Week 8: Words from the Wild. Taking Inspiration from The Lost Spells.

In 2020 nature writer Robert MacFarlane and fantastic artist Jackie Morris published The Lost Spells, a book of poetry about the natural world lit up by beautiful illustrations.

The poems, or spells, are designed to be read out loud, to bring to life the magic of the natural world. It is a truly beautiful book that I would highly recommend.

This week we chose two ‘spells’ which were Oak and Jay. Jays love to eat acorns and live compatibly with oak trees! This weeks creative writing tasks are designed around the Oak and the Jay as inspiration. I was even lucky enough to meet a 200 year old oak tree as part of my research!

Task 1: This week I used an excellent chart from the Woodland Trust to guesstimate the age of an oak tree. The oak that I found was estimated to be around 200 years old. That meant it germinated around the time that the first ever railway line was built and before the first air flight had ever taken off. Write a letter to the Oak asking any questions you would like to know about what it has observed over the last 200 years, let the Oak know your hopes for the future.

Task 2: Sprouting acorns. Did you know that only one in every 10,000 acorns actually germinates? That makes you realise just how special each tree is! If you could plant one oak tree somewhere, where would it be any why? Would it be watching over a special view? Or in the garden of a special place? See where your imagination takes you.

Task 3: The Jay. Jay’s are part of the Carrion Family of crows. Their staple food are acorns, so where there are Oaks there will also be Jays. Jays also have beautiful blue feathers that are reported to be magical. Write for five minutes reflecting on a special plant or animal that you feel attached to or identify with. Perhaps it is a type of flower that holds a special memory, or a type of bird that you enjoy the colour of? If you can’t think of anything spend some time out in nature and choose something that inspires you.

Task 4: Sketching an Oak Tree. The opening of the Oak poem reads as follows:

‘Out on the hill, old Oak still stands:

stag headed, fire-struck, bare-crowned,

stubbornly holding its ground.‘

(Robert MacFarlane)

Can you find a tree that you look out on, or from one of your walks? Describe the tree using metaphors as Robert MacFarlane has done in this second stansa comparing the branches to a stag’s head which immediately makes you think of the shapes of antlers. In five lines can you compare aspects of the tree to other things? E.g what does the texture of the bark remind you of? What is the shape of the overall tree like? What patterns do the branches form?

See what other spells you can find this week!

I look forward to hearing from you, do email me your words, or leave me a note in the comments.

Best wishes,

Images of Jays all taken from Pixabay.

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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