Saturday, April 5, 2008

Celebrating Spring: Making a Nature Journal, Freelance Writing and New Women's Blog

Busy Bee: Freelance Writing

I've just realised I've only posted once on here in almost 6 weeks!

Been a very busy bee elsewhere, though. I've written a lot, including a number of articles for Helium. Am working on my first article to submit for publishing in a local newpaper and have started a new blog to chart the journey into freelance writing.

International Women's Day: Towards 2011

I write for five blogs, now. Although the fifth blog isn't mine ... it's ours! Towards 2011, started with aliqot, in response to the lack of information we could find about International Women's Day, which was started in 1911.

We hope Towards 2011 will become a collection (perhaps a 'conversation') of widely-varying perpectives from all kinds of women, at the same time as promoting IWD and looking forward to centenary celebrations.

It's feminist blog (I'm not scared to call myself a feminist!) It's a blog by women, about women and for women, but men are very welcome too. As human beings, individually and as a society, we can all benefit from feminism.

Student Mum: Blogging Goals

Anyway, more about this blog, my poor neglected Student Mum! I've spent some time spring cleaning and organising (the house, my workspace, my writing routine, my mind, my life ...) recently. I've learned that setting specific goals and writing them on my blog helps me to attain them. So, my goal for Student Mum is to post once a week (on Saturdays to be even more specific.)

I'm still going to post on Write Here! Mondays will be 'Moondays'; Wednesdays will be about Creativity and Productivity; Fridays will be Feelgoods and Wellbeing. The Freelance Writing Learning Curve/Life is a Learning Curve will have one post a day, Mondays to Fridays. And I'll write at least once a week on Towards 2011.

Plus working on articles and an ebook (craft-based, for the wonderful Dabbling Mum) so sometimes, I will have to cheat. Like here, another article from Helium!

Celebrating Spring

I've been thinking of ways to celebrate Spring (am feeling full of Spring Fever!) and I think starting a Nature Journal would be perfect, there's so much going on at this time of year and it's a lovely thing to do on your own or as a family.

What is a nature journal?

A nature journal is like any other journal, but is grounded in observations of nature. Making a nature journal is a very personal thing; each journal will be (should be) unique. Some may take the form of brief field notes, others will lean towards the literary, or be a combination of the two. Some will be mostly words, others mostly pictures.

Why keep a nature journal?

Spending time in nature reconnects us to natural rhythms as well as to our inner selves. Keeping a nature journal develops skills (making observations, for example) and involves all five senses. It encourages us to live in the moment. It helps to alleviate stress and supports the creative flow. Keeping records of the nature around us has other benefits too, providing information to refer back to (very useful when a nature journal is about a garden for example, to see what worked and what didn't in a previous year), but also providing a record for future generations.

How to make a nature journal?

Choose a hard-backed book with quality paper because it will prove more hard-wearing, but it's a good idea to keep it in a plastic wallet to protect it from the elements. Blank pages are better than lined, as you will likely make sketches too. Choose a size small enough to put in your pocket.
Or try keeping a nature journal online in the form of a blog. You will still need a small notebook or sketchbook when you are out though, to record things you want to write about later, but the quality won't matter so much.

Write through your senses. Record sights, sounds, smells, textures and tastes. But also include moods and feelings invoked by the nature you experience.

Try visiting the same spot once a week to build up a picture of seasonal changes, or visit the same spot at different times of day to observe smaller changes.

A dictaphone (or other sound recorder) and a camera are very useful tools when you're making a nature journal. A flexible ruler or tape measure will also come in handy. For an interesting approach, use a square wooden frame to put over an area of ground and record the life you discover within it. Try moving the square to another area, or repeating it at another time of day (or year.)

What to put in a nature journal?

For each entry, note the date, time, location, weather, plant-life, birds/animals/insects (behaviour, movements, food, sounds), minerals, geological aspects, sky (clouds, stars, moon, sun). You could also note the tides, dawn/sunset times and things like the equinox.

When you are making a nature journal, use the questions, "What, when, where and how?"

Indulge your senses. Ask yourself, "What can I hear, see, smell, feel, taste?"

Observe changes in local species and habitat.

Make top ten lists, perhaps noting ten trees in leaf, or ten insects, or your ten favourite flowers, or ten reasons you love nature.

Your entries can be in the form of observations, notes, thoughts, essays, poems or stories. Use words, tables and graphs, sketches and photographs. Include pressed flowers or leaves, feathers, bark rubbings, nature printings.

Tips for making a nature journal:

Don't feel you have to write every day, but do try and journal as regularly as you can. You will benefit more from being able to see the changes around you.

Remember, it's your journal. No one else has to see it, so don't worry about making it perfect. (Nature journals are supposed to look rustic!)

Take care of the environment. Always follow countryside codes, be respectful of land, animals and people you come across. Make sure you remove all your litter when you leave an area.

Be safe. If you are going out into the wilds, make sure you are well-prepared. If you are going alone, make sure someone knows exactly where you're going, and exactly when to expect you back.

But you don't have to trek out into the wilderness. You can keep a nature journal in your garden or allotment, in a city park or local woods, or at the seaside. Your nature journal doesn't have to be about a vast open space. A stream is as good as a river, a pond as good as a lake. A hedgerow is an excellent place to nature journal, the smallest corner of a garden can give you plenty of material.

Read the works of other nature writers to get ideas. Read magazines like the National Geographic, or journals like Nature. Watch nature documentaries. Join an online forum.

Do some further research to learn more about the things you discover while making a nature journal. (But don't let this take over from the journaling itself!)

Take time to decorate your journal. Use coloured inks or watercolours to fill in sketches. Use stamps, transfers and stickers to further illustrate your findings. Add borders, experiment with various ways of writing - try a different style of writing or write text in blocks, perhaps in different directions. Add arrows and stars or smiley faces. Play with it, have fun with it. Make it yours.

Websites about making a nature journal: l (equipment, ideas, prompts, checklists) (books, websites, activities) .html (tips, resources) .asp (everything you need to know about making a nature journal) on_plans/journals/index.html (history, ideas, lesson plans)

Books about making a nature journal:

'Keeping a Nature Journal: Discover a Whole New Way of Seeing the World Around You' by Clare Walker Leslie and Charles E. Roth

'The Country Diary of an Edwardian Lady' by Edith Holden

'A Trail Through Leaves: The Journal as a Path to Place' by Hannah Hinchman

'The Sierra Club Guide to Sketching in Nature' by Cathy Johnson

Articles about making a nature journal:

More articles on nature journals at Helium.


Denise Willms said...

I've often heard of keeping a nature journal, but I didn't really know what it meant! Thank you for explaining and sharing some of your ideas.

We're a homeschooling family, and keeping a nature journal would be a great spring activity.

Moondreamer said...

Hi Denise, thank you for visiting, it's lovely to see you!

Sorry I didn't get back to you sooner, haven't been on here for more than a week ... really must set up the email alert thingy!

I homeschooled my youngest daughter for a year and while it's lovely that she is now thriving at a lovely school, and I appreciate the time I have to do other stuff now, I really miss it!

It does seem a perfect time to start a nature journal, nature is unfurling her magic and beauty all around us ... I love this time of year, so hopeful!