At It’s Naturally You, we are big fans of nature journals. We’ve found keeping a nature journal to be a fresh and fun way to engage with the natural world. It’s also quickly improved our observational skills, curiosity and sense of wonder for the world around us.
Here’s 6 ways that the nature journal process has added zest to my (Emma’s) life. We hope it does the same for you.
One: It got me excited about drawing again
I used to think that I was terrible at drawing. So I avoided it. But the sweet relief of sketching in a nature journal is that no-one else is judging it. It’s not about being the best illustrator. It’s not about the end product. It’s about the process. Of you being quiet, slowing down, noticing what’s around you, and attempting to catch some of what you notice on paper. That’s it. When the pressure to create the perfect drawing is taken off, you can become totally absorbed in your sketch of a leaf or insect.
Two: Drawing natural objects forced me to notice their details
Far more closely than I ever would have otherwise. For example, drawing a fallen leaf from a tree in my street, I realised how much I was not noticing at first glance. What was the overall shape of the leaf? Was the tip pointy or rounded? What was the pattern of the veins? When drawing, we must notice this level of detail to be able to make a simple sketch, in a way that we would never have to when describing things with words.
Three: I found myself asking questions
Why were so many sea urchins washed up on this beach alive? I’d never seen that before. What normally stops them from being washed off the rocks?
We can be sloppy with our thinking when it’s in our heads, but writing it in a journal makes it sharper and we become more articulate. Once I’d committed these questions to paper, I just had to know the answer. I started finding out so much about the plants and animals around me. The names and habits of creatures that I’d been sharing my local parks and holiday spots with for years.
Four: I’m more aware of seasonal changes
Rusty-coloured pupal cases are poking out of holes in the ground. Amazing! That heavy rain last night sparked sleeping Bardi Grubs to emerge as Rain Moths. I now know that this only happens in Autumn, and it was celebrated by the indigenous Wurrundjeri people who would feast on the moths.
Noticing change makes life more interesting and I don’t take things for granted so much when I understand that nothing stays the same. It can be easy to go past the local park and think it’s boring and exactly the same as the last time you passed it. Then you stop seeing it at all. But everything there is constantly changing, often on a level subtler than a hurried human can easily perceive. The seasons help to accentuate this change, and the nature journal process guides me to notice it.
Five: It’s made me appreciate the ‘mundane.’
I sometimes sketch or write in my journal while waiting in mundane places. I’ve sketched a weed growing in the concrete crack outside the GP waiting room window. It was fun to notice it, and care about it. What was the weed’s botanical name? Was it edible? Its vibrant yellow and green against the grey concrete was beautiful. Don’t ever think that you’re in too mundane a setting for nature journaling. Nature is everywhere around us. We just have to notice and engage with it.
Six: I’m free to explore my own interests
My inner artist, detective and scientist are all activated and I can take the journaling process in any direction that I like. Just want to draw? Great. Feeling a pull towards creative writing storytelling? Terrific! I’m currently fascinated by birds, or cloud formations, or geology and just want to focus on that? I can!
A nature journal is your own personal inquiry into what is happening in the natural world around you. There’s no right or wrong way of doing it, and it’s created from time spent in your garden, the local park, weekend trips to the beach or mountains, or exotic holiday locations. Your journal becomes a trusty friend and companion. It’s unique. No-one will have a nature journal remotely like yours.