In total, I will complete six Field Journals (FJs) in my moleskin, pocketsize notebook about a tree that I have chosen (more so it chose me by catching my eye) and completing writing prompts about it. In these prompts, I will write about both my outdoor experience, "Outdoor Description," with my tree (and other flora/fauna) and an indoor, "Further Reflections" aspect of the FJs.
You might be asking, "Why a tree?" It is explained in the overview as such: "Your tree will be your anchor for these journals, the place that you return to throughout the semester with fresh questions ... First, trees are particularly good subjects because they do not move (at least not very far). Second, trees are -- when left to their own devices -- usually long-lived; therefore, they combine a historical perspective with ecological immediacy in a unique way. Third, unless you are a botanist, trees often escape our notice. They are just there, being trees, as we go about our lives." My professor says, "It is my hope that these journals will open up your senses to the extraordinary things happening in the midst of what we usually think of as entirely ordinary. Getting to know this tree will offer you a window to look at the world in ways that you may have never considered -- you, and the tree, may never be the same because of it." Don't those words just clench your heart? They clench mine!
The basic FJ steps/tips are:
1. Going to your tree without any electronic devices, bags or anything -- just the moleskin journal and writing instrument.
2. Upon arriving, take a few moments to breathe deeply, relax and clear your head.
3. At the top of the entry, write down the date, time, temperature (best guess) and other observable weather phenomenon (e.g. wind direction and strength, cloud cover, etc).
4. After reading the outdoor prompt, "Outdoor Description," take at least half an hour to jot down field notes: words, images, sketches and sentence fragments that can be used to recall and reflect upon the experience once inside for the "Further Reflection" portion of the prompt.
I will publish these FJs in six parts, just as if I were handing them in. I have polished them up somewhat, but the basic rawness is still apparent (especially in my sketches). For the sake of this MNN article, I will give a brief synopsis of the prompts, readings and so forth, so that it somewhat makes sense ... no promises, though. I hope that I am the next Aldo Leopold with my FJs full of the love I hold for nature and its creatures. Thank you, Dr. Van Horn.