This is the last week of my self-imposed nature journal challenge. For each of my sessions, I had ideas of what I was going to do and how I was going to do it. While I wound up with pages I consider successful, nothing went as planned. I learned a lot anyway, most of all that I need to be flexible.

For example, we went camping to test out new equipment and I had grandiose ideas of what my journaling was going to look like. Even though it was just one night, I imagined immersing myself in deep studies of everything. Camping seemed like the perfect opportunity to nature journal, because there are so many subjects at hand.

In fact, I didn’t study anything. While I was sitting in camp, I made notes in retrospect about watching the comet the night before or the things we’d seen on our morning walk. Our campsite was full of fascinating wildflowers, but I was too tired to study them. I wound up drawing aspens instead.

On another day, I decided to draw landscapes because they don’t move. I tuned into one of the Alaska web cams and started drawing. Someone moved the camera before my landscape was done. I started another one, and it happened again. I wound up with a page of incomplete landscapes and a note that I need to draw faster.

Study of an immature bald eagle using a web cam in Iowa.

On another day, I watched an immature bald eagle on yet another web cam. Because of my eagle project, I was very interested in getting a good look at the bird’s head and bill, but it spent most of his time looking the other way, or with its head under its wing.

I’ve also been watching flocks of Canada geese feeding in our yard, and I’m curious about who stands guard and for how long. I tried to make notes “in the field,” but it proved too difficult, so I recorded a five-minute video to analyze. Instead of being outside with the birds, I was indoors, hunched over my phone for an hour, dissecting the movements of ten geese.

Analysis of a video I took of a flock of geese feeding.

In every case, I had a clear idea of what my session was going to look like and what I was going to learn from it. Even though my initial expectations weren’t met,the sessions still met my goal of observing, enjoying, and learning about nature.

My biggest lesson this week was not to plan too much. I can go into a journaling session with goals, but I need to be ready to drop everything I had planned to take advantage of what is there. Being flexible and working with whatever comes my way increases the chance that I will feel like my session was a success.

What kind of plans do you make for your nature journal sessions? How do you adjust when the unexpected happens?

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