Winter scene through a window

January is often the coldest and snowiest month of the year here in the Midwest. And sometimes it really is too cold to go out in the elements. Yes, I know last month I encouraged you to get outside but that was December and this is January and it’s a whole new kind of cold. So how do you keep your nature journaling going during this long frigid month? It’s easy when you remember four simple words…”Look out the window.”


By Cindy Owsley


not really cold

not really warm

 ….. really dark


first October swim

I can’t see but

memory guides me


floating plants tickle

feet squish in mud

a fish flips


Owl hoo-ahs

Katydids katydid

Coyotes yip


cabin lights a return

a dry towel

invigorates me


my pond is quiet

my pond is noisy

my pond is dark

woman and man making snow angels

Winter is my least favorite season. In fact, I would go as far as to say I really rather dislike it. The cold, bitter winds and snow are just not my thing. So you might think this month I would just say, “Stay inside. Don’t nature journal.” You would be mistaken. You see, while I dislike almost everything about winter, it has provided some of my best memories of nature. One of them, I share with you today.

woman by lake

What are a few of the exceptional moments in your life? If you are like most people, you might recount the birth of a child, a promotion or wedding. But what about a moment from yesterday? Probably not on your list, right?

The unfortunate reality is that we miss exceptional moments every day. We are so busy going from activity to activity we miss what is right there in front of us. Nature provides wonder every day if we just take the time to observe. And our nature journals can be the key to unlocking and remembering these moments we might otherwise miss.

Woman Nature Journaling

How many of you, growing up, sat under a tree? Hid under a bush? When I was a young girl, with three, count them three younger sisters who annoyed me constantly, I would escape into the woods surrounding my home. Once there I would lean back against my favorite tree and simply sit and watch. Well at first, I might have grumbled about whatever sister most recently annoyed me but inevitably I would end up just sitting and watching. Little did I know then that what I was doing was visiting my “sit spot”.

For many years now, it has been a regular routine of mine to walk the many trails on our property on a daily basis. It doesn't matter what the time of year. In the depths of winter and height of summer, these trails reveal nature's wonders to me at all times.


By Cindy Owsley

The need to be alone nearly equaled

the need for a close friend's hug

and so it seems that inertia prevailed.


I packed multiple armloads of hackberry

all split and dried into the cold cabin

and started a fire in the woodstove.


It was seasonably warm for late February

but the frozen ground held the snowmelt

in squishy puddles that soaked my boots.


The binoculars that dangled from my neck

By Cindy Owsley

Sitting in my rocking chair
in front of an expanse of glass
that looks out into the woods.

A thermal cup with hazelnut coffee
much too weak, white and sweet
for a true connoisseur.

My calico companion sits on the sill
with an enthusiasm equal to
but much different than mine.

I suspect she imagines herself as
a much more integral part of this
February ritual than do I.

First, a quick definition of a nature journal. Similar to a personal diary, a nature journal is a place to record our observations and to reflect upon them, but unlike a diary, a nature journal is used specifically to record our observations of, and thoughts on, nature. But a funny thing may happen, you may also learn more about yourself in the process.

These journals contain notes on weather conditions, place, observations as well as sketches of what is observed and any reflections you wish to include. All you need is a blank journal and a pen or pencil to get started.

Since becoming a Master Naturalist, hardly a day goes by when I don't think of how my life affects the environment around me.

The heat and humidity are now in full force but you want to continue using your journal (you did start one last month, didn't you?). August is a great time to get out and practice your observation skills. Just maybe not in the heat of the day. I am sure that many of us think that observing just entails going out and looking around. I know that is what I used to think. But there is more to observing nature than meets the eye. (Pun intended) This month try practicing your "intentional curiosity".