The lost art of reading nature’s signs: A smashing wee book with techniques for forecasting and tracking, and for walking in the country or city, along the coast, and by night. This is the ultimate resource on what the land, sun, moon, stars, plants, animals, and clouds can reveal. US
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I get a lot of feedback from readers via emails, comments on the blog, and via the Facebook group about how inspired they are to keep nature journals, not only for their children, but also for themselves. This makes me so very happy!
I really do believe that keeping a nature journal enriches our lives in so many different ways. For me personally keeping a nature journal brings me so much closer to the natural world around me; I notice things in both a macro and micro sense. I am much more aware of the seasonal changes, of changes in the sky, both day and night. I see the tiny details of whatever I happen to be sketching, details that would have ordinarily passed me by. Details that I do not see when I photograph a subject, or look at it just for pleasure. Nature study brings me closer to my Creator, and for that, I am forever thankful.
I also, unfortunately, sometimes receive messages or comments from people who feel that they cannot keep a nature journal because they “cannot draw”, or their drawings are “not good enough”
This makes me feel so sad, and so frustrated! There seems to be a myth that people can either draw or they cannot. This is so wrong! Would we tell a child who was struggling to read, “well, some people are born readers, others aren’t” No! We would teach them the rules, insist they practice by reading many, many books. It is the same with drawing.
I am not saying that some people don’t have a natural talent, but they still have to work at it, spending many many hours, months, and years perfecting their work, learning new skills.
Nature study is so much more than creating beautiful images. It really is in the journey, not the end product (though of course, we all enjoy the satisfaction of producing a lovely end piece!) But as we learn to draw (and of course, the only way to learn to draw is to actually draw!) we can still be learning about our subject, even if our finished piece is not what we would like, or bears no resemblance to what we have been sketching!
As we sketch, we observe each and every little detail. This is in fact the key to sketching success; learning to see. Sketching what you actually see, not what you think you see.
I have also been told that my work is too ‘arty’ for a nature journal. There are not enough notes, or that my work isn’t precise enough. I think that we must create our journals for ourselves. Comparison really is the thief of joy. I do not have the skill to paint photo realistic work. Nor do I have the time! But I have come to a place of peace, knowing that the journal pages I create each bring me closer to a subject I want to learn about and a Creator whom I love.
Some pages I am pleased with, such as this page of trees:
Others not so much! But I learn a lot from these ‘mistakes’.
We must keep trying. We must be prepared to invest time and be prepared to fail.
Let’s stop comparing our work, encourage one another in our endeavours, and keep learning.
“It is only what we have truly seen that we can truly reproduce; hence, observation is enormously trained by art-teaching.”
This week I have sketched a Magnolia branch from my garden. We have two Magnolia trees, and this one always loses it’s leaves first. It is full of buds and literally only a couple of leaves are left, whilst the other tree is still full of golden leaves. I also sketched the sliver of waning moon from Friday morning. Everything was covered in frost; the air was cold and still. Jupiter was lined up so beautifully with the moon.
Weather-wise, we have had heaps and heaps of rain, along with a few perfect, late autumn, golden, frosty days.
What’s happening in the natural world where you live?
This week I have sketched a Hawthorn branch, bare of its leaves, and a fungus growing in moss. We still have some spectacular autumn colours, but they are just starting to give way to the more somber shades of winter.
Today is Stir up Sunday, so we shall be making our Christmas pudding and cake.
This week I have sketched a beautiful leaf from the garden, and a wee Robin Redbreast who has visited us for a while now (this Robin has a couple of white feathers in the wing.). The colours of the autumnal landscape are just so spectacular right now, heightened by frosty mornings and sun-shiny days.
Everyone who has commented has expressed their desire to keep their own Calendar of Firsts, however there have been many questions, and I thought I would share some of the questions and answers here, incase it helps you with your own Calendar of Firsts.
I cannot draw.
Miss Mason had her students simply keep a dated list in the back of their regular nature journals. This is the ‘purest’ form of Calendar of Firsts, and will greatly increase your knowledge of the natural world around you.
I live in a place of very limited seasons, so this may be a bit more challenging, but I love the idea.
