I believe in the importance of time spent in nature. But going outside has never been my natural instinct: I’m just more of a curl-up-with-a-book-and-tea person. I read with awe about mothers who are constantly outside with their kids: getting muddy, capturing tadpoles, examining pond water with a microscope. And I love to leaf through books about nature journaling, filled with elaborate drawings (and sometimes scientific notations) by people with a strong commitment to their daily nature journal. But as for us, our family needs much simpler paths to enjoying and describing nature.
This year, we have had “nature journal quests.” Whenever “nature walk” comes up on our loop schedule (not quite once a week), we head off to our local park with our journals. First, though, we take just five minutes to look at a page in one of those beautiful nature journaling books—usually Leslie and Roth, Keeping a Nature Journal—and I declare a “quest of the day.” Some quests that we have used are:
- Find 5 Tiny Things and draw them
- Find 2 Trees and describe them
- Choose a color and find 5 things of that color
- Find 2 things that are the same (e.g. both leaves) and observe how they are different
- Listen for 2 sounds and “draw” them in some way
You see, our natural instincts at the park would not get us to deep and varied observation. One daughter mostly wants to draw ducks, the other wants to run to a certain special spot, and I want to walk and breathe and watch the sunshine. But the tiny shot of inspiration from the book (books are what inspire me, I can’t deny it), combined with the specific, “easy” task, gets us all looking more closely and doing some real journaling.
The results? Some moments of deep stillness, present in the physical world and observing. A few pages of drawings and descriptions I think are beautiful. And we’ve still had plenty of time to draw ducks, sit in the special spot, and watch the sunshine.