Gratitude for my sensory scrapbook

Today I woke up to see a layer of frost on our wooden deck. The grass and the alpacas in the pasture both have a dusting of frost like powered sugar. It makes me smile.

Photo: Maksim Zhao,

The air was so cold and crisp on my face and hands when I went outside. I hear “crunch, crunch, crunch” as I flatten the frost crystals with each footstep.

I feel the warmth of the sun on my left side, and a cool breeze on my right. The sounds of birds filling the air- golden-crowned sparrows, right now.

I am grateful for the clear blue sky lit up by the sun that is yet to rise above the horizon. The birds are on a nearby tree, waiting for me to fill the birdseed buffet so they can feast on the millet and sunflower seeds.

Photo: John Duncan,

I am filled with joy that I can be here to experience this moment with all my senses. I grab my nature journal and begin to document what I am experiencing- sights, sounds, smells, thoughts, wonderings, and gratitude.

My first page for the day.

My nature journal is like a sensory scrapbook.

When I record what I notice and wonder, using both words AND sketches, it imprints this experience in my mind. And each time I revisit this page, it brings me right back to this moment- a sensory flashback full of all the smells, sounds, sights, feelings I recorded.

Yes, I could just take a photo. And yes, I could just journal some words instead. But it doesn’t have the same power, the MAGIC that occurs in a nature journal page.

Have you started nature journaling? Whether or not you have, go out today with a notebook and pencil with the intention of seeing what is around you.

Simple steps to take today

First, step outside and take in a few breaths of oxygen that the plants are gifting to us. And return the favor with exhaling to provide them with the gasses they need. Take three long slow breaths to slow down to match nature’s pace.

Let this be a reminder that we are in a relationship with plants–our interdependence with nature.

Heart stone. Photo Melinda Nakagawa

2. Take a few moments to scan the landscape around you. Are there trees? Do they have leaves or bare branches? Are there shrubs? Are they near or far? What colors do you notice? Do you notice any smells?

3. Now, look skyward. What do you see? Colors, clouds, shapes, textures, movement? Are there any soaring birds? The tops of tall trees?

Photo: Melinda Nakagawa

4. Look down by your feet at the earth. What slithery, crawling, or scuttling creatures do you see? Lift up the lower leaves of a plant and peer under the skirt to see who’s there. Is there evidence of animals? Is the ground moist or dry?

5. Are there birds flitting, or hopping? Chirping or singing? What else is here around you?

6. Now, put the pencil to the page, and write today’s date, time, and location. Write down what you found today in nature. It can be a list of words, or bullet points, phrases, or sentences.

7. Make sketches (does not have to be finished pictures- in fact, it’s better to keep it simple so you can get to recording words). These sketches will help you remember the things you saw– it’s here to jog your memory–not replace it.

8. Perhaps add what you brings you joy, or what you’re grateful for.

9. When you think you are done, add 3 more things that you notice or wonder.

And you did it! Whatever you got on the page is progress. It’s perfect for today. Let’s remember that it’s about PROGRESS rather than PERFECTION!


Time in nature can be the counterbalance to the stress we feel in our lives, and nature journaling helps us focus our attention. Whatever we focus our attention on grows, so why not choose to be attentive to nature and what brings us joy?

Not only is it a break from technology-overload and worries of the world, but it also has the effect of replenishing you, elevating your mood, and increasing your efficiency and creativity!

Photo: Dave Hoefler

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