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Laurel Inner Space: Nature journaling: The art of slowing down in a frenzied-up world

Agnes’ sketches of some pine cones and needles she picked while walking in West Laurel.

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Posted on: May 9, 2024

By AGNES PASCO CONATY

Agnes Pasco Conaty is a college math and environmental science adjunct professor who also works as senior research scientist and science lead for the GLOBE Observer Program at NASA/Goddard Space Flight Center

Nature teaches us a lot of things when we open our minds and watch. A mourning dove takes refuge in our home’s window boxes each spring to nest. She prepares some twigs, feathers and mud to lay two or three eggs that may hatch out baby doves. The mother is overprotective; she stays in the nest, unmoving for days to warm her brood until they set their wings to fly.

I witness the rites of spring like clockwork: the early buds of snow drops shyly peeping out from underneath the mailbox, then the burst of daffodils, the quiet simplicity of Lenten roses, radial symmetry of hyacinths and the majestic bloom of magnolias. The symphony of pink blossoms in harmony with the pulse of spring burst: It’s time to dust up my little notebook and write.

In our backyard in Laurel, I find inspiration from oak trees, tall, slender, almost reaching for the sun. Ralph Waldo Emerson said, “The creation of a thousand forests is in one acorn.” Small yet plump with wonder, an acorn is packed with the promise of leafy branches where many playful squirrels could play hide and seek or give refuge to a thirsty deer stopping by the creek.

Why journal? Like a diary, a nature journal tells your story — a beautiful story that’s set in time and place, weather, one’s reflections, lovely sketches of what you see and descriptions of what you hear, touch and smell. Sometimes you may be even inclined to create some poetry or recollect a memory. 

Someday, when the world has found its senses, we will collectively rediscover the meaning of joy, the pleasure of taking a walk or stopping to look at a wildflower, run in a meadow, dance in the rain, skip stones — and simply watch time go by. 

Go ahead and observe the rustle of leaves, the pattern on the clouds, the flutter of a flight of geese, the intricate weave on a spider’s web, the perfect sphere of a raindrop on a blade of grass, the complexity of a passion flower, the cadence of rainfall on a pavement or the dying embers of a golden sunset.

“Keep close to nature’s heart … and break clear away, once in a while, and climb a mountain or spend a week in the woods. Wash your spirit clean, “ John Muir said. Muir, often cited as father of our national parks, was an environmentalist whose writings can inspire us to this day.

When the world is in too much of a hurry, take a moment to sit down. And if you’re so inspired, open your notebook and sketch.

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