Witnessing the World of Spring Beyond the Front Step

by Jacquelyn Toupin

After we’ve grown weary of cozy days by the fire, our family looks forward to the outdoor activities spring will invite. Often we begin with yearly traditions such as garden planning, seed ordering, baby chick snuggling, and reading stories that inspire thoughts of warmth and sun.

Each year we plant a terrarium with seedlings and watch them grow, long before we can plant outside. The kids and I make bird feeders to invite new friends to our windows, and we sit outside on the days above freezing and eat our lunches together. We are anxious to welcome this new season into our lives.

One of our favourite activities at this time of year is nature journaling. It’s a low maintenance, simple way for us to spend time together in the fresh air. We purchase inexpensive notebooks from the store or customize something unique by stitching together sheets of white and lined paper on the sewing machine. After picking different covers for everyone’s books and scrawling Nature Journal across the fronts, we’re set. We—my three youngest children and I—grab our pencils and books and head outdoors.

There are many different milestones of spring to observe and record. Often we begin by noting what’s new about the day. What things can we hear, touch, see, and feel that are different than on our last walk? That little green shoot we saw just inching through the dirt yesterday?  It’s standing taller today, and we think it could be an onion from last year’s bulbs!

Many times what we notice, especially during late winter, are items left over from last fall. These findings tend to be things we overlooked as unimportant during autumn’s bounty; now, though, after a stark, cold winter, everything the melting snow reveals takes on new excitement. Brown, crispy sunflower faces can be snipped and set out on the front porch to entice the birds to come just a little bit closer for us to sketch in our journals. Last year’s fairy houses become new treasures and some round flat stones we find will inspire this summer’s vegetable markers for our garden.

“Brown, crispy sunflower faces can be snipped and set out on the front porch to entice the birds to come just a little bit closer for us to sketch in our journals.”

Next, we wander past a bird’s nest, perched amongst the cedars. We’re careful not to get too close, but we can hear the joyful sound of babies peeping. My youngest stops to draw a picture of a baby and a mama birdy while his older sister writes a quick note about what she sees.

As the days go by, our nature journals become chronicles of everything the world beyond the front step has to offer us. In taking the time to witness these small changes, we learn to slow down and appreciate the beauty of something small yet great. We become more mindful with the realization that we are part of something much bigger than ourselves, and I hope, in time, this fosters a sense of environmental responsibility for my children.

Over the years, we’ve begun to notice the patterns surrounding us. We now know where the first blooms of spring will appear. We know the heirloom rose bush bloomed at the end of May when we first moved in, but last year, with the changes in weather, it bloomed at the end of June. We know after the roses are at their fullest, if we look closely enough in the long grass, we can find tiny, wild strawberries: a sure sign summer is here.

Like the season, our attentiveness to our spring journals will fade, making way for summer adventures. But next year, with the whirring of the sewing machine, we’ll whip up a new set of journals, grab our pencils and head outside once again in pursuit of new findings to chronicle. 

Jacquelyn Toupin and her partner Tyler live with their family on a farm that’s been in her family for four generations. You can read about their adventures on her blog, Makin Hays at www.whilethesunsshine.com, and follow their Facebook page, Element Studios, for updates on creative workshops and dance classes.

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