When you are journaling for your child, one of the simplest and most dramatic ways to start a journal entry is with a description of the weather or something about nature that you have recently observed. Because? Writing about the weather and nature invokes a spiritual response in us, inviting us to become aware and appreciate this moment, this day. And, when we awaken our own spirituality, we also transmit it to the future reader of the newspaper.

Centering the Spirit

Taking a few moments to describe our physical environment in a journal entry is like taking a deep breath, noticing our feelings, our state of mind: the emotional climate of Being on any given day. Reading May Sarton’s published journal, House by the Sea, inspired me to begin each journal entry with a description of the day’s weather. When Sarton wakes up, she opens her diary and realizes the natural world around her, she also wakes up the reader:

Saturday, November 16, 1974

“A serene sunrise. I first saw the sun bathing my desk in a rich orange light, I sat up and caught the red disc just as it stopped for a second exactly on the edge of the horizon. It’s so quiet around me that a moment ago when A single wave broke, I was startled by its soft roar”.

~ May Sarton, The House by the Sea

Writing about nature puts us in a reflective frame of mind, offering a meditative opportunity to center ourselves before embarking on a busy day with kids, work, homework, too much to do, or too many places to be. Writing about the beauty of the landscape lifts our spirits, generates energy and enthusiasm instead of irritation and stress. And, as Sarton reminds us, writing about the landscape at the end of the day can help us realize and reckon with our blessings:

Tuesday afternoon, October 7, 1974

A wonderful day here. . . and now the most perfect blue sea of ​​Fra Angelico, no wind, the sunset barely touching the end of the field. Perfectly still, except for the cry of a distant jay.

I must try to write down exactly what happened, because it was a great day. . .

~ May Sarton, The House by the Sea

setting the stage

Starting an entry with a description of nature appeals to the playwright in me, who likes to set the stage for the action that is about to take place. Regardless of the geographic region in which we live, we can observe subtle or dramatic aspects of our physical world that make journaling more fulfilling for us as writers and more compelling to our readers, who, reading the stories in our journal, may time many years in the future. , will draw on our description of the observable world to gain a sense of place, time, mood, and meaning.

Turning to the pages of last year, I separate a fragment from each child’s journal, piecing together a short story about our family’s move last year:

To Frances, (5 years old) November 21, 2002

foggy. Cold. Grey. Bleak. I’ve got laryngitis, dad’s out until tomorrow, Landon missed the bus and it caused the domino effect. I had to take everyone. You were mad because you were embarrassed to be late and I’m sick with Land’s cold so I’m not as sensitive and understanding as I’d like to be and the house is on the market!

To Perri (10 years old) February 5, 2003

Cold, but manageable! Dark. You rest on the sofa watching TV and drinking tea. You have a terrible sore throat. . . .

Well, yesterday we sold the house.


To Landon, (age 14) March 26, 2003

My first entry since I moved in on Friday night. My balcony door was flung open, birds were singing, a sweet, light, warm breeze was blowing in, flooded with sunlight. It’s Spring. And we are home!

The first thing you and Joey did on Saturday. The morning after I moved in was climbing over my balcony railing and sitting on the roof! . . .

Symbol, Metaphor and Meaning

Whether we intend this or not, the aspects of nature we observe in our children’s journals can become fascinating symbols that add unexpected emotional depth to the stories we keep. Like favorite poems and stories we reread throughout our lives, journal entries contain symbols whose meaning may become clearer or more compelling as we grow and change.

The other night I opened my youngest daughter’s journal from last September when she started first grade, a transition that hasn’t been an easy one for her. I was struck by the power of the symbols that I spontaneously captured in the first entries. I start the second entry with a description of her stress about learning to read, then digress into a fictional story I make up on the spot about the real baby snapping turtles we keep encountering on our walks, newly hatched, beginning their solitary journeys and treacherous to the life-sustaining Charles River, which they must reach to survive:

To Franci (6 years old), September 29, 2003

You’re at school, feeling “pushed around” by a Mrs. O— who is very nice in the parents’ face, but turns into a villain in the classroom in front of the kids. The children she puts so much pressure on to learn to read.

But, it doesn’t matter now. I have notes to write, a story to tell, which is taking shape, for you and me:

Tiny (with “i”)

June burst into bloom. The river grew. The great mother turtle lumbered up the muddy bank, away from the rushing water, across the grassy field, to the edge of the woods. She was looking for a hidden piece of land.

“There is!” she grunted with the effort. She would make her baby’s nest. Near dusk, she began to dig. Then, one by one, she laid the soft, leathery eggs in the dirt, placing them with her foot. She counted each one as she fell. “One… Two… Twenty… Thirty-five… Fifty-eight… At dawn, she carefully covered the nest. Then, taking one last look, she turned to go… .

The great mother turtle did not know which, or how many, of her beloved eggs would survive. Many would start the journey to the river. A few would make it. She hoped she could meet one of them one day, swimming swiftly alongside her in the current.

When Tini the turtle bit into the last fragment of the egg, the late summer sun shone brightly. . .

Creativity, Clarity and Comfort

And so begins the story of the mother who must be separated, who must trust that one of her special eggs will find its way to the river of life and find its way back to her! I did not consciously know why I was forced to write a story about turtles in my daughter’s journal at that time. Perhaps the fairytale quality of the story my daughter told me about her teacher inspired my fiction.

Upon reflection, I realize that the story is leading me to the wisdom of My Great Mother, helping me navigate the emotional complexity of my daughter’s journey into the world of the classroom. The creative impulse opens a magical door in my heart and I ask myself: How might thinking of my first grade daughter as Tini the turtle help me to help her learn to read? Tini, that she reads like a tortoise in a room full of hares? Ah yes, the tortoise and the hare! Slow and steady wins the race!

Writing this journal story helped me find the clarity and express the comfort we both need as we go our separate ways in the world in the context of a deep and enduring connection with each other.

Copyright 2004 by Kelly DuMar, M.Ed.

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