Today I spent time with a friend in the forest, along the creek, and at the trickling falls. It is always nice to be with someone who notices the same way I do: with a still child-like sense of wonder and appreciation for the simple things in nature.

Toad 3-1While the photo above looks like an abstract, can you spy the critter hiding out down there under the water?

(You can click on the picture to make it bigger if you are the curious type!)

Pond skaters 2-1Pond skaters skating on the sky.

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Whirligigs are always entertaining to watch (if not a bit difficult to capture with camera).

bubbles 4-1Saponins make for the best bubbles and swirls along the churning creeks.

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Yes, the signs are few but clearly here.

 We have seem a lot of changes around these parts lately (fall leaves being the least of them), but the wonder and noticing never cease.

Are you taking time to notice little things?

I hope so.

~ Dawn



Web Walk


Saturday morning I woke early and noticing the misty morning I decided to walk out into the calm before the household woke up.

Truth be told, spider webs drew me out. When the foggy dew beads up on the fine silk of the webs there is just something magical about it. (Even if the spider does not think so. I imagine it to be quite annoying to them, but it evaporates soon enough.)

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Spending time getting up close with these little architects gives me an appreciation for the struggles faced during the day and how getting the work done, over and over, day after day, is just part of life.

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And things don’t always work as planned. The moth above flew right into this web as I was snapping the photo. Just as quickly it fluttered free and the spider, who had sprung into action a little too late, returned to waiting patiently for the next opportunity to come along.

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Sometimes getting wrapped up in the big picture feels heavy and unbearable. Sometimes it feels like there is no purpose, no light. But then I take a slow, purposeful walk around the yard, down the trail, at the seashore and I see the little things that make up this big world, and I know it is not my place to know everything, not my job to solve all of the problems, not my knowing everything that will make it all better. Sometimes it is just the noticing, the acknowledging, and the caring that make it all make sense.

If you are like me, and wonder about just how those droplets manage to form on spider silk, you might like to read this.

Thanks for taking a web walk with me and pondering things big and small.

~ Dawn

My Bullet Journal

I have been using a system called the Bullet Journal for over two years now. Someone recently shared a picture of their bullet journal in a group on Facebook and a discussion led to more folks asking about the system and how my use of this system has evolved. I figured it would be easier to write a post than share in the comments; and anyone else interested can check out the system as well.

I first heard about this system when someone mentioned it on twitter (I wish I could remember who). I watched this video and decided to jump in. I love “to do” lists and the idea of keeping lots of lists in one place so it seemed like a great system for me.

Over the years it has evolved and I have tweaked it to meet the demands of life at the time.

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At its core the bullet journal has pages with daily lists and an index in the front to keep track of everything. It might sound a bit strange to index a journal but it is amazing; I can’t believe how often I refer to my index, especially as the year goes on and I have more and more lists, notes, quotes, and other things added to the journal.

Instead of using the method in the video for the month and weeks I use a full spread for both a monthly calendar and each week. I don’t use the monthly calendar all that much but I like to have it for reference and some months I fill it in with notable things I want to remember, mostly moments or events I want to remember because something special happened. (Looks like February was rather unremarkable. Probably because my fingers were too frozen to write much!)

Bullet Journal month-1

For the weekly pages I give each day a box in the two page spread. It is laid out just like this Nature Jots page but filled with my daily to do lists. This can be easily changed to fit your needs. When I had multiple big projects on the go I broke these boxes into sections for each project, and my personal list.

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Over these last few months I have added full page spreads each week for my daily gratitude entries and daily nature notes. While I love the idea of having special journals for these things I know myself well enough now, and have a stack of mostly empty journals to show for the idea that I can’t keep track of too many journals!

Bullet Journal Book list-1

I number the pages as I go and have running lists for everything from books I want to read, essential oils I want to order, and quotes I want to remember. I always have it with me so I can easily take notes if I happen to stumble into a talk at the library, or just need to brainstorm some ideas for a project.

Bullet Journal Quote-1

That is about it.

It becomes really simple once you start using it, and while I still use my phone calendar to schedule appointments, etc… my bullet journal really is my hub for organization.

Do you keep a bullet journal? What tweaks have you made to the system?

If you have any questions please feel free to ask in the comments.

~ Dawn



Look Closely & Enjoy the Journey

Sometimes I see things through the lens of my camera that I would otherwise miss.

