Every December I order a bunch of books online and when they arrive I give them to my husband to wrap up for me as Christmas gifts. (Don't laugh, it's a great system - he doesn't have to shop for presents, and by the time Christmas comes around I forgot what I ordered and am genuinely surprised by what he gives me!)
This year, along with books on writing, neuroscience, and metaphysics, (an odd assortment even for me) I picked out two volumes on nature journaling. I'd become intrigued with the topic after a writer friend told me about it. I hadn't heard it was even a thing and wanted to learn more about what it entailed.
The first book left me unimpressed. All it basically said was pay attention to what's around you. I admit I was stunned to think there are people who never take note of the natural world. Who actually have to be told to listen to birds singing, or check out the clouds, or stop and look at little things like caterpillars and praying mantises. Still, I was hoping for more than a simple reminder to set my phone down once in a while and smell the roses.
I found what I wanted in the second book I got on the subject: Keeping a Nature Journal, by Clare Walker Leslie.
I love that Leslie encourages readers to have a go at nature journaling even if they can't sketch or write. It's all about studying your chosen subject and learning from the experience, she says. That approach made me feel a whole lot better about the first sketches I put my journal.
Leslie talks about going back over the 50+ journals she's produced in her life and reliving the joy of discovery she felt when sketching and writing about each entry. It helped me take a long- term view to this project and know that it will slowly evolve as my drawing skills and powers of observation improve. A fact that shouldn't surprise me really as over the years I've filled enough writing journals to know it's an on-going process with no right or wrong way to do it.
Below: some of the writing journals I've filled to date.
Leslie quotes another author who writes on the topic of sketching what we see around us, words that will keep me coming back to this form of journaling for years to come:
"What I have not drawn, I have never truly seen...' The Zen of Seeing, by Frederick Franck: '
Seeing is a critical skill for writers. How else can we infuse our work with the resonant details that make writing sing and the values that have meaning for us?
So apart from the fact I love nature and learning new things, I'll embrace this form of experiencing the world as a path to improving my writing.
I look forward to one day going back through the nature journal I began this week and reveling at how far I've come. Based on the quality of that very first sketch I can only get better!