Wednesday, August 2, 2017

my nature journal practice

It seems my life consists of many practices. Or more accurately: living an engaged life IS a practice that encompasses many threads weaving together into a rich, colorful and  abstract pattern that is wildly unique and personal.  Over time the individual elements will shift and change - sometimes it is all I can do to commit to one note - but the beauty of it surfaces when I can stay curious and open to the natural flow. 

This isn't my habit. I like completion. Or perhaps I was trained to view accomplishment as a long list of items carefully and methodically checked off. Complete A and move onto B. But I am learning life is never so tidy and that I am not so much returning (starting over/starting again) as I am circling back around for a deeper dive in. 

It was over a year ago that I began a nature journal inspired by a course I was taking with writer/mythologist Sharon Blackie called  Reclaiming the Wise Woman (the material for that offering is woven into her inspiring book If Women Rose Rooted).  So much of the course material shook me wide awake - how the struggle to feel I belonged was/is rooted in a disconnection from Nature and more specifically from landscape which is my current home. 

The sense of knowing our place is fundamental to developing the rootedness, the grounding, which is necessary to progress down a path of Wise Womanhood. It’s all too easy to get stuck inside our own heads, to live out of our imagination. But the deep, honest, authentic ancestral wisdom we’re looking to reclaim is the wisdom of the land, the wisdom of place, and in order to develop that wisdom we need to get out of our heads and out onto the land.
 - Sharon Blackie, "Becoming Native to Place" from Reclaiming the Wise Woman

Just a mile and a half away from my home is a nature center/park with over 6 miles of trails around a lake.  When we first moved here, I used to take Cowgirl there for mini nature explorations but we never ventured further than a half mile from the parking lot. Wedged in between the interstate and local highway, you can hear the hum of traffic and signs for the truck stop (a large and wonderfully kitschy coffee pot) hover over the distant tree line. For years I considered it too tame and I stewed in my envy of others living in wilder places. 

Thankfully my impatience is yoked to stubbornness (or a stick-to-it-ness) and if there is one thing I KNOW about any practice, it is to show up consistently and with an attitude of open readiness. (Yoga Sutra 1:14 Practice becomes firmly grounded when well attended to for a long time, without break and in all earnestness.  Two out of three ain't bad!) When I first ventures into the park, I saw robins, blue jays, geese, dandelions and clover. Returning day after day, season after season, a wider and more varied world emerged as my senses adjusted. Taking pictures, I return home and research the unfamiliar plants and birds (who are totally familiar!) and then I transfer the information to my journal. 

Slowly, I am learning.  Trees and bushes  challenge me still (other than the most common ones - Cottonwood, Mulberry, Blue  and Black Hill Spruce, Ponderosa Pine, Sycamore, Staghorn Sumac and Dogwood) but my eyes and brain have gathered up quite a few of the native flowers. As I take time to learn the names and the faces of the locals, so I find myself welcomed into a community that reveals itself to me more and more as my willingness to show up earns me the gift of presence. Mine and theirs.

Here is one truth I've uncovered about myself (and which is a personal mantra whenever I find myself retreating into seclusion): my relationship with Nature is the foundation for all my relationships. 


Nature Journal on Vimeo