“One way to open your eyes is to ask yourself, ‘What if I had never seen this before? What if I knew I would never see it again?'”
Why keep a Journal?
A nature journal is simply, your personal, visual record of the natural world around you. By observing, sketching, and writing about what you see, you become connected to the natural world in a unique way. You learn to stop and really pay attention to the detail. Your curiosity is stimulated. You are inspired. Your sense of wonder is reinforced!
Engaging with nature through keeping a journal helps us:
- see our world with new eyes
- understand how everything is connected
- stimulate our curiosity, and our sense of wonder
- boost our creativity; opening our minds and senses to new opportunities, through recording the variety and diversity of the natural world
- reinforce our personal connection, and our unique place in the world
- understand the importance of local nature, as we develop a closer relationship with natural world on our doorstep
- learn to be more aware, mindful and grateful
- slow down! We're calmer, and less anxious. Changes in our brain and body suggest we're physically and mentally healthier when we interact with the natural world. Recent research has shown this can positively affect our behaviour, and even improve our memories!
But I can't travel to see nature....
There’s no need to go on a trip to the Scottish mountains, or a Kenyan safari. Nature really is everywhere - and it's always fascinating. Take the time to really get to know the wildlife on your doorstep; your garden, allotment, local park or green space.
You will be amazed when you take time to stop and really look at what’s there, especially those things you might consider commonplace. You'll see them with new eyes!
Think there’s no nature where you are? Look out of the window at the sky and the changing clouds. Watch the opening buds on your houseplant. Notice the shape of the leaves on the cherry tree planted on your street. Appreciate that annoying weed, coming through the crack in your paving......
Keeping a journal helps you to think differently about where you live. By really getting to know your own local area you'll become aware of seasonal changes, and you'll see and experience more than you ever imagined!
Okay, I’d love to keep a journal - but I don't have time...
You can journal when you do. It doesn’t have to take a lot of time. The most important thing is wanting to do it!
Find a ‘sit spot’ or two. This is a location naturalists return to again and again to observe and record nature. Make yours as close to home as you can. Your garden, if you have one, is an ideal place to begin!*
If you have children or grandchildren try journalling as a family. Drawing, painting and being outside = terrific fun! It's a great way to get children interested in nature. Their natural curiosity and wonder will be infectious! Take your sketchbooks along on trips to the local park, zoo or city farm.
If your time is short, minimise. Make a grid on your page and draw something in each box - a leaf, twig, feather, pebble, a flower, fir cone etc. Follow the opening of a flower, or draw cloud studies. Aim to make a one or two page spread each month. Creating just one page a week would give you over 50 pages in a year!
But I don’t know how to draw!
Give it a try, it's fun and you may surprise yourself! There’s no quick fix, but, like any thing else drawing is a skill, not a gift. Just like driving a car it can be learnt and will develop over time. The more you draw, the better you will get. Practice, patience and perseverance are the keys.
Many of the sketches in your journal will be done on the spot, capturing the essence of the moment. There is no need to worry about creating serious botanical illustrations (unless you want to!) The important thing is learning to draw what you see, not what you think you see. The careful observation of nature journaling dovetails perfectly with this.
So, the more you journal; the more your drawing will improve! It’s a win win situation.
There are lots of simple exercises, tips and techniques to help you learn to draw and paint, and will help you develop and enhance your skills. Over time you will find your own style, but it’s fun trying out different art media and finding what suits you best.
What about the words?
You can write whatever you like in your journal entries. You may want to put factual information and research what you're investigating more deeply, or just write a description and how it made you feel. You might add a poem or a song lyric, or mix everything up. It really doesn't matter - it's your nature journal, and how you keep it is up to you. There are no rules, except there are no rules! Helpful things you might want to include are, the date, the time of day and the weather , it's useful to have these and then you can look back on them and see how things change.
* A little note on Keeping Safe
I regularly walk and journal on my own, but I'm aware that's not okay for everyone. Please don't let it put you off. Find a safe place to journal like a local park where you feel comfortable and secure. If you can find a friend or family member who'll join you that's even better! Remember your garden - or someone elses' is a wonderful resource for keeping a journal. There will be ideas coming through the Little Wild Patch soon!
If you are the adventurous type always tell someone where you are going, what you are doing - and keep your phone fully charged!