Centre for nature and green living
The New Year is an especially good time to start a nature journal, it sets an intention of regularly connecting with nature throughout the year. A nature journal can provide some refuge on the darker days in winter time. Opening up the pages can remind us how we were feeling when we got absorbed in how light dances on leaves on a bright day or the sounds of rain in a woodland when we felt so refreshed. Making the journal can bring joy because we can do it at our own pace, no one is judging us and it’s completely personal unless we wish to share it. It can also be an education as we develop our knowledge about what we see, hear and touch. Nature can be found everywhere, whether you are in an urban setting spotting mossy crevices on a pavement or a rural setting witnessing a breath taking sunset over the Dales.
Either buy or use a note pad that you already have. It can be plain or lined paper. Alternatively why not make your own using recycled paper or card. Use a hole-punch to make a hole in the top left corner of the page. Pop some string through and tie it. You can use cardboard for the front and back pages so that it is sturdy. Or we like this idea which our Recycling Manager Sam has tried, use old books from charity shops that are in too bad condition to sell. You can add texture this way by scribbling out or highlighting words in the book and then sticking things over.
You can opt for a technical approach by including the location, name and a description of what you discover. Finding out the Latin name of a plant or bug can be very satisfying. I’ve heard Ecotherapy participants say that nature identifying (IDing) can give a focus or distraction that can help to ‘bring me out of myself’. For others naming things takes away from the sensory experience of being immersed in nature and you may be happier sketching and drawing impressions of what you see or experience. There are no rules here, find out what you enjoy and you can experiment. Here are some ideas for what to include:
You can opt for a seasonal approach using the same journal for spring, summer, autumn or winter. If there are places that you regularly visit it can also be nice to keep a journal for each of these, then you really get to see the changes over time. Some nature journals are expertly organised like a reference book others are eclectic.
As well as nature itself our Ecotherapy groups and blogs offer inspiration for nature journaling. For a burst of creativity including nature arts and writing try Ecotherapy tutor Emma McKenzie’s blog Letters from the Allotment. The Ecotherapy Discover Nature group is perfect for anyone who loves IDing wildlife and plants. Try Wild Watch if you want to join others who like recording nature finds. For IDing on the spot we like the app Inaturalist. There are some popular books which are like nature journals try The Wild Remedy by Emma Mitchell, Diary of a Young Naturalist by Dara McAnulty or The Stubborn Light of Things by Melissa Harrison. These are just some of the books our Ecotherapy Words from the Wild group have been exploring, you can join Ecotherapy here.
This blog was written by Ecotherapy Assistant Hannah Kenter. All photographs were taken by Ecotherapy tutor Emma McKenzie of her work which can be viewed along with lots of nature arts inspiration at Letters from the Allotment