Updated: Dec 9, 2021
Hi friends, I’m writing today to give my perspective on a common nature journaling question:
When I go outside, there are so many things I could journal about. And at Wild Wonder*, I learned so many different ways you can do nature journaling. It’s so overwhelming. Where do I begin?
When I was in middle school, I got really into birding. Serious birders keep “life lists” -- checklists of all the bird species they’ve encountered. And in college, most of my “-ology” courses focused on memorizing lists of species. So I used to think if I could name all the species around me, that would make me a REAL naturalist. In the same vein, it might be easy to feel like you’re not a real nature journaler until you’re a master of all the techniques that were taught at Wild Wonder.
I still enjoy keeping track of the species I’ve seen. But now, instead of trying to become the expert on everything, what if we think of it more like building relationships?
Imagine you’re going to a party. Would you rather flit around and introduce yourself to everyone, but never get into a deep conversation? Or would you spend your time with a few close friends? Personally, I tend to prefer the latter, but everyone is different. Maybe you’re a social “butterfly.” Do you want to travel to see all the birds who live in your country? Or do you prefer to watch the same birds who come to your bird feeder every day, until you know their individual habits and behaviors? The beautiful thing is that we all get to decide for ourselves what kind of naturalist we want to be.
However you like to interact with nature, see if you can keep a spirit of playfulness and curiosity. Be open to learning something new, in the exciting world of adventure that’s all around you.
Start where you are (your location in the world, as well as your skill level, and where you are today mentally and emotionally). We don’t have to “meet” all the species, and we don’t have to know everything. Pay attention to what’s happening around you, and over time your local ecosystem can feel like it’s full of old friends.
Take time to decompress first. You don’t have to immediately start nature journaling when you go outside. Spend some time simply enjoying nature, moving your body, and reconnecting with yourself without putting any pressure on yourself to be productive.
Then, pay attention to what makes you feel excited and do that first. I tend to wander and explore until I come across something that sparks my curiosity so much that I just have to record it in my journal. It could be a funny looking plant, blue jays chasing a hawk, a question or a poetic phrase that popped into my head that I want to remember… it might be anything!
Similarly, of all the techniques and skills that were taught at Wild Wonder, pick one or two ideas to focus on that make you feel excited, and put them in your nature journaling toolbelt. We can listen to presentations all day, but we haven’t really learned anything until we’ve applied it, incorporated it into our practice, and made it our own.
So why do you spend time in nature? What do you hope your nature experience will bring to your life? In the daily challenges John Muir Laws gave us at Wild Wonder, he reminded us to keep it simple, just start, and keep your intention at the front of your mind.
Get outside and explore this week! Remember, adventure is all around us.
*As of this writing, the 2021 virtual Wild Wonder Nature Journaling Conference took place one month ago. If you want a recap, or if you didn’t go and are curious what it’s all about, check out the recap videos Marley Peifer made for each day where he goes over the highlights!