What is Your Field?

What exactly does ‘field journaling’ mean?

There seem to be many ways to define ‘field’ – mostly, though, it seems just being ‘outside’ and observing. So what is it that you want to document? What’s your field of interest? If you’re not sure, take a look through any photos you’ve taken in the past year. If you were to index them by topic, what topics keep showing up?

Most people think of field journals having to do with recording nature. I have an entire other site/blog devoted to the geysers and hot springs of Yellowstone as well as this one that includes more information locally to where we live now. But I think field journals can encompass more than just observations in nature. My grandma kept a ‘field journal’ of sorts to document my uncle’s first year – Dayton’s Baby Book. Does that count as field journaling? In my opinion, yes.

Increased Awareness

Field journals traditionally are something kept by researchers. Taking Field Notes, scribbled down observations as a brain prosthetic of sorts simply because we all know memory is elusive. It tricks you in to thinking you’ll remember all the various details, only to forget it 24 hours later. How many actually remember what they had for dinner last night? Two nights ago? Three?

Whether you’re working to record all the details of your family’s everyday life, or want to follow the progress of spring, or a nest you’ve found, or even your budget, or perhaps your exercise and weight management – whatever you record will suddenly become easier to notice. By jotting down notes, you’re increasing your awareness of your ‘field.’

The Process

The process I use works for almost anything you want to document. There is no right or wrong way to do this. Just follow your inspiration. Maybe you want to see what helps you to have a great workout, or perhaps you need to better remember what you have planted in your garden and what works to yield the most harvest or biggest flowers.  Or maybe you just want to record all you do to better help you find the stories of your life to tell in more detail. No matter what the topic, the process works the same:

  • Take notes somehow – on your phone using an app you love, the back of an envelope or small pocket notebook.
  • Create a regular time to add in more details – on your computer, in a larger journal, scrapbook page, etc.
  • Add in photos, sketches, lists, maps and such – this gives the pages more life and depth

Book Recommendation

I’ve been a bit quieter here mainly because I’m actually devouring a new book that shows how many different ways there are to keep a Field Journal: Field Notes on Science and Nature edited by Michael R. Canfield.

This book is an absolute delight because it gives a glimpse into the process various professional naturalists use in their own work. In it, you will find something that seems to work for you and what you wish to record.

No matter what draws you in to field journaling or nature journals, just follow that interest and start.


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  • Holly
    May 20, 2011., 17:33 •

    I like what I have around me, the contentment that nature (in my small town or out in the wilds of the gamelands) brings me. I seem drawn to the seasons and watching my dogs enjoy themselves when we head to the gamelands. I also seem to enjoy my kids, where we go, the events we attend together. The Times of Our Lives......