Why Journal?

                  While I don't journal nearly as much as I would like to (sometimes it’s quite rare in fact), I am a big supporter of the concept.  Journals can be a doorway to many fond memories and adventures, and they often prove insightful and even therapeutic. While I am not necessarily referring to the proverbial personal journal one keeps under their pillow, I encourage that sort also. Journals can range from something you do every now and then to an everyday practice that you firmly set aside time for.  They can even be a short collection of pages such as creating a scrapbook from your experiences on vacation - simply adding a page for each day of your trip. Journaling for me holds endless possibilities. I have, in some cases, learned new skills from keeping a journal. I have bettered my drawing prowess and pushed myself to practice techniques outside my comfort zone, and have even honed my knowledge as a naturalist dramatically.
        There are so many kinds of journals one can keep. For several years I carried a medium sized blank paged book in my backpack. I spent a lot of time wandering and exploring the local parks and woodlands where I live. Quite often, I would find a neat spot or secret pocket in the woods in a puddle of sunshine and sit and begin to journal. Usually I would find something I didn't have a whole lot of familiarity with and attempt to draw it. Sometimes I could manage the subject as a whole - say a solitary garlic mustard plant or a dried up leaf laying upon a stone. Sometimes I didn't want the whole subject, or I found it too difficult and so I would focus on one part of it, such as a twig on a tree or a close up of a toads foot. I often drew the subject from several angles too. I might sketch the subject without ever even looking at my page. Then I would write in as much info as I felt at the time. Things like the size and length. The area it was found in, including how I felt while there or how I could describe it as a personality. Then I would start to list things around it. I would speculate as to why a toad preferred to eat from a sidewalk instead of in a flowerbed where it was much warmer due to black mulch and an abundance of food. Or why the smoke from my campfire was hugging the ground. I would even sit there and just list every single sound I could detect, no matter how quiet, far or seemingly insignificant. By doing these things for several years, many things began to become pretty much automatic. Then, over time, I noticed not only have I become much more intimate and familiar with things around me, but my friends and even strangers started to comment on my ability to see things and my uncanny tendency to know things that seemed to lean towards the realm of psychics. Now I always did have a knack for seeing what was around the corner, but most of the time I was just picking up on subtle cues and clues. In fact, I know people who make me feel blind and rather. . . distracted in this respect. A lot of this can benefit from journaling. There have been times where my journals have pointed out trends or changes that I would otherwise not even have noticed. Then there was the year that my journal told me that a hurricane was going to hit us, and it would be much more significant than what my area was used to. Actually the moths and turtles told me. What I am getting at is that the book (like the world) is your oyster in this regard. You really ought to try it out.  
                                       Now I will go into some of the different types of journals you can think about keeping or maybe expand into if you already journal. My first and favorite is what I call a basic nature journaling. Just about everything I mentioned above can be part of it. This is the journal that had the biggest influence on my skills as a naturalist. A bit of drawing, sketching, writing, speculating, recording and a fine emphasis on reflecting on my experience while exploring for the afternoon. Another kind of journaling is a learning journal. When I was pretty new to the arts of fire by friction - something I aim to improve until my body decides I have had enough - I kept a fire journal. I wrote down the details every time I practiced the skills. I even wrote down sub entries like the way the fire burned on a humid summers night on the edge of a hill using nothing but pine twigs collected off the damp ground. I especially recorded as much info as I could when I had a particularly difficult time making for example, a firebow coal. All the entries in that pocket sized journal really helped steward me into a much more confidant and capable fire maker. I very regretfully report that I seem to have misplaced that journal a couple of years ago and have not seen it since. I then moved on to a sketchbook journal that consisted solely of crafts I had constructed while camping or practicing bushcraft skills. That one also holds a dear place in my heart for I find just about every bush craft creation to be a work of art that tells many a story, and which boasts proudly its beautiful contours, scrapes and nicks for all who care to take a moment and see. One can make a weather journal on a day to day basis, and even go on to sketch the clouds and make predictions based on things like temperatures, moisture, lunar cycles and even bird behavior. Please don't forget the not quite so nature oriented journals such as dream journals! I always felt I should keep one of them. If not for personal insights, then for the sheer entertainment of reading about my dreams even a day later might provide. I have rather detailed and movie-like dreams, though they aren't always pleasant. I bet I could sell a few of those to Hollywood! Dreams are frequently our mind or bodies way of telling us something we need to know or sort out, even if it's a fear or desire. There are work journals where one comes home after working on or completing an assignment and needs to take notes on what might improve the product of their labors, or maybe things that inspired them for future endeavors etc. Another favorite journal of mine is the kind I do once in a while when on vacation or camping and whatnot. These are fun, and I put rules on them sometimes. One page per day perhaps. I will draw at least a couple things. I tell each day as a bit of a story (with me in the narrative). I will have at least one artsy entry where I try to capture the beauty or surrealism in what words I can pull out from my heart at that moment. I also try and include at least a thing or two that rouses a bit of laughter or levity, even if at nothing but myself. And I usually try to include a few things I gathered along the way. It could be a leaf, a piece of bark, or maybe even a scrap of old metal from an awesome ww2 aircraft that was being restored (no comment). lol All these aspects come together quite nicely to create a wonderful souvenir of your vacation or adventure!

                            All this being said, it is really up to you to decide what and how you want to journal. You don't even need for it to be a book. I have used birch bark or even scraps of torn cloth at times just because I could. For me, the reward and payoff of keeping a journal falls nothing short of priceless. Journaling can take whatever interests you and make it flourish. It can get you through difficult times and even provide valuable insight, letting you know what you might be doing wrong or perhaps right. Please give journaling a try -  the world is an open book!

1 comment:

  1. Feel free to share any journaling ideas or stories you might have on this topic :)