Well I have to admit that my walk this afternoon got scuppered by the rain! For those of you that know me well this wouldn’t usually put me off….but today just seemed more of a batton the hatches and get the fire lit day!
Reflecting on Melissa Harrison’s writing and today’s creative writing tasks (see previous blog post) I have been thinking about our connection to nature at home and the way in which we adapt to introduce different species into our home environments – both in house plants (check out my orchid that should be in a jungle), my cats (that originated from desert animals) and even the plants and flowers still in bloom in my yard that we have cultivated to grow in pots.
I think one mistake we often make as humans is to consider ourselves separate from the natural world, when we are in fact just another part of it. I’m sure many animals in the wild were hunkering down in nests and burrows today, my animal instincts definitely told me to stay indoors and stay cosy, even the dog agreed!
I’ll be off out later for an evening walk r to record the night time colours and reflections that I see (I’ve included a few pics from previous days evening walks where I have enjoyed the interaction of nature with man made structures).
Hope you stayed cosy too and enjoyed the creative writing tasks! See you next week! Emma
Hello everyone! Welcome to another week of Words from the Wild creative writing and literature class. At the moment we are reading ‘The Stubborn Light of Things’ by Melissa Harrison and thinking about our daily interactions with nature. This week William has chosen pages 55 -61 as our focus. The following tasks are inspired by Melissa’s words and observations:
Task 1: (5 mins) Melissa talks about daily walks with her dog Scout and noticing the seasons as they change. In ten words write a description of walking through Autumn leaves.
Task 2: (5 mins) Mixed up nature! I couldn’t resist reading on from the first two chapters of The Stubborn Light of Things last week. Melissa discusses the interactions that she has with wildlife in the city and also the fact that Britain is now home to a few strange species that have escaped from captivity and are now successfully integrated into our nature. An example of this are Aesculapian snakes that have bred in Camden Locks and are helpful for controlling the pest population. Using one of the following titles write an imaginary news article on something mixed up in the natural world:
An Elephant seen swimming in the River Ouse!
The deer who thought she was a dog.
The Robin who only sings at night.
The Qwl who haunted the day.
Task 3: (10 mins) There are lots of initiatives to start re-wilding places in urban landscapes. I recently read a letter in York Press asking why the Racecourse meadow (the inner part of the field) couldn’t be re-wilded instead of mowed lawn. Apparently, it used to be a beautiful meadow of long grass that was home to many sky larks.
Imagine that the Racecourse has been re-wilded write about the difference that you see on a visit there and make comparisons to before and after.
Task 4: (5 mins) Daily Interactions. This week on my regular walks I enjoyed meeting crows. I photographed them from a distance and then made paintings and sketches of them when I returned home. Write about a daily interaction that you have with nature. It could be a lovely walk, or an observation of a particular species.
As we weren’t able to meet at St Nicks today I took myself on a little urban walk to think about the creative writing tasks and to interact with the natural world. I tried to persuade my ‘Cat-shund’ to join me but she was too busy snuggling on the sofa to be bothered! So instead I took my flask and found a lovely bench to record these observations:
Observations from a city bench
The crows are unsettled
Calling to each other from the guttering
Stretching coal wings over slate pan-tiles.
A wagtail skips through the air crossing the street
The last yellow sunflowers turn weary heads
Towards a weakening sun
I hear the scrape of a rake on a path
And the jingle and shake of a collar
As a dog is released to run free
The low hum of traffic is shushed
By the rattling of the last brittle leaves
Clinging hopelessly to bare branches.
I leave tracks in the mud
Where wood pigeons scattered, eyeing me curiously
A luminous tennis ball skims the grass, dog running, panting.
City gulls scavenge
They have exchanged a sea of blue for a field of green
Their sharp cries pierce the air.
I also walked around the city allotments, observing the contrast of green spaces amongst houses. Here are the pictures from my walk. The most surprising thing I found were Passion flowers in full bloom - totally stunning!
Hope you had some lovely interactions with nature too!
This week we are starting a new book for our new class ‘Words from the Wild’. William has chosen The Stubborn Light of Things by Melissa Harrison for us this term. For those of you who have a copy of the book, William and I read the first chapter and decided to focus on pages 9 – 16 this week for inspiration. The Stubborn Light of Things draws on writing that Melissa originally submitted to the The Times newspaper each month, describing the natural changes occurring and notes on the seasons. We have had to temporarily close the sessions at St Nicks during the current lock down, so this is a perfect book for us to begin looking at from home as it is a diary of natural observations from the writer’s home.
