Moving Forward: A New Central Coast Community Nature Journaling Together

Written by Judy Salamacha

February 16, 2024

Sharon Lovejoy and her husband, Jeff Prostovich, share a journal page during the recent Morro Bay Bird Festival. Photo by Judy Salamacha

A rare experience is coming to Los Osos. Are you curious on your nature walks and want to learn more about what you are seeing and hearing around you? Are you someone who likes to write and sketch when out and about on our beautiful Central Coast? Do you already journal but would love to meet-up with others who nature journal? Do you have children at that age where everything in their world becomes another question to answer? Maybe it’s time to explore some answers together.  

You’re invited to a gathering at the Los Osos Elfin Forest on Sunday, February 25 from 10 a.m.-11:30 a.m. to discover a multitude of lifestyle benefits while enjoying the outdoors and nature journaling.  If you go, the Elfin Forest is adjacent to the Morro Bay Estuary, so park on 11th or 12th Streets, enter at the trailheads, then find Mary Strum. She will be welcoming prospective members interested in forming a Central Coast Nature Journal Club.

What is nature journaling? If you attended the 2024 Morro Bay Bird Festival, then you might have attended John Muir Laws keynote presentation. He is the author of The Laws Field Guide to the Sierra Nevada, The Laws Guide to Nature Drawing and Journaling, and How to Teach Nature Journaling co-authored with Emilie Lygren, who also had workshops during the festival particularly for teens. Laws describes journaling during a nature visit as interactive “collecting and organizing observations, questions, connections, and explanations on pages of a notebook using words, pictures, and numbers.” Mary has experience at least two of Laws’ training retreats.

Professionally Mary Strum has been a nutritionist for forty years so why the interest in promoting a Central Coast Nature Journal Club? At the retreat led by Laws at his Sierra Nevada Field Camp, she said, “In one week, we were twenty-five people who are still connected. I loved being in that community and I thought there must be people around Los Osos who would love to be in a group with nature journaling as our common reason to get together.”

Why a February gathering so soon after the Bird Festival? Timing was perfect to launch Mary’s quest to coalesce a local group. She was able to spend the entire Community Family Day introducing attendees to Nature Journaling. She has been preparing the February gathering with her mentor Anne Marie Bergen, Program Associate for the Wild Wonder Foundation. Laws is the president of the nonprofit foundation created to encourage nature journaling worldwide. Laws(’) books and speaking engagements have been the catalyst to more than 45,000 clubs throughout the western hemisphere according to Wild Wonder’s Facebook page. 

In fact, Mary shared a copy of “Your Quick Start Guide to Nature Journaling,” which is a colorful booklet that can be downloaded at onto a single 8X11 piece of paper and folded pocket-sized for easy reference. It has useful tips and suggested supplies anticipating a first outing on 2/25 at the Elfin Forest.  

Why does Mary Sturm want to share nature journaling? “I am not the artist in the family. My brother, Chris, is but I love being in nature. Usually I’m a loner, but at retreats I have enjoyed the feeling of being connected. It also forces me to slow down.” She admits her sketching skills have grown with continued practice over the past ten years, including her time spent as a substitute naturalist at Camp KEEP giving nature walks to the students. “I don’t journal to produce a pretty picture. Everyone needs to start where they are comfortable and not be intimidated by expectations of a finished product.” 

What can you expect February 25? Mary will introduce nature journaling as an ongoing club activity. Families are welcome with parent supervision. Better yet, prepare the children to be involved in the process of searching and sketching. After her presentation, time will be allowed for wandering the Elfin Forest to intently discover something of interest to record in your personal journal. Then the group will reconvene to discuss their experience and share their journaling if so inclined. 

Why my sincere endorsement? I’m confident you will enjoy the process, learn some tips to enhance your nature walks and meet like-minded new associates like Mary Strum. She guarantees, “If you give into it, the world will melt away.”            

How did I arrive at my endorsement? I intended this column to focus on my personal quest learning about nature journaling with author/illustrator Sharon Lovejoy at the 2024 Morro Bay Bird Festival, but during Sharon’s workshop she recommended the group take the next step and meet with Mary on a more regular basis. My column deadline required I share Mary’s mission and invitation first.  

However, allow me a bit of teaser for a future story about Sharon Lovejoy. Over the years I have written numerous articles about the Morro Bay Bird Festival, but I was always onto the next story instead of gifting myself with one of its many alluring workshops. Sharon’s session fulfilled a trifecta of reasons I needed to be present: (1) Sharon is a beloved SLO-based multiple New York Times Best Selling author ( Some of her books are “Roots Shoots Buckets & Boots,” “Sunflower Houses,” and her latest “Camp Granny” – this latter title she assured me did not intend in any way to leave out Mommy, Auntie, Sissy, and Bestie. (2) I have fond memories of visiting Heart’s Ease in Cambria with my daughter. Sharon once owned the property and welcomed visitors to her shop and garden. She explained when her author-life changed and writing, traveling, and speaking ruled, she sold the store. Current owner, Kathryn Clayton, continues to welcome customers at Spellbound Herbs Gift Shop & Garden. (3) My goal attending Sharon’s workshop was to enhance my personal writing skills learning “How to Capture Your Moments & Memories on Paper” and sharing her story and tips in a future column.  

Indeed, on January 14th at the SLO Botanical Garden I did attend Sharon’s sold-out-plus-plus workshop. I did take lots of notes. And I did reconnect and visit with Sharon about Heart’s Ease. I also met Sharon’s wonderfully supportive, business-manager husband, Jeff Prostovich, and I learned Sharon’s mission is “cultivating wonder” one book at a time.” She is just as perky, just as lovely, just as sincere and interested in sharing her experiences with bugs and leaves, seeds and acorns, herons and owl poop, live things, and dead things all because they tell a story, and she is storyteller of nature’s scientific curiosities.

I plan to expand what I learned workshopping with Sharon Lovejoy – but only after I experience Camp Granny magic with my great-great grandson, Darius. Sharon is a doer … I better “do” before I report.   

Meanwhile, if you are considering participating in the Central Coast Nature Journaling Club get-together on February 25th at the Elfin Forest, be sure to ask Mary to tell all about her face-off with Mama Bear. Yes, another teaser! Mary Strum is the only one who can tell her own nature story, so you won’t soon forget it or her quest. 

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