Slowing Down

“Stuff your eyes with wonder … live as if you’d drop dead in ten seconds. See the world. It’s more fantastic than any dream made or paid for in factories.”
― Ray Bradbury

The day was breezy and cool, but sunny. I dressed warmly, grabbed my journal supplies and drove into Yellowstone. My goal was to find a place to sit and draw and write—to slow down. Blacktail Trailhead beckoned and I parked, grabbed my gear and headed out with the intention of wandering and sitting rather than hiking and covering miles. It is always a tough choice. I love to move but I am learning to love to ‘be’. My habit has been to choose activity over stillness and that habit is a hard one to change. My body needs challenge but more and more, my mind requires the challenge of sitting and drawing.


Observe. Remember. Wonder. Love. These are the reasons I journal.

Moving, I can only observe so much, only give so much attention to what I see. Journal drawing slows me, slows time and gives me the opportunity to really see. Whether a flower, the landscape, or a creature; I come to know that thing better through observation.

Nature journaling helps me remember. I look back at journal pages and am transported to where I was when I drew or wrote. I smell the smells, see the sights, feel the temperature and the breeze. Better than photographs, my journals represent my life.

Wonder: questions and thoughts come up while I draw or write. Or quotes. Or word descriptions. How do those feathers attach to that wing? Why do pasque flowers seem to be blooming early this year? Pinyon Pine have unpredictable bumper crop years which allows some seeds to escape the bellies of squirrels or birds. I become a better naturalist by asking questions and looking for answers; my curiosity peaked about my world.


When we give full attention to something—a child, our partner, a friend, a flower or a landscape, we develop and deepen our relationship. We call this love. To love something, to fall in love with something, requires our full attention. I have fallen in love with yellow flowers, with mountain peaks, with rivers, with red rock canyons.

Plato wrote ‘An unexamined life is not worth living.’ My journals go back years, most of which I have no desire to re-read. Over time I have evolved into my niche—melding wildlands passion with the joy of drawing and writing.


Memory Menu:

First kayak trip, Great Lakes.
An early entry: First kayak trip, Great Lakes. I remember huge grey waves, fear, cold rain and the pain of learning to paddle for the first time. I also remember laughter and joy with a new husband and good friends.


Mojave: I remember winds, sun, camping in Hole in the Rock with Teresa, in awe at the yucca flowers.


Yellowstone Lake
Yellowstone Lake: Kayak trip with Jane and Diane. High waves and coming into shore trying to avoid rocks. Laughing so hard we cried.  Hiking through more Sego/Mariposa Lilies than we’ve ever seen. Stopping to photograph and just look.  My first close look at these flowers, recording what I learned from observation.



Two years, two winter trips to Old Faithful with Diane.
Two years, two winter trips to Old Faithful with Diane. Next year will be our 10th “Old Faithful Winter Adventure” Anniversary, and we look forward to many more!


'Walkabout' event map
One  year ago: ‘Walkabout’ event map of a day hike in Canyonlands. It was a perfect day for hiking my favorite trail. And I’ve now got a record of the Red-naped Sapsucker!


While not 'beautiful', I love this journal entry because
While not ‘beautiful’, I love this journal entry because as I watched these Western Grebes through my spotting scope, I discovered new-to-me information. This page is a record of what I learned.


One-eye trip to Canyonlands, Utah.
“One-eye” trip to Canyonlands, Utah. This page is about not only hope for our wild lands, but hope for the eye problem that I was dealing with at the time. My eye issue is mostly resolved, but our wildlands continue to need our support.

“The real voyage of discovery consists not of seeing new landscapes but in having new eyes”                                                                                                      –Marcel Proust

If you are interested in nature journaling, there are many good books and some excellent classes. The Laws Guide to Nature Drawing and Journaling by John Muir Laws and How to Keep a Naturalist’s Notebook by Susan Leigh Tomlinson are excellent books. Gay Kraeger is an excellent instructor: her on-line class Illustrated Nature Journaling is available through Craftsy, or look for her on YouTube. The Yellowstone Forever Institute offers many classes in Nature Journaling. Their website is





15 thoughts on “Slowing Down

  1. Teresa

    Wow- I don’t remember you journaling way back on the kayak trip. Great post and perfect sentiment. It is so hard to just sit, not feel guilty about not moving. It’s important to achieve a balance, especially as we get older.


  2. John Gillespie

    What a wonderful vehicle your journal is, Julianne!! – the native slate to record rich observations, the homespun parchment to bare a searching soul. Anchored to Bradbury, Plato and Proust, these journal transforms keen observations to the philosophy of life. Slowing Down adds many dimensions missed when speed is the premium. And perhaps your Marcel Post quote states it best: “The real voyage of discovery consists not of seeing new landscapes but in having new eyes””.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks for your kind words. I like learning new things and drawing is something I loved as a kid. So getting back into it. I will check out Ed Stuhl. Thanks for the info.


    1. Thanks, LuAnn. There’s no shortage of journal topics in Yellowstone ! I look forward to seeing your journal entries when you share them. (That’s the beauty of journaling–no one but you needs to see them, so it’s a ‘safe’ activity.)

      Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks, Lisa. The John Muir Laws is the perfect ‘one-stop shop’ book. If I could only get one , it would be his. And I think Y F has them in stock… at least they did recently. Enjoy!


  3. Julianne, I enjoyed this glimpse into your past and look at where you are now. Like you I have found myself stopping to observe, lacking your artistic ability (I can barely print) I have turned to my camera as a means of capturing and remembering. Mike

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Julianne:

    Your Journal entries are exquisite! You include detailed written descriptions with your incredible drawings and watercolors. Very impressive work. You have developed so many talents since you left Michigan. Your work reminds me of three books in my library: Keeping a Nature Journal ~ Clare Walker Leslie & Charles E. Roth. © 2000. Also: A Trail Through the Leaves ~ (The Journal as a Path to Place) Hannah Hinchman © 1997. Hannah’s later book is Little Things in a Big Country © 2004.

    Thanks for sharing your gifts.

    ~ Richard


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