A peek inside the pages of a nature journal

My nature journal is my travel companion.

Whether it is tucked into my suitcase for a trip to Hawaii, packed in the car for a weekend road trip, or tossed into a backpack for a hike or camping trip, along it comes. I’m not religious about journaling; when I find the time or the inspiration, I open to a fresh page and record what I observe. Mostly, this happens during vacations or adventures when my eyes feel fresh and nature provides a bounty of wonders. Sometimes, though, I journal the common, everyday stuff, perhaps while watching birds at a feeder or wandering through a neighborhood park.

My hard-backed nature journal is a record of both the common and uncommon, the everyday and the extraordinary. It is a reminder of exotic trips as much as a depository of the small wonders found here and there when I slow down long enough to truly look.

I have been nature journaling since college. Before that, I kept childhood diaries which later evolved into naval-gazing teenage journals. As an adult, I stopped writing regularly about my daily ongoings and instead began crafting essays, articles, and stories. My creative nature journals are different than what came before. A nature journal isn’t a diary. It isn’t a polished piece of writing or a perfect work of art. And it isn’t about me. It is a collage of writing, observations, data, sketches, and collected artifacts about the natural world and my wanderings through it. My nature journal is rough and mismatched–a collage. It is a place to play with journaling techniques (like gesture sketches, event maps, scientific illustration, and color hunts). Most importantly, it is a tool for stillness that forces my eyes and ears open to what is going on around me: the twit of a songbird, the color of the lichen, the ongoings of a colony of black ants, or the treasures discovered from a morning beach walk.

Moclips is a tiny seaside town on Washington’s coast. Town? Maybe not. Just a collection of vacation rentals, a beaten down motel, a restaurant, and a mercantile. The first time my husband and I rented a cabin at the Moonstone Beach Motel, the buildings were painted bright orange. On a return trip in 2006, everything but the clam cleaning shack had been coated in sky blue paint. From Cabin #8, a few steps along a path spilled us onto the beach. The boom and growl of the Pacific Ocean. Sea mist, sea foam, seaweed, and seagulls. This page from an old nature journal records a few highlights from a long weekend spent wandering this strip of Pacific coast. It is an eclectic collection of sketches, notes, wonderings, and questions, and features a squiggle of glued-down beach sand.

Moclips, WA 2006. Copyright Kristen Clapper Bergsman.

I’ve taught workshops on creative nature journaling to teachers, students, and families and enjoy sharing a variety of techniques and games that spark inspiration. Creative nature journaling captivates Kindergarteners as much as it does adults. Opening to a blank page in a journal is an invitation to watch, listen, participate, and play, regardless of age. My hope is to craft future blog posts on nature journaling, providing information on the value of nature journaling both in and out of educational settings, sharing activities for kids and adults, and providing a peek into pages of my nature journals.

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One Response to “A peek inside the pages of a nature journal”
  1. Diane Soucey says:

    Kristen, Fun to read the importance of keeping a journal for yourself. You and Jim should share on occasion, his is not focused on nature, but it is about the daily “stuff” in our life.