Keeping a journal is a powerful way to capture your journey. By looking closely, listening deeply, and capturing that experience, it allows you to discover, remind or reflect on the things you have seen, the remarkable places you have visited—even if this happens to be in your own backyard or beyond.
There are so many ways to utilize a journal—the scientific field journal, personal journaling, bioregional journals, art journals, travel journals, professional journals. The most important part of each of these is universal—you must BEGIN.
So as we start this New Year, this is heartfelt encouragement to grab paper and pen, dig up an unfinished journal or go find yourself a fresh one that can travel with you and BEGIN.
Journaling is actually one of my greatest passions. I began journaling through writing; utilizing journals both for studying the environment while in school and while doing field work as well as keeping personal journals to capture the chapters of my life. During this time, I never delved into drawing unless attempting to create a map of an area or capture some morphology of a plant or animal in order to confirm its identification.
Then—something remarkable happened. With encouragement, I was given safe space to try to draw in my journal—and these early drawings, I can assure you are not beautiful, yet served a valuable purpose, they gave me a place to BEGIN.
Now, with many rough drawings behind me, my journals have a new colorful and artistic element to them—which is not necessary, yet it demonstrates how continued dedication to journaling can transform itself over time.
If the thought of drawing fills you with fear then take this suggestion: write! Do what works for you—just BEGIN.
Don’t lose the opportunity to capture your experience because of fear of your writing or fear of your drawing. Be brave and put pen to paper, capture these fleeting moments and make them more powerful and concrete; create something meaningful and lasting. Today, you may have no idea how meaningful these early journaling efforts may become.
Whether you would like to add journaling to your personal life, are looking for a meaningful family activity that can inspire young children to connect to nature, or if you want to add field journaling to your scientific studies, here are some great ways to get started, stay motivated and be inspired:
1) Get out there! Grab paper and pen or pencil (one that you really like) and get outside. Slow down… sit quietly, observe and capture. What do you see? What do you hear? What time of day is it? Where are you? Write about your experience or draw what you see. Look at the landscape (big picture) or observe something small and close up. You don’t need fancy tools or training, you just need space to BEGIN.
2) Take a journaling class: many art centers, nature centers and native plant nurseries offer journaling classes or nature clubs, which can introduce individuals to journal techniques and offer regular field excursions. This is a great way to get inspired, learn new ways of “seeing”, meet new people and… did someone say “Field trip”?!!!!!
3) Families can journal together! This is a powerful way to encourage young scientists, writers and artists to observe closely and become connected to patterns, seasons, and ecology. This is also a way to provide quality family time and create something meaningful together.
4) Pick up a journaling book, especially if you prefer to have examples and guidance; there are an incredible number of resources on journaling techniques out there. These can be truly inspirational as they often give you glimpses into other people’s journals and you can see how varied peoples styles are… and trust me, you will have your own style to add to this diverse mix too!
5) My favorite rule is NO RULES! This is the primary principle in the journal classes I teach. Why? Because if constructs are going to hold someone back from beginning, then it isn’t serving them. So, do what feels natural—write, draw and BEGIN. As time goes on, there will be plenty of opportunities to hone and develop entries—so, do what works today—take pictures, do a collage, write a paragraph, poem or prose, whatever it takes to start!
Journaling is a powerful way to observe nature and the ecology around us. It can help us make connections by looking closely–such as what animals are around at certain times of year, when do the trees begin to leaf out, the flowers bloom and in what order, when do the acorns drop and the trees go dormant—or for this year… how cold is it or how dry?—depending on where you are. In addition, we can make connections not just within this season but from year to year, discovering variations and patterns.
It is also a profound way to capture our life journey and demonstrate how unique our lives are and how connected to place we can become. Our own journals can become our most profound teachers. We may capture moments and observations that serve as important discoveries in hindsight—answering the questions, “When did I see that last year” or “Is that how I was feeling then”? Through journaling, we may discover that perfect place that gives us the space we need to just be present.
There is also no denying how transformative encouraging youth to keep a journal can be. With busy lives and student demands, the opportunity to slow down, observe closely, discover, question deeply, and fall in love with nature and the world around us, can be truly powerful. Students can discover and hone their own writing, artistic and observational abilities. They can begin to capture the chapters of their lives and perhaps make profound discoveries we could never even imagine.
Of course, all of these amazing outcomes can only happen if we BEGIN!
Clare Walker Leslie: Great resources for getting started and staying motivated. http://www.clarewalkerleslie.com/books.htm
Michael Canfield Field Notes: Amazing book that shows an array of journal styles for science and field studies. http://www.canfieldnotes.com/
Classes (California… get inspired and look for a class near you!)
John Muir Laws: Features workshops, demonstration videos and information on a Bay Area Nature Club. http://www.johnmuirlaws.com/
Intermountain Nursery: Nature journaling class with Shauna Potocky, offered at a beautiful native plant nursery, Saturday, August 16, 2014. http://www.intermountainnursery.com/classes.htm
Journals, Shauna Potocky;
Valley Rim and Shauna P., Kirk Keeler;
Journaling, Kirk Keeler;
Stellar Jay from the journal of student Jesus Angel Dolores; Jesus Angel Dolores.