Journaling, a sublime hobby

September 09, 2007|By Virginia A. Smith | Virginia A. Smith,McClatchy-Tribune

Two years into his retirement from the U.S. Forest Service, Jim Lockyer is still too busy painting and doing volunteer work to spend the kind of time he'd like on another favorite pastime: Recording outdoor sights and sounds in his nature journal.

So at journaling workshops, the Delaware County, Pa., artist and naturalist urges his students to do as he says, not as he does: Take the time to be a witness. "Make the time to sit outside, quietly taking everything in and getting it all down."

Which raises the two questions many would-be journalers ask: Do you have to be able to draw? And must you be a "writer"?

Actually, no and no.

For the artistic part, you can take digital photos and pop them in, as Lockyer did with a thumbnail shot of his cat, Velcro, on his back deck in Media, Pa.

You can cut out magazine pictures, do a primitive sketch, press a flower or leaf. You can outline a simple map, scratch out a stick figure, even doodle.

For the literary part, you can record random thoughts and impressions or copy a favorite quote, phrase or poem. The idea isn't to create an angst-filled diary, but to try, as van Gogh once remarked of his own journals, "to catch life in the act."

However it strikes you.

Landscape artist Joan Polishook has been journaling for two decades, carrying her notebooks everywhere - on trips, to concerts and lectures. She draws in pen and ink and paints in watercolors, writing with equal ease.

"The journal, to me, is like going back. It's a memory thing," says Polishook, who lives in Lords Valley, in Pike County.

It's a lovely hobby for home gardeners, too.

Just take a page from Lockyer's book. He's usually out back in his folding chair, happily solitary, perched in front of the grizzled old apple tree he finds as fascinating today as it was many years - and sketches - ago.

Open in front of him is his latest journal.

He'll be good now for an hour or two, and probably more.

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