Week 4: Words from the Wild


Hi Everyone,

I hope that everyone is enjoying the new class and our combination of creative writing and book club! Last week we read to the end of chapter three in the book Maria Sibylla Merian: Artist, Scientist, Adventurer by Sarah B Pomeroy and Jayaraney Kathirithamby

We discovered that Maria decided to set out on her travels abroad, aged 51, with her daughter who was 21 at the time, to explore painting exotic plants and creatures. This was highly unusual for the time.

During the class last week we talked about what the journey would have involved, including travelling by tall ship. This led us to discuss navigating by stars and map making. At home I have been reading Wild: An Elemental Journey by Jay Griffiths (another fantastic book). In her book Jay Griffiths talks about indigenous cultures. On a section she has written on map making Griffiths compares the Western culture of making maps to ‘get somewhere’ or to ‘get things’ with indigenous map making which is more about recognising a landscape that we know intimately as we would a family portrait and might include spiritual elements alongside physical places.

All the talk of travel and maps got me inspired to write this weeks tasks on map making. I hope that you enjoy them, and for anyone who wants to know more about navigating by stars I found a great website here.

Task 1: (5 mins) In indigenous cultures maps are often used not as a means of getting to, or hold of, something, but more as a portrait of a landscape that we understand intimately. Write down the names of three places that mean something to you and then describe in a few sentences what draws you to that place.

Task 2: (10 mins) Describing place from the heart. In this task I want you to think about a regular walk that you go on or place that you visit outdoors. Can you start a story describing that special place? Perhaps you are with another person in your story and you are leading them to the place? If you can invent a name for the area.(e.g. There is a local copse of young trees near to my home. We have nicknamed the trees the ‘Rattling Trees’ due to the noise they make on a windy day. We often go there to play hide and seek. The family would know where to meet me if I arranged to meet them at the Rattling Trees.)
Write for ten minutes about your place.

Task 3: (5 mins) Different perspectives. Imagine that you are a wild animal (e.g. a deer, hedgehog, squirrel or rabbit). Can you describe the landscape in which you live and map it out for us? Perhaps you are a squirrel giving us a detailed account of your favourite tree, or a dog navigating a park by his nose?

I hope you enjoyed these tasks!
See you next week 🙂

Best wishes,

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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