What’s in a name?

Mushrooms keep popping up on my walks, and this time I saw a really neat looking one. It was rubbery, wrinkly and had cool holes on the stalk!

I wanted explore more details and nature journal it- but it was nearing dark and had to get home.

What do I do in this case?

How I nature journal if I can’t do it in the moment

Here’s my process:

  1. Do some of my noticing and wondering in the moment there, (preferably saying it aloud -this will help you remember)
  2. Take photos for reference, and
  3. Journal from memory when I get home

Memory journaling

I use a combination of memory, collected subject and photos for nature journaling. The next day I made some time to sit and dive into this mushroom a little more. I brought out the mushroom and my photos of how it was growing from the ground, and the other specimens around it.

  • I start with the usual information, the date, time and location I experienced these mushrooms.
  • Then I hold the mushrooms in my hands, turning and looking from different angles.
  • I use modified contour drawing style– because it had so many complex patterns, I wanted to keep the drawing simple.
  • I zoomed into the areas that I wanted to show more detail, noticing, wondering about what I saw.
  • I used the photos to help me with what I did not collect. And when I draw from photos there is a tendency to spend too much time perfecting it– so I try not to lose my intention of observation.
  • What do I notice, wonder?

Not another thing to do!

However, I need to be aware that I can tend to pressure myself into making this another thing I “have to” do. When that thought appears, I remind myself

  1. I already did what’s important- I stopped to notice and explore the mushroom— be in the moment. If I don’t journal, its OK!
  2. Give myself permission to let it go. I don’t HAVE to nature journal everything right away–or ever.

Making the observations makes me more aware, so that the next time I see it I may look more carefully.

Observations are richer than just knowing the name

I didn’t know the name of this fungus- and that is okay. The time I take examining and being curious is what I love most.

Having the name is a bonus.

It’s fun for me to capture as much observational data as possible, then open a field guide. My mushroom field guide is full of the most common mushrooms in my area, and describes each one’s characteristics.

I can narrow down what my specimen might be. Sometimes its easy, other times I did not have enough information to definitely identify. That means I need to pay attention to other characteristics next time!

It might be a slower process to learning mushrooms (or any subject) but I know if I follow my curiosity and learn when I encounter them organically, I’ll remember it better.

So, instead of memorizing facts, I’ll own that discovery and become a lasting memory!

I need to pay attention to my analytical science mind that so wants to slap a species name to this— but my heart reminds me- it’s okay to slow down and let the mystery unfold!

Be with the discomfort of not knowing (temporarily)- because it makes room for discovery.

Another no-name discovery

Recently was drawn to a particular plant. It was tall and looked like banana plant at first, then upon closer inspection noticed it had flowers like my backyard bird of paradise. After spending the morning exploring and getting to know it, someone told me what it was–Giant Bird of Paradise!

Finding out the name was not really as important to me as it was to get to know this plant. Although, it was helpful in giving the page a title!

I had so much fun nature journaling this plant. Noticing and wondering. And wondering some more. And seeing what it reminded me of.

Nature journal club outing at the Barynard Center in Carmel, CA.

So, after I heard it was a Giant Bird of Paradise, I looked it up on gardening websites to expand my understanding of how it lives.

Now, when I’m in out and about, I’m seeing them everywhere in the neighborhood. I had no idea it was as common as it is!

Nature journaling helps us to sharpen our attention of the world around us and cultivates a curious mind.

Practice being okay with not knowing the name, and just exploring!

Have you had that urge to look up a plant or or animal right away?

What happens if you just wait for a moment or the day?

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