Last week, I admitted I was having trouble with my nature journaling project. This week, I think I have some insight as to why. I’ve been letting unrecognized expectations get in my way.
One reason I enjoy nature journaling is the discoveries. I’ve always loved to learn, but there is an extra thrill to discovering something for yourself through your own observations. My first session for week three of Nature Journal July was a comparison of the bindweed blooming in our back yard. I noticed them from the window, and thought we had two kinds, one white, one pink. But when I went and looked at them closely, I found three different types of flowers, with some similarities and some differences.
When I came back inside, I was full of energy. The excitement and wonder I felt at what I had learned was exhilarating. That’s when I realized I associate those sorts of moments with nature journaling, but not every nature journaling session results in those elevated feelings.
Don’t get me wrong. I don’t think I’ve ever nature journaled without learning something. I either see something I’d never noticed before, or I come away with questions I’ve never thought before. I learn something I didn’t know, or I learn what I don’t know. But I don’t always get overwhelmed with wonder and awe. Sometimes it happens, sometimes it doesn’t.
It turns out that I have been expecting to be amazed every time I journal, and I’ve been anxious because I haven’t been. That was one of the things that was making it hard to get outside and observe. I didn’t know how to guarantee I would get wowed, and so I felt like I was doing it wrong. Without realizing it, I was telling myself I was failing.
Having recognized what I was thinking, I’ve been able to deal with it. Whenever I sit down to a session now, I remind myself I’m just practicing nature journaling. Giving it a try. So that I don’t have the expectation that I will have an amazing experience. And it’s really helped.
When I sat down to draw a complicated flowering succulent in our yard, I told myself I would try to do a diagram and see how it went. That helped me to tackle a subject I’d been wanting to journal about for two weeks, but I’d been so intimidated by the complexity of the plant that I hadn’t.
I’d also been trying to catch a glimpse of the comet NEOWISE for over a week and was getting frustrated. Our skies have been cloudier than usual, with a bank of clouds over the pertinent part of the sky every single night. Finally, I decided it didn’t matter if I saw the comet or not. I should journal about it. I could draw the landscape, and the clouds (if they were there), while I waited for a chance to see the comet.
You can guess what happened. We finally had a night with very few clouds and I was able to see the comet with binoculars. Because I took a chance and journaled about it, I now have a record of my memorable first sighting of NEOWISE.
I’m learning a lot from my month of nature journaling, but the big lesson I’ve gotten this week is a simple one: play at it. Treat it as practice, an experiment. Take advantage of your opportunities, even if they don’t seem ideal. Don’t expect wonder, but don’t worry. It will find you.
Do you have unrecognized expectations for your nature journaling? How have you over come them?