In this post, you'll learn why and how to easily start your own nature journal and use it to increase your knowledge and strengthen your connection with the natural world around you.
Anytime is a good time to start a nature journal!
January is a time for beginnings, but no matter when you're reading this, starting a nature journal will begin a journey of discovery, fun, and learning that will enrich your life immeasurably. Here's a baker's dozen of great reasons to start one. I'll include some suggestions about what to put in your journal and discuss some different types of journals. Find one that calls to you and get started today!
- You'll preserve fond memories of things you've seen and create a future source of pleasure. When you peruse your old journal entries, you'll remember what inspired them.
- You'll become more observant and more open to discovery.
- You'll become more appreciative of nature's beauty and complexity.
- You'll spot trends that you might not have noticed otherwise (e.g., when the first robins appear in the spring, changes in temperature ranges, changes in rainfall, the frequency of the appearance of certain birds or animals).
- You'll begin to see patterns in behaviors, colors, sounds, and smells.
- You'll be able to talk to your nature-savvy friends more intelligently.
- You'll be inspired to look things up to expand your understanding and appreciation for what you've observed.
- You will deepen your relationship with the earth and begin to care even more deeply for it than you do now.
- You will more fully appreciate others who observe and write about nature and better understand their enthusiasms for nature and concerns about environmental issues.
- You'll increase your sense of connection with all living things.
- You'll find your spiritual life is enhanced through an increased appreciation for God's creations and a shift from egocentric thinking to realizing we are part of a wonderful whole.
- Strengthening your connection with nature through a nature journal is both restful and restorative.
- You'll learn more about yourself by noticing what things you find especially beautiful, interesting, or inspiring.
What do I put in a nature journal?
Include anything about your day-to-day encounters with the natural world! Some people make notes. Others write sentences and narrative descriptions. Still, others only sketch or use some combination of writing and sketching. If you're a photographer, you may prefer to use annotated photos.
- Jot down observations about what's in bloom in your yard or your walk to work.
- Start a master list of birds, animals, and plants commonly found in your area.
- Record seasonal changes such as which trees start to show green leaves first in the spring or which ones turn colors first in the fall.
- Make a note when you get a glimpse of that family of foxes under your garage.
- Chronicle the visit from a hungry bear to your bird feeder.
- Preserve for posterity the day you saw the bald eagle overhead.
- Write about the day you took your grandchild on her first fishing trip.
- If you're a gardener (even a container gardener on an apartment balcony), make notes about what you plant, when you plant it, and how well it grows.
- Jot down questions in your journal. Visit your regional arboretum or local garden center with your journal in hand and get answers from the naturalists who work there.
- When you travel, keep a list of bird and animal species you see and note which ones are different than you have at home.
I'll have future posts with tips to maximize your nature journaling experience. Use the sidebar search box to find all entries for “nature journal.”
What kind of journal should I use?
You want something that's easy to carry, somewhat durable, and appeals to the naturalist in you. Some folks are content with a spiral notebook or an all-purpose journal like these:
Others take their notes on plain paper or index cards and bring them home to file in a box, folder, or spiral notebook. My father used to use a small desk calendar/date book and make his entries about weather, temperature, and wildlife observations on the appropriate day. Here are some lovely desktop and pocket calendars for 2012:
I prefer a journal designed to be a nature journal with ideas and prompts. Here's one I love to use, designed by naturalist/artist Clare Walker Leslie:
…and its companion book:
Where can I get more ideas?
Read the writings of other nature writers for inspiration, and you'll begin to see the kinds of things they noticed and wrote about. The best include: Edward Abbey, Diane Ackerman, Mary Austin, William Bartram, John Burroughs, Rachel Carson, Annie Dillard, Ralph Waldo Emerson, Meriwether Lewis, Barry Lopez, Bill McKibben, John Muir, John Wesley Powell, Gary Snyder, and Henry David Thoreau.
What are you waiting for?
Order one of the journals above today and start your nature journal. Don't wait until it arrives to start noticing the amazing natural world around you. I want to hear from you this time next year and see how you're enjoying your stronger connection with nature.
Photo credit: “Young Woman in Woods” by PT Images via BigStockPhoto.com
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