How to Start a Nature Journal
Cultivate the yogic art of observation—and nurture your connection with nature—through a simple writing practice.
One of the fastest ways to get connected with the natural world around you is through a nature journal. Keep track of where the sun rises on the horizon every day, when rain falls, or what birds you see in your yard for a year, and you will begin to get a sense of the real essence of a place. Besides taking notes, you can also try your hand at sketching.
“Drawing and observing are mutually reinforcing activities,” Clare Walker Leslie and Charles Roth write in Keeping a Nature Journal. They suggest starting with simple paper or a notebook you like (Moleskines and Clairefontaines are great). Experiment with a selection of felt-tip and rolling ball pens, or try old-fashioned and mechanical pencils. When you’re ready for color, start with Berol Prismacolor pencils or Derwent watercolor pencils.
Nature journaling doesn’t need to be a solitary act. My family keeps a shared notebook at my mother’s cottage. My mom makes poetic descriptions of light on the water, I make detailed lists of bird species, and my mother’s partner leaves cryptic notes about which of her secret spots has yielded the best berries. Visitors are asked to share a moment from their stay. Over time, with our many voices, we are telling the story of our shared place.
Read Jake Miller’s 6 ways to nurture your connection with nature.
Jake Miller, author of more than a dozen books on nature, science, the outdoors, and community, is a lifelong beginner naturalist and gardener.