22 Sep A Date with Nature
By Lee-Anne McKinnon, UNE Discovery Voyager
Have you heard about nature journalling? My daughter and I recently discovered this lovely practice of wandering out in nature and taking notes and making sketches of the things we see. For us, this was something that we could do in our backyard while in lockdown and it enabled us to spend time together just observing. Since our first adventure into the yard with a different mindset, and a more open view of our small world, it has become a daily ritual (well, maybe not every day, we don’t want that kind of pressure), and we get to spend extra time with just the two of us.
We’ve been excited by the things we’ve found (an interesting bug, a pretty flower) and curious about what things mean (an unusual mark on a tree). It has allowed us to make a sketch, take some notes and often we take a photograph so we can do some research when we get back inside to find out exactly what we were looking at. We’ve ventured into the world of PlantID so we can upload our flower photo and find out the name of the plant we’ve found.
Since our first discovery of the nature journalling concept, we’ve found some wonderful resources online that helped us get started. For us it was an unlined blank notebook and a nice, sharp pencil as well as an eraser. Sometimes we take our coloured pencils outside with us and do some colouring while we are in our chosen ‘sit spot’. If it’s cold or windy, we might stay out for a shorter time, do our drawings and make some observations, and then do the colouring once inside. And we don’t even mind if the dog accidentally steps on our book!
I found a great resource by Paula Peeters. Her description of nature journalling captures it perfectly. “Nature journaling is the practice of drawing or writing in response to nature. This fun, relaxing practice helps you to connect more closely with nature, and results in the creation of your own unique nature journal. Both the practice and the end product are important.
“The practice calms your mind and increases your attention to detail and appreciation of beauty. It improves your recognition of different animal and plant species, and your understanding of where and how they live. With time, it also improves your ability to observe, to draw and to write.
“A journal allows you to capture the moment (a sunset, a view, a critter, a flower, a fungus…), and recall observations which would otherwise be forgotten. The entries in your journal can give you inspiration for other creative projects, such as writing, painting, textiles, music, other crafts… the opportunities are endless. A nature journal can also be used to compile species sightings and other more scientific observations that are of great value to citizen science projects.”
Paula’s website: https://www.paperbarkwriter.com/nature-journaling/
The Royal National Park Environmental Education Centre also has some wonderful resources as well as some online zoom sessions to help. Check them out:
If you’re tempted to start your own nature journal, don’t be worried about how good or bad it will look. We’re not all artists, and we’re not all storytellers. Just have a go! It’s for you and no-one else. Enjoy the journey. Take time for yourself or with your loved ones or a friend, and savour the precious moments.