.
"Louis Ferguson from the Clay Center invited me to do a power point presentation and Patti Brown taught me how to put a power point presentation together. Can you believe I've spoken at the Clay Center? Twice.
"There's a system for journaling the Greneli system. You observe it, you draw it and you study it, and it's yours. If you are walking in the forest and see something you've drawn a picture of, you know it. You get it in your head.
"You don't have to be an artist. You just observe and put whatever it is on paper good enough for you to remember it.
"There's always something entertaining in the forest. If you go in the woods and sit on a rock and sit still long enough, the birds and bugs will get used to you, and it just comes alive.
"Through the Master Naturalist class, I got a job out at Guthrie working in the insect museum. I learned how to pin insects. These purple traps in the forest collect insects in that section so the state can know what's there. Like the emerald ash borer, a beetle. We know it was brought into the state by campers who brought wood because it is not in any of the border counties.
"My job was to empty the contents of the traps into a petri dish, look at them under a microscope and put them into families and send them to my supervisor. I loved it. I did that for three years. Now I collect insects.
"Because of the Naturalist class, I was asked to write an article or two for the Wonderful West Virginia magazine. I took an illustration course and did the illustrations for the back of the Kanawha State Forest Flora book, and the Wonderful West Virginia magazine took some of my illustrations.
"My mother left a batch of letters that I have hauled with me since she died in 1974. I never paid any attention to them. I had a free week recently. Willis was doing a woodworking class, and I went with him and took these letters in my computer. I started transcribing them. They are her three years of her college and a couple of years after she got married.
"She went to Germany the year before we got into the war and she saw the brownshirt stormtroopers. When I was a little girl, I was collecting stamps and cut the stamp out, so the letter about Hitler and the brownshirts has holes in it.
"I transcribed them all for my children. There is a murder in Texas, an automobile accident, a suicide, a romance and a love child that I think I'm related to. I'm very tempted to do something with them.
"I love writing. I wouldn't have known that if I hadn't had those letters with me at the workshop. Crafting a good sentence is delicious.
"I had also taken my mother's speeches. She was on the national board for the American Red Cross. I intended to put those together for my children. Then I got into those letters, and oh, it was like eating candy!
"I'm really involved in the Women's Kanawha Literary Club. We have one subject every year, and each person selects a topic and gives a paper on that. My last one was on art inspired by war.
"Being Sam's mother is fun. I'm not surprised at his success. He was pretty ambitious. His big series on TV is 'True Blood.' He's up in Canada now doing a movie. He just did one in New Orleans called 'White Rabbit.' His parts are always nude. Oh well, I guess it pays the bills.
"We always get together at Thanksgiving. He and Missy brought the twins to Louisiana at Easter. Beth is in Texas with three little girls and we're going there for Thanksgiving.
"We are moving to Louisiana. Willis is gradually retiring. We're finding it so hard to leave West Virginia. We go to Louisiana two weeks and come here for two weeks, and I love both places. We will continue that until July 2013.
"I've been blessed to have good health to be able to go out and do what I found interesting. The biking and being out in the forest are hobbies we can transfer to Louisiana and do until we aren't able to walk in the woods anymore.
"I figure we will be in Louisiana about 15 years, and then we will come back here. Our rocking chair days will be down there. But I'm coming back and moving to Edgewood Summit."Reach Sandy Wells at san...@wvgazette.com or 304-348-5173.