“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.
“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 http://www.yellowstone.org.