“Our society is much more interested in information than in wonder, in noise, rather than silence…And I feel that we need a lot more wonder and a lot more silence in our lives.” Mr. Fred Rogers
Nature Journaling, a popular pastime in the late 1800’s, has, like long walks, poetry, deep conversation, and, for children, playing outside from dawn to dusk, become a quaint thing of the past. Yet, nature journaling has a quiet power that is invaluable in our noisy world.
At the beginning of the Covid related lockdown while many people stayed inside with their computers, wildlife was returning to its long abandoned paths. Dolphins were seen playing in the Venice Canals of Italy, elephants wandered African freeways, and I, here in Southern California, watched a large mountain lion glide through my yard.
Nature Journaling needn’t be so dramatic. You don’t need to observe a hundred year old oak tree. A stalwart weed growing out of crack in a driveway can be as much a subject of wonder as any other. Bees, crickets, ants, moths, snails, spiders, lizards, and dozens of birds busy themselves in their buzzing worlds, so mysterious to we humans. And yet, within all the mystery, do we not see ourselves in each and every living thing? Our bustling traffic, our structures, our language, our need for water, food, rest, and a flock of our own? The essential joy and truth revealed to us through the silent attention necessary to nature journaling is this…we are all intrinsically and beautifully connected.
In the next few weeks try concentrating on becoming an observant naturalist. Pause and look at the world with respectful attention, all the while creating a journal that will be unique to you.
You will not need much…an inexpensive notebook to start. The best ones for nature journaling are spiral form so that the book can stay open in your lap or on the table. You want something that won’t be cumbersome to take with you on a walk. Find the size that you like, perhaps something that will fit in your everyday handbag. I work with 8 1/4” x 6 7/8” spiral books as a rule. A lined journal can work, if you tend to get wordy, but an unlined one is more traditional.Also put together a small pouch with a pencil or pen and several colored pencils, or watercolors.
Your journal will quickly become an extension of who you are. What is it, out of the proverbial “thousand things” that you observe? Why? In addition to your sketch, time, date, place, and weather, you may want to include a childhood memory, a poem that you love, even a dream, but all that a nature journal really needs is observations. So often people say that they can’t draw. Don’t let this concern you. My experience is that when you look at something carefully, you will surprise yourself at how well you draw. In the end, it is not about the photographic likeness, or the scientific name that the naturalists is after. It is about the reverence that comes upon you as your hand and heart connect when you try to draw the details of a spider web, a tiny flower, or a feather.
There is always something to observe when you begin to look with intention. And, this is the best part, when children see us journaling, they want to do it, too, guaranteed. Be ready with a notebook and box of crayons for them. For it is by modeling that we teach. It is by sitting quietly that we show our children, who, through no fault of their own, were born into an ever increasing fast paced technical world, how to appreciate the sun on their skin, the silhouette of a bird against a deep blue sky, and the soft grace of a butterfly.