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Notes from International Nature Journaling Week, 2021

Cover image of selected nature journal pages

International Nature Journal Week (INJW) is an annual celebration of all things natural and journal-able. This year it spanned Tuesday, June 1 through Monday, June 7. Each day had a theme to help participants focus on a specific approach and to build a broader practice.

  • Day 1: Words – Using prose, poetry, labels, lists and reflections.
  • Day 2: Pictures – Using images, not only pictorial or illustrative imagery, but also diagrams, maps, and cartoons. And I’d include color in this prompt, too.
  • Day 3: Numbers – The oft overlooked power of counts, measures, spans, times, and locations…a world of numeracy!
  • Day 4: “I notice..” – Encouraging thoughtful observation, attention, and contemplation of nature’s strange and novel miracles.
  • Day 5: “I wonder..” – Inviting curiosity, wonder, and imagination.
  • Day 6: “It reminds me of…” – Also known as IRMO…welcoming associative thinking, metaphor and similarity.
  • Day 7: Mindset matters – Embracing the joy of learning at every stage of growth, and keeping the focus on collaborative celebration of all nature journal work

This year I was particularly interested in an area I’ve been exploring for a few years: journaling sensory information beyond sight. I’m facilitating a workshop on Sensory Journaling at the 2021 Wild Wonder Nature Journaling conference, woo hoo! The prompts for INJW were a wonderful inspiration for further exploration of the sensory world and for practicing how to translate sensory information into visual journal pages.

Here’s the work from the week. The last prompt (Day 7, Mindset matters) is still in progress, and I’ll post that when it’s done.

Day 1: Words – Wavescape

I wrote a detailed post about this piece. It was ear-opening to hear the movement of the ocean and to use my journal to translate the sounds into line. I can’t wait to further refine this approach in other environments, like a meadow (the buzzing insects!) or during a rainstorm (Monsoon in Arizona!)

Day 2: Pictures – Citrus Smackdown

This one was fun! Taste is a challenge in a nature journal, since it’s a terrible idea to lick birds or eat worms. And there’s a lot out there that can kill you if you eat it (I’m lookin’ at you, Amanita phalloides.) But food is easy to practice with; using natural foods to do a Taste Safari is really interesting. There’s a wonderful foraging community in the Bay Area, and my friend Joy Colangelo wrote a whole book on it: When You Are Lost: What foraging maxims can teach us about survival. It’s a fun read.

Day 3: Numbers – M-M-M-My Maranta

For numbers, I focused on the sense of sight, since I needed to see to do the measurements. I have a beloved Maranta plant (also called a Prayer Plant) that was growing like crazy, so I divided it. And now I have two of them (jury is still out on how both halves will recover from the process.) During the dividing process, one stalk needed to be trimmed back, and I heard that Maranta can be started from a cutting, so i stuck it in a glass of water. The leaves are so beautiful, I decided to celebrate the clipping visually, while capturing as many numbers as I could.

Day 4: I notice… – Soooo Touching ~ A Celebration of Succulents

Day 4 was on noticing, and I chose touch as the sense to explore. My fantabulous friend MJ invited me to sketch her garden, and this lovely little world of succulents beckoned. In this exploration, I used a method I devised and call D-D-P-P: Describe, Depict, Picture and Plot. Each prompt invites a different way of documenting a sensory experience. I ended up doing 6 pages: a cover portrait, the 4 prompts, and a reflection page. Note to self: Don’t Touch Dudleyas!

Day 5: I wonder… – Flower Walk and Sniff Stroll

I had previously done a flower walk and captured line observations of a bunch of flowers around my neighborhood. This was part of an exploration where I lost the cap to my pen. I’d been wanting to add color to the flowers and also explore the sense of smell. What better way than with a Sniff Stroll? Unfortunately, many of the flowers had already passed their prime, and many of them didn’t have any sniffables left. I did what I could…the Jasmine flower was so potent it blew me away! It also made me sneeze 5 times in a row.

Day 6: It reminds me of… – IRMO Wild Teasel

This dried wild teasel from a trip to Idaho had been winking at me for a while, so I finally got the guts to give it a go. Such a complex form! I brainstormed associations on scrap paper for 5 minutes helped get the creative juices flowing. The big breakthrough was when I turned the teasel upside down…and the ideas were more novel and interesting. I did a lot of googling for inspiration reference for all the little sketches (so now I know how to draw a mouth harp.) When I posted this on the Nature Journal Facebook Group, fellow journalist Marley Peifer asked if I ever used the teasel to comb my hair. Erp. Um, no. Then I realized that I had only focused on form and structure, and neglected use. How did I forget that?!?!? Now I’ll be more intentional about thinking through the use lens when I do future IRMO explorations.

Day 7: Mindset Matters – Coming in the future

The experience of INJW inspired me to think about the parts of nature journaling that matter most to me. I’ve started notes on a personal nature journaling manifesto where I can write down the values and principles that guide my ongoing learning and practice, and to acknowledge the incredibly inventive and supportive nature journal community. I’ll post when it’s done.

Big shoutout and thanks to the team behind the week: Bethan and Jules for founding the event, and all the amazing volunteers who make it happen. Be sure to check out the site for online videos, blog posts and to browe the interesting, informative and to see examples of really lovely nature journaling work.

INJW is a wonderful celebration of the world of nature journaling. If you’ve not yet explored this world, I encourage you to grab a sketchbook and a pen or pencil, head outside and start capturing the wonders of nature in your journal!