A couple months ago someone made a post in the Nature Journal Club Facebook Group saying, “I’ve been doing it wrong my whole life!”
One of the most popular nature journal prompts is “I notice, I wonder, It reminds me of.” This person said they like to end their “I wonder…?” phrases with a question mark. But then a friend told them it’s grammatically incorrect.
At the time, I made a nature journal page in response to this question. Now I’d like to share it:
That week, whenever I thought of an interesting question, I wrote it down on this page.
Here’s something we can all think about: When is it helpful to focus on having the correct grammar and spelling? And in what contexts does that not serve our purpose? Besides, where do our grammar “rules” come from, anyway?
If you’re using what you’ve learned about nature to write something for publication (maybe an article, or a book, or a letter to the editor), then you probably do care about being grammatically correct. (You can have someone else proofread it if that’s not your thing).
But in your nature journal, it doesn’t really matter - unless you want it to. No one is grading it. This isn’t school. It’s a private, personal JOURNAL! Nature journaling isn’t about having a polished final product. It’s about capturing your unique thoughts and observations before you forget them and they are lost to the winds forever! It’s a place where you can allow yourself the freedom to be creative and curious, to find a sense of wonder inside of you.
Poetry is another place where grammar rules don’t apply so strictly. What if we were to think of our nature journals like poetry - a place where we can bend the rules, be playful in the ways we choose to apply them?
In this case, I get that it’s technically incorrect to write “I wonder….?” because saying that you wonder something is a statement, not a direct question. You “should” just end the sentence with a period. But I think that’s not as much fun. :)
Maybe in this case, for me, the question mark doesn’t signify the grammatical structure of the phrase. For me here, it signifies my sense of wonder and curiosity. Visually, having a big colorful question mark helps me to quickly find my questions when I scan my page. That way, it’s a question I can continue to revisit and explore in the future. The nature journals of Fiona Gillogly have given me a lot of inspiration to use more question marks like this.
Allowing yourself the freedom to be curious and ask questions is a lot more important than letting grammar rules get in the way. If you stop to think about what the “right” way is before you’ve put your ideas down, it can take you out of your flow state. Don’t let the fear of feeling ashamed and being “wrong” dampen your enthusiasm.
Marley Peifer taught us during International Nature Journaling Week 2021 that four-year-old children ask their parents, on average, 100 questions per day. But the average twelve-year-old asks ZERO questions per day.
By the time we become adults, we’ve been conditioned to think we need to have all the right answers, and that not knowing something is a sign of weakness. So we need to relearn how to be curious and ask unlimited questions, to have that same kind of boundless curiosity as the four-year-old who asks “Why?” about everything.
When you’re little, everything about the world is new. But it’s worth remembering that as much as we know now, we still only know a tiny percent of all the things there are to know. We’re surrounded by the unknown every day. And the only way to learn more is by asking questions. At least, I think life is a lot more fun that way.
What’s right for you? Does it matter to you if you use the correct grammar in your nature journal? Or do you not care about that? When does it matter, and when does it not?
Only you can decide. But most importantly, do you let yourself FEEL that sense of wonder? That limitless, expansive possibility, like looking up into the great blue sky of questions unanswered, and even those yet to be asked? 🍃
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