I started keeping a gardening journal about a dozen years ago. I was taking my first trip to England to visit gardens. A little voice inside told me to bring a journal to write new species discovered, places visited and impressions. Once I returned home, this travel journal became a gardening journal. Since then I have continued to buy and write in a journal each gardening season. It has given me great pleasure (and some good information as well) to return to see what I have written over the years.
You don't have to be a professional writer to keep a journal. I keep my format simple so that it will be easy for me to want to write. I know that if I made the formats complex, I would resist writing regularly. Remember, sometimes simpler is better.
Here are four lessons in journal writing:
- Let it remind you that you mean something to yourself.
The act of journaling helps you value your thoughts, ideas and feelings. Giving yourself permission to allow free-flowing thoughts is a first step in respecting yourself. But actually allocating the time to write down those thoughts will take you to the next level of honoring yourself. By writing once a week, once every other day or even daily, you make a commitment to yourself that declares: "What I have to say is of value."
- Let it keep track of your creative process and emotions.
Journaling is a snapshot of where you are in relation to your garden at a given moment. Do you remember how many times you said that you didn't need to take a picture of your garden during different seasons because you would remember the way it looks, only to regret it later? The same goes for your creative and emotional process. It is such a gift to be able to go back even a few months, not to mention some years, later and see what you were feeling at a certain period in your life.
In my actual garden journal I mesh all of my thoughts together on one page; in my virtual garden journal, I have developed a separate category for creative and emotional entries called "garden thoughts." In this area, I will discuss free-flowing thoughts about a variety of subjects in my life that are somehow related to the garden.
- For example, on Wednesday, May 2, I wrote:
"Erika, my 19-year-old daughter, who is living far away from me, called this morning while I was down in the basement working with my seeds and watering plants. When she asked what I was doing, she reminded me of how we used to do this together and how both of us would be so excited when a seed would sprout overnight.
"My mind reminisced over all the years that my son, daughter and I would observe (from my study windows) a spider creating the most intricate web over a period of a few weeks. We were mesmerized by it. I feel a sweetness wash over me when thinking about how the children and I have shared in observing nature throughout their lifetime."
- Let it act as an almanac and reference guide.
If you use a part of your journal as a ledger for what dates species bloom, for certain combinations of plants that you specifically like or for a homemade organic insecticide recipe, then your journal really becomes a personal almanac and reference guide. From one year to the next, it becomes interesting to note dates of blooms, successes and failures and varieties of new specimens planted.
I also created a separate category in my virtual garden journal for tracking observations of my plants. I call it my daily log. In this log, I will note what I have done or what needs to be done in the garden on that particular day.
For example, on Wednesday, May 2, I wrote:
"Woke up this morning from a deep sleep. First thought as I went to get a cup of coffee was about my radio interview today on NPR. Need to prepare for that. But before I started to prepare, I just had to get out into the garden and do my 'walk about.'
I was immediately overtaken by a sweet fragrance and realized that my wisteria draping over the pergola on the side of the house was beginning to bloom. Ahhh ... how divine! This climber is by far one of the most sensual aromas in the garden."
- Let it be fun.
What a wonderful way to spend some private time in your life. Curling up on your den sofa after taking a soothing bath, or in bed at night before dozing off to sleep -- any time of the day is a good time to write if you're relaxed. Even if you find yourself hesitant and resisting the first week, keep at it.
Before too long, it will become like exercise. You will need to do it to feel healthy. An added benefit (depending on your state of mind) is that journaling can make you feel inspired, not only about your garden but also about yourself and your life.
Remember, there is no one way to create your journal. Let your imagination run wild. Allow your journal to really express who you are.