Which tree is blooming?
|The wax myrtle..|
|or the crape myrtle?|
If you said the crape myrtle, two days ago I would have agreed. But the correct answer is: Both trees are blooming!
I know this because yesterday's nature journaling assignment was to compare two similar species. In nature journaling, your sketching supplements the observations you are making of the natural world. It is different from painting and sketching as art in two important ways: the "beauty" of the picture is irrelevant, and the picture is supplemented with written observations and thoughts. That's right - making it pretty is not nearly as important as observing minute details and proportions while wondering about what you see.
|Here is my drawing of the wax myrtle flower.|
I stumbled on a curriculum for a nature journaling class from the California Native Plant Society earlier this summer. It can be downloaded for free as a pdf. file (click here). From there I discovered the website of one of the authors, John Muir Laws. After watching a few tutorials on his YouTube channel and buying a sketchbook he recommended, I started working on the assignments in the curriculum that could be completed alone (since there's not a class).
Nature journaling promotes what John Muir Laws calls "deep observation". To help that process, three prompts are included for each drawing. The prompts are "I wonder _____" "I notice ______" and "It reminds me of _______". It's amazing but true - spending time this way reveals beauty in nature that would otherwise go unnoticed. You also can't help but observe the activities of birds, butterflies, and insects that are not the subject of your drawing because you are spending time being still.
Nature journaling is a way to develop an even greater wonder and sense of awe at the beauty of nature. It's not threatening because if you make a mistake or can't draw a museum piece, so what? The experts say that if you are trying for accuracy and detail, over time "pretty" will take care of itself and your drawing will get better. I was a skeptic, but the experts are right. In only a few months my journal entries are improving aesthetically. Here is yesterday's entry:
This drawing is pleasing to me because of the many details of leaf arrangement and shape, flower structure, bark color and texture, and so on that I was able to capture.
Would you like to try nature journaling too? You only need a pencil and computer paper. If you are curious, visit John Muir Laws' website and blog, or download the California Native Plant Society curriculum. You could spend 30 minutes this weekend falling in love with nature and discovering whether nature journaling is for you.