Start new year developing a deeper connection with nature

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Appalachian Trail

Whether you call them “new year’s resolutions” or just goals for the new year, I like to think we all have ideas on things we would like to do better or improve in our lives. 

One of my goals for 2022 is to spend more time outside, enjoying nature’s beauty. One way to do that and develop a deeper connection with nature is through the process of nature journaling. 

I wasn’t familiar with the term nature journaling until this fall when I was working with Carrie Elvey, senior naturalist and community engagement coordinator at The Wilderness Center, on ideas to grow our community outreach and educational programming at the Hazel Willis Woods. 

Responding to nature

Basically, nature journaling is the practice of drawing or writing in response to nature. It’s fun and relaxing, and it helps you connect more closely with nature. Plus, you end up with your own unique journal to look back on. 

Nature journaling has several benefits. Not only does it give you a reason to get outside and enjoy nature, but it also calms your mind, increases your attention to detail, improves your ability to recognize different plant and animal species, and helps foster an appreciation for beauty. With time, it also improves your observation, writing and drawing skills. 

One of the best things about nature journaling is that it can be whatever you want it to be, from personal to scientific and from facts to imagined beasts and settings worthy of a place in Newt Scamander’s book Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them. 

Nature journaling allows you to capture and recall specific moments that you might otherwise forget, and it can provide inspiration for other creative projects in your life. 

But most of all, nature journaling should be fun. It should be enjoyable, playful, helpful and adventurous — a way to expand and foster your connections with the natural world around you. 

Get started

So, are you ready to find out more about nature journaling? There are plenty of ready-to-use journals that can help you get started. Carrie recommends The Naturalists’ Notebook: An Observation Guide and 5-Year Calendar-Journal for Tracking Changes in the Natural World Around You by Nathaniel T. Wheelwright and Bernard Heinrich. 

Nature journaling is definitely something you can venture into on your own, but it’s fun to embark on new adventures with others, too. This year, Ashland SWCD and The Wilderness Center will be teaming up to lead a Nature Journaling program at the Hazel Willis Woods near Mifflin. 

Participants will work on slowing down, careful observations, simple experiments and asking questions — all of which should help us bring nature into sharper focus. The program will kick off in February with an introduction to the Naturalist Notebook, basic journaling and an introduction to phenology (that’s a fancy way of saying the study of the cycles and seasonal natural events). 

For more information on joining the class, contact the Ashland SWCD office at 419-281-7645. Or, start a new nature journaling adventure on your own. Either way, here’s hoping you build stronger natural connections in 2022. 

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Jane Houin is the fiscal and education specialist for Holmes Soil and Water Conservation District. She is a graduate of Purdue University with a BS in agricultural communication and MS in mass communication. Houin raises horses and sheep with her husband Craig and their three children. She can be reached at 330-674-2811 or jhouin@co.holmes.oh.us.

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