The other day I was exploring in the backyard and I wanted to get some pictures of the Labrador tea flowers. I started at one bunch and without much thought moved over to another.

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After snapping a photo I noticed the wing of a fly. Thinking it was feeding I kept my camera focused on it in hopes that it would come up and I could get a shot of it on top of the flowers. It did not move. Since flies are usually quite busy creatures it did not take long for me to figure out something was slightly off with this situation. I needed to get a closer, unobstructed view, so I lowered my camera and peeked up over the edge of the flowers.

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Much to my surprise I found that the fly was not feeding, but had been caught for someone elses lunch!

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Crab spiders are crafty critters and we often find these amazing ones on flowers. They tend to frequent the yarrow when it is blooming, but you have to get down really low and look under the flower head to find where the spider is hiding out, waiting to pounce.

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Countless time I have discovered things like this through the lens of my camera; things I would have most certainly missed had I not been focusing in on something to capture it for whatever reason (often to look it up later, but many times just to hold on to the beauty).

While some find it a distraction to take lots of photos while out on the trail, I find that it helps me to take a closer look at all of the small things around me, that often get overlooked when trekking along with just a destination in mind. It is my way to take the time to look closely and enjoy the journey!

Happy exploring!

And, don’t forget to enjoy the journey!


P.S. I have noticed that interest in these types of observations have gone though cycles with the kids. When they were very young I could easily interest them in these little details, but as they have gotten older (and have seen things like this so many times before) it takes a bit more to get them to stop in their tracks, or come running over to see what has been discovered. It is all a cycle and while the way we explore nature has changed over the years, I am hoping that my enthusiasm for all of the seasonal interactions that happen year after year will stick with them and someday they will be calling their kids over to see a crab spider lunching on a fly.

And when I called out this day, they still came over to investigate my spider and fly discovery!

Summer Nature Camp!


Want to come to summer nature camp with me?

Over at Mud Puddles to Meteors we are offering a super fun and exciting Summer Nature Camp!

Annie and I have been pulling together some great topics, resources, book lists, and projects for you and yours. It is going to be a month filled with exploration, learning, and the great outdoors!

Check out more information and sign up over on Mud Puddles!

Wildflower Hunting (and pressing)

One of my nature goals this year is to learn more about our local wildflowers. I want to be able to ID them easily, learn more about their history and uses, and get accustom to their timing in the seasons.

With that in mind I have been on a wildflower hunt this spring, seeking out the spots where I know specific flowers grow to check on their timing, and watch their development from leaf, to bud, to flower, and beyond.

forget me not-1forget me not


IMG_5384-1wild strawberry

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Flower purple-1creeping veronica (not wild but so adorable)

IMG_5358-1blueberry blossoms

I have also started gathering them to press!

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While I dream of someday having one of those large wooden flower presses with a beautiful botanical design etched into the top, I am realizing that it would be largely decorative because I am much more effective simply using large books I picked up for a dollar at the nature center sale. (That fact that they are old bird books give me bonus points, right?)

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It is easy to add more flowers to a book without disturbing what I have already added, and what could be more simple than opening a page mid-book and arranging a few flowers between pieces of paper? It might not be the most effective way to “properly” press a flower, but if I find a bulky flower press with four screws to undo, and nuts and bolts to keep track of, disruptive to the process then I might never press any flowers. And, I find that when the kids want to press something, it is very simple to grab one of the big bird books we have designated as press books and let them press away.

This book method also allows for easy access to check on the drying process without the task of unscrewing the whole press.

As I type this I feel like maybe I am just being lazy, but nature study is about learning and having fun with nature, and if I find something is even somewhat irritating (and I have another way to go about accomplishing it) why not choose an easier alternative, keeping it fun, and progress toward a goal?

This is nothing new; I know people have been pressing plants in books for many moons, but sometimes we need reminders to keep it simple and not feel like we need special tools and gadgets to accomplish a goal.

Have you been pressing any flowers this spring?

Do you love your flower press to pieces or are you a book person like me?

Happy Exploring!

~ Dawn

Let it go…

Cleveland Beach 1-1IMG_5199-1Crab 1-1Fionna finding-1Wavey Whelk-1Cleveland beach play 1-1Crab-1

Yesterday did not go as planned.

We had made plans to head into the city for a picnic in the Public Gardens and to take in a shark autopsy (necropsy) at the Museum of Natural History. Not everyone was thrilled about the plans from the start, but I persisted because one kiddo was slightly interesting in the shark part, and I have been really wanting to go to the gardens this spring.

