Written & photographed by Saraya Cheney, Assistant Director – Programs & Marketing
Before the clock strikes midnight on New Year’s Eve, many of us have already decided on our resolutions for the upcoming year. For 2020, I decided that I wanted to spend more time noticing the small shifts in the natural world, taking things in at a slower pace and try to create something, anything, at least once a week. While scrolling through my Instagram feed, I saw a post from one of my favorite Virginia artists, suggesting that the start of the year was a great time to begin a “perpetual journal”. I’d seen her post about these journals in the past, was mildly intrigued, but never really looked into it any further. After reading her lengthy post, I realized that this style of journaling ticked off all of my “resolution boxes” while leaving a lot of room for my own creativity and need for flexibility. I didn’t know at the time that this journal would become a meditative practice and provide connection to a wider online community during the time of COVID-19.
What is a Perpetual Journal?
A perpetual journal, in very basic terms, is a type of journal that goes on until all of the pages are filled.
How is this type of Perpetual Journal different?
This style of journal was conceived of by botanical artist, Lara Call Gastinger and involves documenting the natural world, through all seasons and over many years, in whichever medium feels best to you.
How to set up a Perpetual Journal:
Buy, or make, a blank journal. It should be small enough for you to be able to carry it with you. I personally enjoy square shaped journals and am loyal to a particular brand that makes beautiful 5″ x 5″ hardbound sketchbooks. Whatever size feels comfortable enough for you to carry along will make this practice all the more successful.
Break the journal down into 52 spreads (from January 1-7 through December 24-31) so that each two-page spread corresponds to one week. For example: January 1-7 would take up two pages, then January 8-14 would take up the next two pages and so on.
*You can start with the calendar year, but there’s no perfect time to start! Here are some other suggestions on when to start your journal: First Day of Summer (June 20th), an anniversary or your birthday
Draw, paint or write a nature observation. Be sure to include the year! I’ve decided to create my entire journal in pen & ink because that is the medium I work in the most but you can work in whatever medium you’d like, even mixing media. Just make sure that your journal is suitable for the medium you choose.
Return each year to add more observations until your journal is full!
There are no hard and fast rules dictating what should be included in your perpetual journal once you’ve set it up. A spread will have observations from multiple years. Weeks, or months, may be “missed” when life gets hectic. You can spend minutes or hours on your entries, it’s entirely up to you. This is for your observation, enjoyment, connection and growth!
If you are on social media, and would like to connect with others who participate in sharing their perpetual journals online, use the hashtag #lgperpetual journal. There is a large community of incredibly friendly artists and observers who enjoy the natural world and connecting with one another virtually!