Connect to Nature Creative Writing Class

03.06.2020

Whispering Trees….

Welcome back to another week of Connect to Nature Creative Writing. I’ve been thinking a lot about what to do for this week’s class, as for previous sessions – I have been re-visiting some of the classes we have covered at St Nick’s before lock down over the last few years – as well as adding in a mix of new things.

Prior to lock down I had planned to run a ten week Connect to Nature Class all about Trees, in fact, I used the theme of ‘All Things Twiggy‘ for our very session on here. Although services are slowly starting to make plans to return, it still feels early days in terms of getting groups back together, so I thought it might be nice to have another creative writing class on the theme of trees as I have some wonderful resources that I had collected together in preparation for that course.

Before we start – just a quick note re future sessions – I would love to hear from anyone who is enjoying the online classes and would like this blog to continue in the future. This was an accidental blog as the result of COVID and not being able to run my usual classes in person. There is potential for the online blog posts to run post COVID, I would be interested to hear thoughts on this – you can leave a comment or email me at e.mckenzie1@yorksj.ac.uk . For all those who are shielding and attend my regular class, don’t worry this online blog will continue for as long as it is helpful and there will be a regular class at St Nicks in the longer term when we are allowed to meet in public again 🙂 I’m really enjoying connecting with everyone online, and it has been nice to make some new friends from around the UK and worldwide along the way! Thank you for everyone’s lovely comments and the feedback that has been given already!

So that’s enough from me – this week’s theme is ‘Whispering Trees’, as I have been reading this brilliant book – all about how trees communicate! (Yes that’s right they communicate with each other!) A tree can send resources to another via the route systems, some trees also emit a chemical reaction when being eaten to warn other trees to do the same and make the leaves taste bad! So that’s where my inspiration started.

Task 1: (5 mins) A walk in the woodland. The other day I went for a beautiful walk along the River Nidd in Knaresborough. The river runs through the Nidd Gorge which is a gorgeous woodland valley. As I walked the trees were whispering in the breeze, branches creaked as they rubbed together. The birds were in full song and the river was babbling away.

In ten words can you describe the sounds of a woodland that you have walked through??

Task 2: (5 mins) Tree Stumps! I discovered through reading The Hidden Life of Trees that sometimes when a tree is felled its neighbours will continue to feed the roots and keep the stump alive for many years. Tree stumps make great seats to sit on, or a little picnic table! They are often homes to beetles, woodlice and other insects. If you are able to go out for a walk and find a stump spend five minutes observing it closely. What do you notice and find, is anything living there? Are any new shoots growing?

If you aren’t able to get outside choose one of the pictures below and try to describe it in detail. If you are stuck – imagine that you are trying to describe it as accurately as you can to someone on the other end of a phone! You might like to expand on what you think happened to the tree and which creatures inhabit it now.

Task 3: (10 mins) A special tree in my life! Artists and Writers often like to track the journey of the natural world around them. One lovely task is to choose a favourite tree and write about it at regular intervals between passing seasons. You can start today by choosing a favourite tree. This might be a tree in your garden, or a local park, or perhaps it’s a special tree that you only visit once or twice a year. Write from memory about the tree, when did you first encounter this tree, what are you drawn to about the tree, why do you like it?

Save your writing. When you can, visit your tree again, take time to observe the changes in your tree, make notes on the detail of the tree, what does the texture of the bark look like, does it have a full canopy of leaves or are its branches spindly? Perhaps it is a little sapling that you are nurturing? Make observations of the tree a regular habit and chart it’s progress across the year.

Task 4: (5 – 10 mins) The Life of a Tree. This is another book recommendation task! This beautiful book is full of prints made from slices of wood. You can read the lines of tree rings like fingerprints.

The rings of a tree can tell its life story, they show when there was rapid growth and when it slowed down. You can see where the bark cracked in dry weather, or where a new branch formed. Choose a cut tree either from one of the pictures below or from this link and write about the life of a tree in no more than one page. Where did the tree grow? Was it in a forest, a woodland or was it a lone tree? Did anyone visit the tree, did birds nest in the branches? Tell me about the tree’s journey.

If you have enjoyed these tasks you might also be interested in the Writing Maps company.

Writing Maps publish beautiful fold out A3 maps of creative writing tasks, there is one map all about trees – which is fabulous (see picture below – if you click on the pic it will take you to the website page for this map and a sneak preview at what’s inside!). I’m not under any commission from Writing Maps – they are just a resource that I found and have really enjoyed.

We have some lovely words due to be posted up this Friday – including some responses to the Tell it to the Bees Creative Writing Class that was posted up a few weeks ago.

Happy Writing!

Best wishes,
Emma

Published by Emma

Hi my name is Emma! I am a writer and artist. I work for the NHS at Converge (www.yorksj.ac.uk/converge) and I am also an MA graduate in Creative writing and am currently studying for a PhD in Humanities. I have been leading a creative writing class at the beautiful St Nicks in York (www.stnicks.org.uk) for the last five years. When I am not at work I'm on my allotment or at Base Camp (my home) planning new adventures.

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