Practising Mindfulness in Nature with the Illustrated Nature Journal.
‘The land is the real teacher. All we need as students is mindfulness.’
Robin Wall Kimmerer.
Are you looking for a fun and creative practice to combine your love of nature with mindfulness? Or perhaps you are seeking a new writing exercise to help you craft passages for your next piece of writing?
In this blog, I share one of my creative practices, which involves keeping an illustrated nature journal. This helps me to cultivate mindfulness as well as capture meaningful experiences in nature. Over time, this practice has given me insight into my own cycles and those of the world around me.
Keeping a Journal in the Field
Although I kept a journal as a child, it wasn’t until I began to train as an archaeologist that I learnt how to write more detailed descriptions of artefacts, places, landscapes and places. In archaeology, details are crucial and the field diary is an essential tool for all ancient explorers, who use them to record them. However, these diaries are often impersonal, as many scientists are trained to separate their own subjective experiences from the subject or phenomenon they are observing.
My idea for the illustrated nature journal was inspired by two of my creative mentors: Lucy Maud Montgomery, more widely known as L.M. Montgomery and Julia Cameron. Montgomery was the famous author of the Anne of Green Gables books, while Cameron is a well-known creative, teacher and the author of the brilliant book, ‘The Artist’s Way.’
L.M.Montgomery’s Island of Inspiration
Montgomery’s greatest literary works emerged from her own life experiences, many of which she recorded. Anne of Green Gables is primarily set on Prince Edward Island, Canada. It is an idyllic place, home to fertile farmland, red-sand beaches and lighthouses. Montgomery was raised as an only child on the Island by her grandparents, who owned a postal service. From the age of nine, Montgomery kept a journal, wrote poetry and read books.
Montgomery spent much time observing and describing in detail plants, trees and other aspects of the landscape. These descriptions were the seeds that later germinated into the exquisite landscape imagery that animated her children’s stories. Often, Montgomery ascribed human-like qualities to plants and trees and gave Anne a special and close relationship with them; she gave her the power to name and befriend them as kindred spirits.
Artist’s Dates in Nature
After reading ‘The Artist’s Way’, I began to go on ‘artist dates’ every week. As Cameron notes, the artist date is simply a ‘play date’, time you set aside each week to have fun and nurture your creativity.
Because I love passing time in nature, these dates often take place in forests, at the beach, or even in the garden at home. Just like when I set off into the field as an archaeologist, I carry a toolkit on my dates and this includes a camera, my smartphone, a pen and pencil, rubber, a small art journal and/or notebook to record things that call my attention. Occasionally, I will paint in the field, and for these adventures, I also carry a watercolour pad or journal, usually with heavy paper (300gsm), my watercolour pans and a water brush. As Cameron recommends, I spend a couple of hours on my dates.