Today’s blog post comes from Corina Brdar.
A different way to be mindful of nature is to keep a nature journal. Using writing and sketching as tools can be a relaxing way to look deeper and experience nature more fully.
Like our previous mindfulness exercises, this is also a judgment-free practice. You are not creating a work of art. You are using a notebook to help you pay attention and truly observe.
When you approach nature journaling with a calm attitude, you are free to make mistakes. The blank page becomes much less intimidating when it doesn’t matter what kind of marks you make on it.
No one has to see this except you.
Find inspiration anywhere
Again, find a place outdoors where you feel safe and comfortable, if you can. It doesn’t even have to be the most picturesque view in the park or your backyard. A picnic table next to a tree is perfect.
All you need is a pen and a sheet of paper.
This is his Nature journal (or back of the nature envelope), so you can observe and record what interests you.
Between their rotating shifts, park biologists Don, Mike and Elizabeth use a shared nature journal to record their experiences.
If it is stuck, we suggest you pay attention to the blades. At first glance, they may all look like pointed green ovals (unless you’ve parked next to an oak or maple tree). But this time of year there is a lot happening in our leafy province.
Some trees will have just begun to produce their tender leaves, while others will have lush green foliage that may have already been eaten by hungry insects. Some trees may even have flowers, which can take on many unusual shapes.
Look at some different leaves around you.
Are they all the same shade of green, or are some reddish, purple, or gold?
You can try to describe their color with words or you can use some art supplies to try to capture them. This is a challenge even for experienced artists, so remember why you are doing this.
Because are Are you doing this?
Let your mind be completely absorbed in what you are doing, which is observing nature.
The pressure is off: if you pay attention to nature, you’ve already made it.
Try drawing the outline of a leaf. There are some fun ways to try this. You can do what is called a blind outline: look only at the sheet, not at the pencil or paper, and draw the outline without lifting the pencil.
It’s helpful to use a large sheet of paper (a paper bag will do!) to blindly draw the outline.
You can try drawing it with your non-dominant hand (or your toes if you have prehensile feet!).
You can use a stopwatch to take a full 60 seconds, or take time to consciously copy the outline of the leaf by letting your eyes slowly trace its edge. There is no need to rush.
If the thought of drawing makes you anxious, you can do it more easily using words or numbers. Write how you would describe the outline of your sheet as if you were talking on the phone.
Count how many veins, lobes, or teeth your leaf has, or how many different leaf shapes you can see around you.
Where does your attention take you?
Keeping a nature journal is a fun way to get to know your local neighbors and visitors (and prepare for the Breeding Bird Atlas!).
As you try these simple exercises, what do you pay attention to?
Maybe it’s the way the leaves are arranged on the twig, or how they are attached, or the pattern of their veins. You may wonder why they are different shapes or who made a hole in your sheet.
You don’t have to find answers to your questions right now (although careful observations can lead to surprising discoveries).
These exercises are tools to anchor you in nature, in this moment, letting your mind rest in the simple outline of a leaf.
Develop a habit around a hobby
Even if you only try this once, you may notice that the next time you are out in nature you will no longer see a sea of spiky green ovals.
Kids can keep a nature journal too! These masterpieces were created by Jillian, Phoebe and Allie.
Your future experience of nature can be enriched by the time you spent focusing on this element.
For more information about nature diary:
For more mindfulness exercises: