15 Quiet Minutes: Nature Journaling

This 15 Quiet Minutes practice is perfect to pair with other 15 Quiet Minutes practices such as Mindful Walking or Spending Time Outside. The purpose of nature journaling is to pay attention to what is happening in the world around you and to make note of it in some way.

The most basic form of nature journaling is simply to write down what you notice happening in the world around you. You could do this daily, weekly, bi-weekly, or monthly. Write down the date, and make a note of the weather and/or the moon phase, if you’d like. Make a few notes about the birds you notice, which trees are beginning to leaf out in the spring, or to change colors in the fall, which flowers are blooming or are finished blooming.

An example of a simple written entry, which is the majority of what I do in my nature journal.

If you aren’t familiar with the trees, plants, or birds in your area, look for field guides specific to your state or region to help you identify what you see. Often state college extension services publish field guides, or you can find them in your local bookstore or library. The extension service might also offer classes on tree or bird identification. Other places to look for classes are your local Audubon Society chapter, community colleges, nature parks, or state, county, or city park services. I learned a lot of what I know about bird and tree identification from classes taken from the Portland Audubon Society.

If you enjoy taking pictures, you could print out your photos and use them in your journal. If you like to write poetry, you could write poems about what you see around you. Mary Oliver’s poetry is a great example of what beauty can come from observing the world around you and writing poetry about it.

Sketching and painting what you see is also a great way to learn more about what you are observing. To draw something, you have to really look at it. Even if you don’t consider yourself an artist or like your finished product, sketching something will help you see it more clearly. You can color your sketches with watercolor (be sure to use a waterproof pen to sketch if you plan to use watercolor) or colored pencil, or leave them uncolored.

Here I did some very rough sketching, more to focus on the details of what I was looking at rather than to make an artistic drawing. I used watercolor pencils to color the drawings.

Sometimes if I’m feeling ambitious, I will do more sketching and painting in my journal. This was done in ink and watercolor.

You could also choose to focus on something specific in your nature journal, perhaps noting only the weather, the birds that come and go at your feeders, or the changes in the trees in your neighborhood. Or you might focus your journal on a specific location, like your backyard, or a local park that you visit regularly.

On this page I focused on the mountains that I could see from this location.

Taking a few minutes on a regular basis to make a note of what you see around you will help you begin to feel like a part of the land you live on. Before long, the trees, birds, plants, and animals that you observe will begin to feel like old friends. You’ll make note of when the trees leaf out in the spring, when they produce seeds, when the last leaf falls in autumn. You’ll know which birds are at your feeders at different times of year, and when you usually see them feeding their young in the spring or early summer. I have found nature journaling to be a significant part of feeling connected to the world around me.

Happy journaling!

Resources:

Journal: My favorite notebook for nature journaling is Aquabee Super Deluxe Sketchbook in the 9×6 size, which gives me plenty of room to work, while still being portable. It handles watercolor well, but the paper is also smooth enough for writing comfortably. However, a plain old spiral notebook or composition book will work just as well if you don’t plan to use watercolor—don’t worry about finding the “perfect” notebook, just use what you have to get started.

Keeping a Nature Journal, by Clare Walker Leslie & Charles E. Roth – This was the first book I got about nature journaling, and it is still one of my favorites. It covers anything you might want to know about nature journaling, including some drawing exercises. She mostly works in ink or pencil with some colored pencil.

A Pacific Northwest Nature Sketchbook, by Jude Siegel – In spite of “Pacific Northwest” in the title, this book would be wonderful no matter where you live. It looks like it is out of print, but it is worth tracking down a copy. If you are interested in ink and watercolor nature journaling, this book covers almost everything you’ll need to know.

15 Quiet Minutes: Intuitive Collage

So far for our 15 Quiet Minutes practice we’ve tried meditation and mindful walking. This time, we get to practice playfulness and creativity by making intuitive collages. This practice is simple, and requires NO artistic ability, so even if you feel artistically challenged, you can absolutely do this. In fact, this process may introduce you to creative abilities that you didn’t know you possessed!

Supplies:

  • A magazine or two that you can cut/tear up (some of my favorites include O Magazine, Live Happy, Yoga Journal, Better Homes & Gardens, Real Simple, Martha Stewart Living, and National Geographic, but if all you have is Popular Mechanics or Guns & Ammo you’ll find something there, too!)
  • Scissors (not necessary if you choose to tear your images instead of cutting them)
  • Glue stick (other glue will work in a pinch, but a glue stick helps keep your paper and images from rippling/warping too much)
  • Blank paper or your journal to glue the images & words onto
  • Any other art supplies you might want to use to decorate your pages (completely optional)

Intuitive collage is one of my favorite creative practices because it is fast, easy, and there is no pressure to make something “perfect”. As you can see from my collage examples in this post, I was definitely not going for perfection! I am sharing some of my collages to illustrate this post, but they are really just for me, not something I’d generally post on Instagram or share with other people. The purpose of creating intuitive collages is to have fun, listen to our inner wisdom, and allow our creativity to come to life on the page.

I created a video of my process of making an intuitive collage, to go along with the instructions below. This is my first video, so be gentle! I know I talk too fast, so sometimes it is hard to understand me—I will try to speak more slowly if I make another video. Unfortunately, I can’t do anything about the fact that I sound like a teenager—young-sounding voices run in my family! (I’m not sure if this is a blessing or a curse!) The password is: collagefun.

To get started, gather your art supplies and find a quiet place where you can work undisturbed. The entire process may take you more than fifteen minutes, so you might choose to tear out images and words during one session, and then glue them down another day. Of course, you can always spend more than fifteen minutes working on your collages if you have the time to do so.

You can light a candle or some incense if you’d like, and set an intention for your session. It could simply be, “To have fun and play with words and images,” or “To listen to my inner voice,” or you could even treat it like a divination and ask a question and see how the images and words you end up choosing relate to that question. I recommend creating your collage in silence, but if you really want to listen to music, try to choose instrumental music. You want to listen to your own voice and wisdom here, rather than another person’s words and feelings.

Now, just start paging through your magazine, and tear out any words or images that catch your attention. You don’t have to know what you are looking for, or why something is calling to you. If you like it, or your attention is drawn to it, just tear it out. You may end up with a large pile of words or images, or only one or two. Either way is good.

Once you have collected your words and images, take your piece of paper or your journal, and start pulling out the images and words that are calling to you most strongly from your piles. Again, you don’t have to analyze them or have a theme in mind, just listen to you heart and your intuition. You can start arranging them on the page in any way that pleases you. This isn’t about perfection or creating a beautiful composition or a piece of art, so let that go. Just put things where you want them. You can glue them down as you go, or lay them out and rearrange until you get them the way you like, and then glue them down.

You most likely won’t use all the words and images you’ve collected, or you might, either way is fine. Just go with what feels best to you as you lay out your collage. As you can see from my examples, sometimes you might use a lot of images and few words, or a lot of words and few images. Some collages will be simple, some will be really busy. Just allow yours to be what it wants to be without a lot of thought or anxiety.

Once you have everything glued down and it feels good to you, you are finished! If you have art supplies and would like to, you can add paint, stamps, stickers, doodles or any other decorations you’d like to your pages, but it isn’t necessary.

Now it is time to listen to your collage and see what it has to say to you. For instance, I created the “live happy” collage below on a gray winter day when I was feeling pretty down. I was surprised that it ended up being so cheerful! But it did make me feel more hopeful and positive, and reminded me to add some play and fun to my life, as well as reminded me that winter doesn’t last forever and sunshine and butterflies would come again.

What is your collage saying to you? If you posed a question for your collage, how does it answer that question? Does you collage speak to any issues or events that have been happening in your life recently? Does it give you any advice? Does it speak to you about something that maybe you have been avoiding and need to deal with? Or does it remind you of something that you are grateful for or some positive action you should take in your life? You may want to answer these questions in your journal.

A lot of times the message of your collage will be pretty obvious to you, but if you are feeling confused about the message, you may want to write a story about it in your journal. Pretend the images and words are from a book, what story do they tell? You could also meditate on some of the words and images and see what insights they reveal to you. The message of your collage may not be clear to you right now, and that’s okay, too. Be sure to always date your collages, because you may come back to them and find they make perfect sense once you’ve gotten some distance from them.

If you have left-over words and images that didn’t make it into your collage, you may want to collect them in a folder or envelope for future use. I occasionally go through my magazine collection and rip out images and words I like and store them in folders. Then when I want to make a collage, I go through my folders and choose the words and images that are speaking to me in that moment. This is how I chose the images and words I used in my demo video.

I hope you will give this process and try, and I’d love to hear how it works for you or to see your collages if you want to share. Feel free to contact me if you have any questions, too.

Until next time, happy collage making!

Supply Notes:
In my video I am working it my current journal which is a Pentalic Hardbound Sketchbook, 8 x 5.5 inch. I love it! It lays flat and takes acrylic paint well.

Another journal that I have worked in and really liked is the Aquabee Super Deluxe Sketchbook, which has a heavier paper that works well with watercolor and other wet media. This is what I use for nature journaling and other journals where I know I’ll want to use watercolor. I also have used and liked the Canson XL Mix Media book, which also can handle watercolor pretty well.

The glue stick I use in the video is Pioneer Photo Square Glue Stick, but really any glue stick will work for this process.

Happy New Year!

I hope 2017 is going well for everyone so far! It has been a slow start to the year here. We have had snow for the past couple of days (yay!!!), which has meant that most of my time has been spent inside working on various projects or just sitting and watching the snow fall. I could honestly watch the snow for hours, it is so beautiful and serene.

snowfence

A snowy fence

snowberries

Snow-covered berries

On New Year’s Day I did my tarot reading for 2017 using Joanna Powell Colbert’s Tarot Spread for the New Year. I have been using this spread for several years, and I really love it. I was especially excited to get two of my favorite tarot cards, The Priestess and Nine of Earth, in my reading for 2017. It is interesting that this reading echos the themes I have gotten from both my Hallowmas and Winter Solstice readings: getting to work and taking practical action. The High Priestess and Four of Fire also remind me to maintain my spiritual practices and connection to Goddess, listen to my intuition, and make sure the action I am taking is grounded in what is most important to me.

2017reading

My 2017 New Year reading

On New Year’s Day I also finished a little Great Blue Heron watercolor that I created for my altar. I really like the heron, I’m not quite sure how I feel about the background—it feels too busy and I wish I had made it more plain. I may try again at some point, but for now it is on my altar and it does make me smile to see it.

heronwc

Great Blue Heron watercolor

When I was in the Portland area I lived along a wetlands where herons nested every year, and they became an important sign for me. I often see herons when I need encouragement and a reminder that Goddess is with me. Last week I was down by the river feeling out-of-sorts and I saw two herons lift off from among a group of egrets and fly down the river. I rarely ever see more than one at a time—they lifted my heart and spirits as they lifted their massive wings to take flight.

I often find January to be a challenging month. I have made all these goals and plans for the New Year, but my energy and mood can take a deep dive during the dark days of January and I find it hard to get started on everything I have planned. Then I start beating myself up and worrying that I’m running out of time and that just makes things worse.

Last year in January I ended up re-reading all the Harry Potter books for the eighth (ninth? tenth?) time. I basically spent the entire month reading and not doing much else! I’m trying to find a bit more balance this year, understanding that this is a low-energy time of year for me and accepting that, while not completely giving up on doing anything productive. We’ll see how it goes! At least after years of observing The Wheel of the Year I know that come Candlemas, I will start to feel more energetic and ready to get to work.

I also wanted to share a couple of resources that might help get your year off to a good start:

  • I started this Writing the Goddess class a couple of days ago and am really enjoying it. This might be a good resource if one of your goals for 2017 is to get to know a particular goddess better. I am working with Our Lady of Guadalupe/Tonantzin as I work through this class.
  • The Hidden Brain podcast from NPR is one of my favorite podcasts, and this week’s episode, “Getting Unstuck,” was especially helpful for me today. I recommend it if you are trying to figure out what to do with your life in 2017!

I’m not sure what this year will hold as our government makes a dramatic shift this month, but I pray for peace and justice in our country, and for all of us to find the courage to create lives of meaning for ourselves. Blessed be!

A Little Melodrama and a Lot of Love

So I made some art last week. I have been wondering whether to share it or not, because it is…well, kind of weird. However, it led to some interesting insights, so I decided to share.

As often happens during the gray winter days, I have been feeling a bit down, a bit blah. I also haven’t been keeping to my news and Facebook fasts quite as well as I had planned to. I have cut back a lot, but I still can’t seem to stop checking in once a day or so to see what is happening. Mostly, it just makes me angry and/or depressed. So my heart was feeling gray and heavy, weighed down with fears and worries. An idea to draw a heart, a real heart, in my art journal, and paint it all gray and dreary came to me. I ignored it for a couple of days, but the idea kept pestering me, so I finally sat down with my art journal to sketch a heart.

I have a bit of a medical phobia. I can get freaked out by injuries and blood and pain. It is even hard for me to listen to someone describe a health issue they are having, because I will start to feel it in my own body. I am working on this, trying to come into a better relationship with the inevitable messiness of having a human body, but sitting down to draw an anatomically correct heart was a real leap for me. I used a drawing as a reference, not a photo of an actual heart, but even that had me feeling a bit panicky at first. After a few minutes, though, I was focused on the drawing and I calmed down.

And an amazing thing happened. After drawing the heart and painting it, I kind of fell in love with my own heart, beating away inside, a miraculous little organ keeping me alive and well. I focus a lot on my heart center energetically, but I don’t always consider the organ itself, and it is beautiful! Hmmm, maybe I need to draw the rest of my organs? Don’t worry, if I do, I’ll keep them to myself (probably).

heavyheart

Heavy Heart

The act of sitting down and drawing out my heavy-hearted feelings made me feel better, as creating art often does. Plus, once I was finished and I stepped back from it, I started chuckling at the pure melodrama of it. Not that it wasn’t from the heart (ha!), but putting it out on paper like that made me smile, and helped lift the emotional fog. Sometimes it feels good to wallow, right?

The next day, T. Thorn Coyle posted an essay, Metal Fatigue: The Use of Love in Times of Stress, on her blog. The artwork she used is, I’m pretty sure, the exact same drawing of a heart that I had used as my model the day before! This seemed like synchronicity that I needed to pay attention to. Her words were exactly what I needed to hear, and I highly recommend reading her post. She writes: “So what do you do? How do you interrupt a stress cycle? And how do you build in resilience before the stress cycles begin? One way is to consistently invoke love.”

Now, when my heart starts to feel heavy and overburdened, I think back to my heart drawing, and then I think of T. Thorn Coyle’s wise words, and I turn my heart, as best I can, back towards love. Because our precious little hearts aren’t meant to be hard and gray and weighed down with sadness, they are meant to be filled with love.

It isn’t easy these days, but for the sake of my heart, for the sake of all our hearts, I will try to choose love.

Resources:

I have found Loving Kindness Meditation (also called Metta Meditation) to be really helpful in cultivating love and opening my heart. I really like this guided Loving Kindness Meditation on YouTube.

One thing I learned, I’m not quite sure from whom, which isn’t mentioned in the video, is to first think of someone you really love unconditionally, someone who awakens warm, loving feelings in your heart. This may even be a pet, since our relationships with them tend to be less challenging than our human relationships. Then, try to focus on maintaining that same feeling of love as you move through the meditation. It is also okay if you aren’t ready to offer loving kindness to someone you don’t like yet. You can start with just yourself, just family and friends, or neutral strangers, and let your practice grow from there.

An Autumn Afternoon by the River

It has been way too long since I spent time nature journaling outdoors, so I took advantage of the gorgeous day yesterday to do some sketching down by the river. I wasn’t really focused on making a beautifully composed page, but was just having fun drawing and painting whatever caught my attention.

riversketch

Sketching by the river

There was a flock of Canada Geese paddling and feeding on the river. Drawing something that never stops moving is always a challenge, so some geese came out better than others. Then some honeysuckle berries caught my eye. They are translucent red and were literally glowing in the sun—so beautiful!

I found the wild grape leaf on the ground near where I was sitting. Normally they just turn yellow in the fall, but this one was gorgeous in shades of gold, orange and magenta. A teeny-tiny spider marched across the table while I was sketching, so I added her in, too.

I saw a Pileated Woodpecker, which is the first time I have seen one in this area. They are always exciting to see with their magnificent red crests!

The sun was warm, there was a soft breeze, the river was splashing and singing as it flowed over the rocks, and I heard several large splashes in the water—could it be salmon coming home to spawn? It was a beautiful time to enjoy the world around me and forget about worry, and cancer, and the election (oh my goddess, the election!!!) for a while. A much-needed time out.

I wish you gorgeous autumn afternoons full of sunshine and peace, and maybe even a little sketching!

rivsketchfinal

The final page

(P.S. I just realized I dated my page wrong! It should have been the Oct. 9. Oops! I’ll have to fix that.)

Out Loud

Out Loud

Mixed media on canvas panel, 2016

I finished this painting today, and I love how it turned out. Some paintings can be a bit of a struggle, but this one just flowed. As soon as I had done the background, I saw the shape of an elephant and knew that she would be the focus of this piece. I’m always a bit anxious when I sit down to paint something that I want to look semi-realistic, but she came out well and I really enjoyed painting her.

This painting speaks to me of joy, of living life on your own terms, walking through life as your authentic self, and speaking your truth—living your life out loud and in full color.

Elephants symbolize strength, pride, wisdom, confidence, and determination, as well as happiness and good luck.

May we all move through our lives with more confidence and joy!