Field Journal Author Hopes to Deepen Connection Between People and Nature

The Northwest Montana Field Journal is expected to published in April.

By Mike Kordenbrock
Illustrator and author Allie Maloney of Whitefish on Feb. 10, 2022. Hunter D’Antuono | Flathead Beacon

One page at a time Whitefish resident Allie Maloney is writing and illustrating a blueprint for how both locals and tourists can deepen their connection with northwest Montana’s vast tracts of wild land and the species that live there.

The final form of Maloney’s work will be the “Northwest Montana Field Journal,” which she anticipates will hit shelves in April. The 80-page book will have journal prompts, activities, illustrations, and informational sections to further Maloney’s goal of connecting people with the natural world.

“The underlying mission for this is people will connect to nature in a deeper way, people will develop a sense of place,” Maloney said, adding that there is scientific evidence that a connection to nature and sense of place are documented phenomenon that can make people happier and healthier. Her book is set to hit shelves during what she sees as a time of unease for some in the Whitefish community.

“There’s a lot of angst and concern about who is here and who is allowed to be here and who can stay here and who should go home, and this is my area of expertise where I can influence that in a positive way,” she said.

The Adirondack Field Journal by Allie Maloney of Whitefish on Feb. 10, 2022. Maloney is working on a field journal of a similar format for Northwest Montana. Hunter D’Antuono | Flathead Beacon

In broad terms Maloney’s area of expertise is in outdoor education. She has worked as a camp counselor, trail crew leader, tall ship restorer, wilderness therapy field staffer and a professional backpacking guide. Currently she’s leading 30-day backpacking expeditions and teaches wilderness first aid. The “Northwest Montana Field Journal” is not the first book she has authored. While earning her master’s degree from SUNY Cortland in recreation management, Maloney completed the “Adirondack Field Journal” which has served as a model for her current work.

Part of what Maloney hopes to achieve with the field journal is for people who use it to accelerate their connection with nature. “When you’re coming to Glacier for a week, that’s not enough time to really develop a true sense of place like a local has,” Maloney said.

The goal though is to also reach everyday locals. One way to achieve that is to get her work on the shelves of local businesses, like the Whitefish bookstore Bookworks.

Illustration and writing by Allie Maloney of Whitefish on Feb. 10, 2022. Hunter D’Antuono | Flathead Beacon

Among the many journaling prompts in the book about half will be nature journal prompts and half will be self-awareness.

“There’s some research that says doing self-awareness exercise in natural spaces helps deepen your connection to nature. Not only do you learn about yourself, you create more lasting memories of the place,” Maloney said.

The work on the book also comes as Maloney reflects on the way the pandemic has changed her relationship with nature. Not wanting to risk straining search and rescuers Maloney missed out on backpacking and hiking in the summer of 2020. Work kept her busy in 2021 as well, all of which amounted to more brief hikes and trips than she’d become accustomed to over a decade-plus span where spending eight to 10 weeks sleeping in a tent was the norm.

For the “Northwest Montana Field Journal” Maloney said she’s taking in some instances between four and eight hours a page between mapping out the concept, doing the research, distilling it down onto the page, and completing illustrations.

While the book is in the works, Maloney is also producing stickers, posters, postcards and bookmarks with her own artwork depicting regional plants and animals. All of those items are to some degree byproducts of teaching herself digital illustration. She’s even taking on contracts for dog portraits, and has used her young golden doodle Tula (short for Spatula) as a model. Maloney typically uses reference photos to develop an outline and then adds layers and layers of color until the final image emerges.

An illustration of a pizza rising over Big Mountain on a sticker by Allie Maloney of Whitefish on Feb. 10, 2022. Hunter D’Antuono | Flathead Beacon

People can also sign up for a sticker of the month club where they’ll be guaranteed a monthly piece of snail mail. All this works towards incrementally furthering Maloney’s goal of helping people learn about the natural world around them. She’s believes that those subtle layers of education can help people learn how to be a good human outside, both towards each other, and towards plants and animals.

“Yes, it’s about art. But it’s more about art and education, and so like every piece I do I want people to learn something.”

Allie Maloney’s work can be purchased online at nwmtfieldjournal.com. The Northwest Montana Field Journal is currently available for preorder.

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