view from parker cabin

Phenology Nature Journaling

What is phenology? Farmers and gardeners have been doing phenology for years and might not even know it. You too probably practice phenology without being aware of what you are doing. So what is it? Phenology is simply the study and observations of the natural world around you. When you notice the first tinge of orange on autumn leaves or the first buds and flowers of spring peeking up through the brown, that is phenology. Hearing the first peep from spring peepers or the sweet sound of your favorite song birds, the scent of the first rose and the feel of the fuzz when it finally arrives on the sumac is also phenology because phenology can encompass all of our senses when we take the time to notice these things.

So, now that you know you are in fact a Phenologist, now what? What can you do with this information? Well, start a nature journal of course! Nature journaling is a wonderful way to record some of the things that you are already observing and encourage you to branch out and push yourself to look at, experience and connect to nature in a new way. Nature journaling is a fun, free activity for all ages and the benefits of spending time in nature are huge!

Some of the benefits of being in nature and phenology nature journaling are learning how to slow down and be present by practicing mindfulness. Immersing yourself in nature with fresh air and exercise is proven to help decrease depression and anxiety. By engaging all of your senses you build new connections and strengthen old ones, keeping your brain fit. You can use your journal as a platform for new adventures and discoveries, be the student, learn new things and rediscover something forgotten. You don’t have to have all of the answers, nature journaling can open doors to new questions and experiences.

Before modern technology, scientists would draw sketches of their specimens and subjects to gather data for records for future scientists. Since drawing is one of the oldest forms of communication dating back to cave paintings from 40,000 years ago, now is a chance to get back to your roots! However you do not need to be an artist in order to start a nature journal. All you need is a love of nature, a blank book and a pencil. Nature journaling can be many different things! You can draw, paint or sketch your subjects but you can also add written observations and questions for later research or you can write poems and add plant pressings to enhance your journal. Nature journaling can be a wonderful creative outlet that can be so much more.

So grab a few supplies and head to your favorite nature spot. It could be a well-loved trail, the beach or even your front yard. Have a seat, close your eyes, take a few deep breaths and open your eyes to see the wonder of nature all around and let your creativity flow!

Interested in a more guided opportunity?  Check out our monthly phenology art nights here.

-Natasha Anderson, Staff Naturalist