Sketching nature, respect and wonder
post-template-default,single,single-post,postid-14724,single-format-standard,bridge-core-3.1.1,qode-page-transition-enabled,ajax_fade,page_not_loaded,,qode-title-hidden,qode-child-theme-ver-1.0.0,qode-theme-ver-30.0.1,qode-theme-bridge,wpb-js-composer js-comp-ver-7.4,vc_responsive

Sketching nature, respect and wonder

A sketch of a shell. Sketching nature, respect and wonder
Sketching nature means looking closely. Photo by Geoff Toy.

By Geoff Toy

I grew up running around in the woods near my childhood home along the banks of the Chattahoochee River in Georgia. I spent a lot of time outside.

I’ve always been a sketcher and doodler, too (especially during classes). Drawing in school used to drive my teachers crazy, but it always helped me –  keeping my pencil moving kept my mind from wandering.

As I got older and worked on getting better at drawing, I looked for ways to combine my interests in the outdoors and in art.

Pencil in hand

My favorite way to connect with and immerse myself in nature is through nature journaling. Nature journaling is the process of closely observing something in nature and sketching (or writing) what you see, while paying attention to details and noticing everything you can about your subject. Really paying attention to the form and beauty of the natural world engenders respect and wonder, and practices the skill of slowing down, being curious, and really noticing what you’re looking at.

Sketching nature
Geoff’s recent sketches from a sketching program at the Campbell Creek Science Center in Anchorage. Photo by Geoff Toy.

I’ve done a lot of hiking and backpacking, and too often I found myself looking at a beautiful vista or gnarled tree while moving past it, not really paying attention to it – my thoughts were on the next bit of trail, or the map, or the weather. Looking with pencil in hand makes you notice things like the angle of the trees, the light across the valley, and the way a brightly reflective stream divides the hillside into separate shapes.

Drawing the sea rocks off the Oregon coast made me wonder about the geological processes that created such a dramatic landscape, for example, and led me to research the geologic history of the area.

Slowing down and paying close attention to nature helps me feel more connected, and makes me want to know more about what I’m looking at.  Fortunately, that’s a skill that helps with the practice of law too.

Three questions about spending time in/with nature

What do you think is the ideal amount of time for you to spend in/with nature? 

Ideally, a little time every day. Unfortunately, that isn’t always realistic (especially with the weather we’ve been having!), but at least a solid few hours every weekend.

Northern Lights, 2023. Photo by Geoff Toy.

What does a meaningful experience in nature look like for you? 

One where I stop thinking about everything else I have going on, and can be present in that place and time.

Describe one moment in nature/outdoors that left you with a sense of awe and connection? 

The first time I saw the northern lights here in Alaska. I’d seen pictures and videos before, but nothing prepared me for the awesome sense of scale of seeing the lights in person.

Geoff is a legal fellow with Trustees. His story is the thirteenth in a monthly series about how nature, getting outside, and being with land and water influences human health, resilience, connection, and purpose. Look for these stories in our monthly newsletters.

Previous stories in the series: