So how does one get inspired? And how does one actually keep a nature journal? Ever since reading The Charlotte Mason Companion: Personal Reflections on the Gentle Art of Learning way back in the days when sweet Violet was only toddling around the garden, I have been falling in love over and over again with this method of education, and this re-education for myself–a second education–in learning to love not just habit forming, and character development, and rigorous academics that all fall into this method, but also a deep desire to nurture loving the outdoors and learning to keep track of what we see, hear, touch, smell, and explore by journalling it inside a nature notebook. The biggest and most important tip of all, being: go out rain or shine to explore your surroundings! There are so many tidbits of garden growth, camping outings, nature hikes, and backyard nests I’d honestly not remember well enough (and many I know I have forgotten because I didn’t do this!) had I not jotted a few lines down here or there (or page long entries, even) on the things we’d spotted or encountered as part of a day in the life of our household and surroundings. I can be honest enough to say it dwindled in our upheaval and hospital days, and I’ve used scraps of paper here and there in place of journalling which have been lost, or packed away or probably used to start a back yard fire at times. But the continued desire remains to record what I can, when I can, and with whom I can in the days we’ve still got our nestlings inside our own home nest. Though few and far between, we made the most of nature journalling when we could around the hospital and university grounds to appreciate nature and catch ourselves sighing with contentment to be outside again. Intentionally willing oneself to get outside, no matter what, becomes a habit, and even in the midst of chaos one finds oneself thinking on how to get out there and make it happen. This has been our motivation and the key to staying close to nature, rain or shine, sickness or health, snowstorm or heatwave (okay, we tried our best to escape the heat waves by heading north, but we still encountered nature in the process.) Some such materials that have kept me inspired and keep urging me along to motivate me to keep documenting life beyond my four walls are Anna Botsford Comstack’s book Handbook of Nature Study, Edith Holden’s gorgeous book, The Country Diary of an Edwardian Lady, The Burgess Bird Book by Thornton Burgess (I found an old hardcover copy of this for $8 at an antique sale years ago even before I fully appreciated what I had in my hands!), as well as Catharine Parr Traill’s Canadian Wildflowers (painted by Agnes Fitzgibbon, Catharine’s niece). I didn’t add the link to that last one as I see it’s going for $99 on Amazon Canada!!! Oh my! I paid only $10 for it a number of years ago! Though in Edith Holden’s and Charlotte Mason’s day, women always painted, your entries don’t always have to be paintings or drawings or sketches, even. They can be recordings of what you’ve sighted that day, or what’s in bloom in your garden, or where you went for a hike, or pasted in leaves you collected on that hike, or even just a record of the weather that day. Start simple and without grand expectations for yourself, and it will grow. When my boy didn’t want to draw the flowers in the garden and wasn’t feeling like looking for birds, he looked down and drew his foot on the stones. I’m first and foremost inspired by just spending time outdoors with the kiddos. We’re all sponges, so enthusiasm in one will generally rub off on another (and especially if the enthusiast is mama) when you spend a good deal of time together. But, like a lot of normal people, I am mostly busy with other things and time gets away on me, and I sigh over and over again that we missed a good outing opportunity or maybe should have made the kiddos help me plant the new garden instead of being uptight about how it’s all done and how I want it to look. So I by no means tout this post as having it all together as a nature scribe and artist. It’s a constant putting down and coming back to kind of thing. We have spurts and seasons of mass nature explosion entries, and then pockets of silence. And in those nature explosion extravaganzas, when I feel adventurous, I will actually attempt to draw the birds I so eagerly strive for the children to sketch into their journals. It rarely happens, but it’s fun to now have this documented to come back to one day and remember that special time together. And some of the most memorable nature explosions happened when we stopped what we had been working on in our school day if someone spotted a worthy journal entry, usually just through a glance out the window. On one such occasion, the barn swallows that were nesting on the front porch of our next door neighbours’ house, decided to fledge to Violet’s windowsill. After each one did so, they were somewhat frozen in fear I suppose of what they’d just done, and they remained there for quite some time while mama and papa whipped up and down through the air catching insects for them and returning to the ledge to feed them. Couldn’t have had a better opportunity to quietly slip up to the other side and pull out the nature journals to record this memorable occasion. Surprisingly, they did not catch our shadows on the other side of the pane, and allowed us to be this close to observe and draw and photograph them for an unusual amount of time. Nature finds a way of coming to you once you heighten your awareness of what’s all around you, even as you sit at the kitchen table. So, when that science experiment fails in the laundry sink, or there’s all manner of mayhem in the house over mismatched socks and lost shoes, and your reeling over the child who constantly forgets their chores, and there are just too many unwashed glasses on the counter for the amount of people in your house, take a breather, step back, grab that easy to use spiral journal, a pair of binoculars, get all senses engaged, and let that screen door flip bang behind you. Take a walk on the wild side into the world of observation. Oh ya, and don’t forget the kiddos!