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It’s a wrap! INJW 2023 (International Nature Journaling Week)

International Nature Journaling Week is an annual celebration of nature shared through the pages of nature journals. Learn more at International Nature Journaling Week.

The first week of June marks a wonderfilled time of the year…International Nature Journaling Week! The 2023 focus was senses: color, texture, aroma (stenches, too), song, flavor, movement, and heart. I was excited to join the global nature journal community and celebrate the miracles of nature all around the world. Here’s the work done during the week, and my thoughts about each prompt.

Day 1: Color
On Day 1, I used color to celebrate 3 things close to my heart: nature journaling, native plants, and LGBTQ+ community! So many flowers in bloom at the Native Here Nursery (a project of the East Bay Chapter of the California Native Plant Society) which meant many exciting options to choose from…all leading up to a California native plant color wheel. It felt great to honor the first day of Pride with a rainbow that grows and blooms.
Process: field sketches in pencil from direct observation, followed by studio work with ink and color using field sketches, notes and reference photos. Media: pencil, ink, watercolor.

ID: Nature journal spread with 6 California native flowers in a rainbow of colors: Fucshia-flowered gooseberry/red; California poppy/orange; Yellow monkey flower/yellow; Miner's lettuce/green; Dove lupine/blue; Bird's eye gilia/purple.

Day 2: Texture
Spent time at the Albany Hill exploring textures and seeing with my fingers. When journaling touch, I use a supersimple technique…close my eyes, run my finger(s) over the surface of whatever I’m exploring, and make a linechart of what I feel. I usually do a few of these from different angles, directions, parts. The sense of touch reveals lots of things that I miss when I just look with my eyes. What a day of learning, and a good reminder that nature reveals secrets and mysteries beyond what we can see.
Process: field sketches and diagrams in pen from direct observation, followed by studio work to summarize learnings and add color. Media: ink, watercolor.

ID: Nature journal spread with texture maps distilled from 5 different natural forms found on Albany Hill in Albany, California: Buckeye leaf, Giant Horsetail, Coast Live Oak bark, Ohlone Mortar Stones, Lichen branch.

Day 3: Aroma
Another day at the Albany Hill sniffsniffsniffing. I practiced documenting smells without drawing the actual thing. It’s hard…so much of what we experience is informed by our eyes. But with lots of concentration and an experimental mindset, the translation starts to emerge. It’s SO subjective, and that’s part of the fun. I’m inspired by the Sensory Maps of Kate McLean and try to translate smell in nature journaling as much as I can. 🙂 (But woah, the buckeye…so funky smelling!)
Process: field notes, sketches, and observations on site, followed by studio work to synthesize, experiment, and play with words, form, & color from the notes. Resources: sensory & smell word list (compiled in 2021.)

ID: Nature journal spread with abstract smellmarks in color and shapes, representing 7 different smells encountered during a visit to the Albany Hill in Albany, CA. Smells are: Cerrito Creek, grassy meadow, oak woodland, air, buckeye blossom, coast live oak leaf, cow parsnip flower.

Day 4: Song
Back out to the Albany Hill to listen for sounds and song. The illustrative metaphor on this one kinda got away from me, but it was so fun to imagine the environment as a layered musical clef. The crows were nuts. Bathing in the sounds calmed the spirit. Highly recommend surround sound in the natural world.
Process: field notes, sound marks from observations on site, followed by studio work to synthesize and enhance with metaphor & color.

ID: Nature journal spread with abstract soundmarks in 4 layers: air, trees, ground, creek. Sound highlights include kaaaa-ing crows, people talking, birds rustling in the leaves, and lots of birdsong.

Day 5: Flavor
Best. Avocado. Toast. Ever. And the sum was definitely more tasty than the parts! It was a wild taste safari to sample and describe each element that makes up avocado toast. It surprised me how challenging it was to diagnose the flavors…maybe it’s time to try slow tasting while journaling! 😀 Shoutout to Bethann for the inspiring prompts (especially the Day 5 video), to Jack for introducing me to journaling edibles, to Little Pitt aka the avocado who changed my life, to the Giant Sloths without whom we would not have avocados, and to all our Millennials: thank you for the toast.
Process: kitchen notes and taste observations, followed by studio work to collect and arrange the data, add notes and color.

ID: Nature journal spread showing the flavor and mouthfeel descriptions of ingredients of avocado toast: whole grain bread, olive oil, avocado flesh/skin/pit, salt & pepper.

Day 6: Movement
Back to the Albany Hill: in a short visit, the Hill gave the gift of a botanical dance party! I had planned on observing animal movement; but the real story was the breeze in the trees. Leaves shimmering, canopy swaying, grasses flickering. (I learned a new word for this: psithurism <-neat.) It felt timeless and immediate all at once. I’ve long been interested in the Hill’s geological story, and the hillslide brought deep time into now time in a unique way. The accessible path was another good story. The stories of the Hill keep unfolding, and it was a gift to be there and listen.
Process: field notes and sketches from observations on site, followed by online research and studio work to fill in details, make the map and add color.

ID: Nature journal spread featuring a map of the Albany Hill and three types of movement: geological (very long ago and recent hillslide); animal (people, pets, a hawk and evidence of a snail; botanical (canopy and leaf dance party in the wind.)

Day 7: Heart
It’s a wrap! The last day and the last theme. This prompt created a flood of memories, reflections, and gratitude for the Albany Hill and the relationships I’m nurturing there. I looked back through the last 9 months of my journaling visits, and it filled me with love and appreciation for all the beings who call the Hill home. So this spread is from memory, not direct looking, yet it’s the observances of my heart, so it’s observant in a different way; more of a nurture journal 😉 I really love the Hill and all the friends I’ve met there. The stewardship oath is my statement of commitment to this beloved place. To learn more about the Hill and to join in the love, visit the Tending the Ancient Shoreline Hill site.
Process: memories and reference sketches from previous nature journaling visits, assembled in the studio.

ID: Nature journal spread listing 10 elements about the beloved Albany Hill, a list of plants and animals met on the Hill, and a commitment oath for stewardship.

Closing Reflections

Huge thanks to Bethann Burton and the whole INJW team for making the amazing prompts, resources, videos, and examples this year. What an inspiring project. And shoutout to everyone who shared their work on the many social platforms…it’s been lovely to see the world through your eyes and hearts this week.

If you’re a curious about nature journaling, check out the Wild Wonder Foundation, and the work of John Muir Laws and Clare Walker Leslie.