I think that just the simple act of keeping a Calendar of Firsts would help you to notice any subtle changes. Don’t worry about knowing what to look for in advance. Though the changes will not be as dramatic as for those of us living with the traditional seasons, there will be changes in the constellations, birds migrating from colder climates to spend the winter with you, flowers producing seeds and fruit, changes in temperature and rainfall, and so forth.
I have just begun nature journaling, so everything I see is a ‘first’! How do I differentiate my entries for my nature journal and Calendar of Firsts?
To keep things simple, you could keep a list of firsts in the back of your regular nature journal. If you wish to illustrate your Calendar of Firsts, the two can definitely cross over.
I would like to, but I feel concerned that my work won’t be as good as nature journals I see online.
Comparison is definitely the thief of joy. I would really encourage you to consider keeping a Calendar of Firsts. Please don’t let perfectionism put you off. I can guarantee that if you begin to keep a nature journal in January, by the time December comes around, you cannot fail to improve. I can see how much my own work has improved over the time I have been keeping nature journals.
Remember that nature study is a science not an art subject. Draw diagrams and write lots of notes rather than trying to create pretty pictures. Focus on the goal of learning more about the natural world around you. And imagine the sense of satisfaction you will feel when you look back over a years worth of diligent nature notes. Another idea that may lift the pressure, is to keep a family Calendar of Firsts, that everyone works in.
I can’t find the same journal that you have.
That’s fine! Use whatever is readily available to you, and within your budget. I would suggest going with the paper type/quality that you are comfortable with. Remember the work within is what makes the journal, not the book itself.
Help! Where do I begin?
With a Calendar of Firsts, on the 1st of Jan, write down what you see in the natural world around you. Focus on one place, that should hopefully make it less overwhelming. Then keep looking, what is changing? Flowers, daylight, shadows, the position of the sun, the constellations? Are birds reappearing from their winter in a warmer climate? Do you see them billing nests? Do you see young animals? Trees in bud, then producing flowers, then fruit? You really do not need to know what to look for in advance! The beautiful thing about a Calendar of Firsts, is that it teaches you to see, really notice, what is happening in your own locality.
I am really excited to see you keeping your own Calendar of Firsts in 2017!
It is a capital plan for the children to keep a calendar––the first oak-leaf, the first tadpole, the first cowslip, the first catkin, the first ripe blackberries, where seen, and when. The next year they will know when and where to look out for their favourites, and will, every year, be in a condition to add new observations. Think of the zest and interest, the object, which such a practice will give to daily walks and little excursions.
Charlotte Mason, Vol. 1 p. 54
This year, inspired by Miss Mason, I have been keeping a Calendar of Firsts; a place to record recurring seasonal events, such as the first snowdrops, the first apple on our tree in the garden, and when our apple tree loses it’s leaves.
Miss Mason had her students keep a list in the back of their Nature journals; this was their Calendar. I decided to add a little twist to mine, and illustrated my entries directly into a diary.
Many of you have contacted me about my Calendar of Firsts, and said that you would like to keep your own. I thought it would be fun to have a ‘Calendar of Firsts ~ along’. We can share what we are recording from the natural world, and encourage one another to be consistent.
I will start a thread in the Charlotte Mason Nature Journaling Group on Facebook, were we can discuss the ins and outs. Please do pop over to join the conversation! I would also like to feature other Calendar of Firsts right here on the blog. I think it would be lovely to see a wide range of Calendars. There is no need for illustrations, if you are keeping one in the traditional list form, that would be smashing, as would any illustrated versions. Would you be willing to share yours? If you are interested, please drop me a line at: lynnseddonhs at gmail dot com
We can also keep in touch on social media using the hashtags #calendaroffirsts #raisinglittleshoots #exploringnaturewithchildren
This week I have sketched a Ladybird and a sprig of Honesty. We have had some really glorious, sun-shiny days, and the autumnal colours of the landscape are breathtaking. I found this wee fellow in my kitchen, and of course had to sketch it.
We drill the importance of safety on Bonfire night to our children; let’s remember the wild creatures too.
If you are having a bonfire, please be sure to build it on the day the fire will actually be lit. This will prevent any wild animals, especially hedgehogs, searching for a comfortable spot to hibernate, coming to a sad end.
When setting off fireworks, check they are not being lit near local bird’s nesting areas: Nesting boxes, trees, hedges etc.
Lastly, as always on bonfire night, keep pets indoors. Bonfire night can be extremely stressful for them.