By the time the house started stirring in the morning I could tell things might not work out as planned. There was resistance to going into the city. There was resistance to seeing a dead shark. There was simply a feeling of wanting to stick closer to home.

I thought about going alone. That would not have been the end of the world, but I also wanted to have a family day. By mid-morning I realized that the best thing to do was to let it go.

Let go of the idea in my head. Let go of the resistance. Let go of the plans.

While I don’t always believe changing plans because of resistance is the right thing to do, in this case it was just what we needed.

We all needed a simple day to relax, connect and simply be.

We puttered around the house; we caught up on chores; we went to the beach down the road; and we roasted dinner over the fire out back.

I would say it was a pretty great Plan B.

Just what we needed.

~ Dawn



Infectious Wonder

The other day I was taking the trash out and saw a peculiar thing on the driveway. I went over to investigate and found that ants were building the most intriguing funnels of dirt. I watch for bit then went in to get the kids.

Ant hill 1-1

They were both very deep in their own individual pursuits, but it was almost time to rouse them up to head outside anyway so I told them I had seen something super cool and could not wait to show them. They were excited and begged for me to tell them. Finally I said, “The ants in the driveway are building the coolest structures! You guys have to see!” Their response was less than enthusiastic. In fact, it kinda stalled the process of heading outside all together. “What? Ants? We have seen tons of ants! What’s the big deal?” I was not going to let my own excitement be hampered by their reaction. So I quietly got my things together and headed back outside. They followed (dragging feet) determined to pay no mind to my ants!


It would seem that my enthusiasm was a bit infectious because they eventually came over to join me as I sat on the driveway watching the ants carry sand, grain by grain, out of their nest. What started out with complacency ended with all kinds of inquiries about how they build (using their saliva as concrete?), what they would do if we supplied them with sugar (which we did and it was fascinating), and plans to build an ant farm in Minecraft!




So, my curiosity and wonder carried the day and led the way to investigation and inspiration. It was a good reminder to keep my own interest in nature alive, while giving the kids the time they need to come around to whatever it is I am so inthralled with, be it ants, cloud formations or the way raindrops are hitting the water.

Happy Exploring,


“How do you get your kids outside all of the time?”

Everyday Nature for Families Collage

Everyday Nature for Families

My workshop “Everyday Nature for Families” (which starts June 1st) was inspired by the parents who have asked me,

“How do you get your kids outside all of the time?”

Often they assume that since my kids are nature lovers it is easy to get them motivated to head out to explore. While it is true that more times than not they are ready and willing to head out for a hike, it has taken work and dedication to get to that point, and there are days when I still struggle to get them outside.

So how do I get them engaged and outside, even when all they really want to do

is sit on the couch with the iPad?

I can give you a few of my secrets:

– I unplug and get outside with them!

Yes, kids follow our lead and when we are distracted and engaged with the other outside world, the digital world, we are sending a message about what we think is important. We must unplug, leave our phones behind (or at least tucked away, on mute), and head out with them!

– I wonder! Wonder! Wonder!

This is by far one of the most effective ways to get my kids engaged. When our kids hear us wonder about how things work and why things do what they do, it sparks a process in them the carries their own wonderings and leads to amazing discoveries about our world and their place in it!

– I Get dirty (and encourage them to do the same)!

I am not talking about a head-to-toe mud bath here (although that would probably do everyone a whole lot of good) but truly engaging in the natural world without worrying about wet shoes, dirty knees or icky fingers. When we say no to dirt, we are saying no to the natural world and throwing up barriers to engagement. Say yes to dirt, and bring along change of socks and some wet wipes wherever you go!

Everyday Nature Collage

By doing those three things I am sending a message about what I think is important and instilling in them the value of spending time connecting with our natural world.

My workshop Everyday Nature for Families is all about helping parents get their kids unplugged and outside using engaging, yet simple, activities to spark wonder, ignite curiosity, lay a foundation for deeper investigation and bring their family closer together through a connection with nature.

Click on over to the main page for Everyday Nature with Families to learn more about the workshop and how it can benefit you and your family (even if you already get outside daily)!

It starts JUNE 1st and I would love to have you join me for 2 weeks of diving deeper into nature!

~ Dawn

P.S. If you know parents who have asked you how you get your kids outside, please send this along to them and hopefully we can help them get their kids out and engaged, just like your kids!