On our trip to Utah, I made a point of drawing daily. But my real goal was to journal about the natural world. Inspired by The Laws Guide to Nature Drawing and Journaling, I made an effort to more closely observe my surroundings and to ask questions about what I saw. I found myself looking around for the answers as well.
For example, while hiking along the bottom of White Canyon, I noticed light blue marks high up on the canyon wall. They looked like someone had poured paint on the rocks but they couldn’t be paint. We were in the middle of Natural Bridges National Monument. What was the source of those strange marks? Something leaching out of the cliff face?
The Mystery of the Blue Marks on the Canyon Wall haunted me because I was already in an exploratory frame of mind. I jotted down my question in my journal, and it became one of the things I thought about throughout my trip.
As a result, the “blue paint” question was in my mind when we returned to Natural Bridges three days later. While hiking around the base of Owachomo Bridge, I noticed some blue-gray rocks. Maybe the marks we had seen were minerals leaching out of a hidden blue-gray layer.
Then we came across silver-blue lichen. From just a few feet away, it looked sky blue. Could it be what I’d seen on the canyon walls?
Then I came across a place where water clearly drains off a rock. The path the water follows was full of the the lichen I’d seen. My question was answered.
Without climbing up the canyon walls for a closer look, I have no way of being certain that those sky blue streaks were made by lichen, but I’m pretty sure that they were. I was pleased to have solved a mystery all on my own, just be keeping my eyes open and asking questions.
In the past, I would have wondered about the blue marks, but I don’t think I’d have been looking so hard for an answer. The “blue paint” would have been on my mind during the first visit, but I probably would have forgotten about it by the second one.
Nature journaling was what kept the question in my mind and inspired me to keep my eyes open. It helped me to think actively about what I was seeing, and my memories of our trip to Utah are much richer as a result.
Have you solved a nature mystery with your nature journal? How has nature journaling changed your understanding of the world?