The book opens in August 2014 when Melissa was living in a rented flat in Streatham, London. During that time Melissa was regularly walking her dog Scout in the urban area and noting the wildlife around her. I thought this would make a lovely theme for today’s creative writing tasks as many of the people following this blog live within the city of York. So this week we will be looking at Urban wildlife dwellers and nature living in harmony with urban environments.
Task 1: (5 mins) Meg sent me a lovely video (see below) of a new hedgehog that has started visiting her garden. The hedgehog in question is a little rotund for the hedgehog house so has to reverse out of the opening once he has tried to get in! Using this as a theme write ten words describing a hedgehog’s journey in and out of the hedgehog house!
Task 2: (10 mins) Living in Harmony. Last weekend I decided to walk the entire length of York City Walls. It was a beautiful misty day. I had fun peering through the built in arrow slots with my children. I took a lovely picture of a beautiful tree, perfectly framed by the view. Write for ten minutes about the tree standing by the city walls. What is the tree’s story? How long has it grown there? What has it witnessed? How do the seasons affect the tree’s story?
Task 3: (5 mins) Pigeons! Anyone living in a city or built up area will be familiar with flocks of pigeons. I love drawing them and looking at all the different variations of colour and pattern on their wings. For five minutes write about a day in the life of a city pigeon. You can write either from the perspective of a pigeon, or write an observational account of a pigeon. (If you can visit somewhere where pigeon’s flock and write as you observe).
Task 4: (5 mins) The city at night time. Nature is often overlooked in a city, especially during the evening hours. Write about a night time experience of nature. Perhaps you have encountered a fox or bats near your home? What does a park feel like at night time or your garden if you have one? Use your senses to describe the experience, how do the sounds and smells and colours change between day and night?
I hope you enjoyed this weeks tasks! Please feel free to email me any words / pictures to look over, or to include on the blog. If you aren’t from York we would love to hear about your area.
Hello and a warm welcome to this week’s creative writing and literature session. Our theme for today will be ‘colour’.
Last week we read chapter four of Maria Sibylla Merian: Artist, Scientist, Adventurer. We learned about the long journey that Maria took to reach South America and about some of the discoveries that she made. A side note to the chapter mentions the discovery of ladybug larvae as predators to the cochineal insect which was sought after for red pigment in making paint.
We learned in earlier chapters about Maria’s life that she was adept at mixing paints and making up watercolours using gum arabic as a binding agent and using pigments sourced from around the world. Today we forget how difficult it once was to produce certain dyes and how hard to find colours were reserved for the richest in society.
For anyone interested in learning more about colour I am currently reading ‘Colour’ by Victoria Finlay , the book takes you through a journey of colours and where pigments originally came from, so far it’s a fascinating read and I would highly recommend it.
So on to this week’s tasks. I hope you enjoy them!
Task 1: (5 mins) Observing colour. Take yourself for a morning walk, or gaze out of the window. Take five minutes to write about as many colours as you can observe. Take note of all the different shades of colour and where you find them.
Task 2: (10 mins). Imagine that you have been given the task of dying a beautiful length of cloth to send to someone who lives in a contrasting landscape to where you live. You have to choose something from nature as your inspiration. What colour would you dye your cloth? Here are some ideas:
The red of a lady bird shell.
The colour of rich green grass.
Orange of autumn leaves.
The blue of a forget me knots.
Write about the colour that you choose and why you chose it. Write a letter to accompany the cloth explaining what it represents and what you hope that they will make out of the cloth. Describe where the colour is found in nature.
Task 3: (5 mins). Write about one of the colours that you look out for the most when you are outdoors? Perhaps you enjoy patches of blue sky, or the smokey grey of clouds? Are you enamoured with silver of dew drops, or perhaps you love purple flowers in particular? Tell me about what you notice and what it means to you.
Task 4: (5 mins) A scrap of colour. Think about an unusual landscape that you have visited. What colour would you bring home from that place? What contrasts to the colours that you are used to? (Ideas: The vivid colours of warm seas, or exotic birds. The beautiful purple of wild heather. The sandy tones of a deserted beach, or something interesting that you have collected from a natural landscape.)
I hope that you enjoyed these tasks and that you will start to see many beautiful colours everywhere, even on grey rainy days.
Today I didn’t attend the class in person as it’s half term and I’m at home with my little people!
Instead I visited Rowntrees Park in York to do their Goblin Trail – this fitted well with the theme of map making and trail finding set for today’s Words from the Wild class (see previous blog post). It also made me reflect on how much fun it was and that it is so important to explore and have fun (we don’t have to have children as an excuse to do it!)
If you want to do the Goblin Trail you can find it here . Here are some pictures recording our discoveries, we also brought home some ash boughs and larch twigs that had fallen to make a display on our nature table (photo at bottom of page).
Our favourite place we named the ‘popping apple trees’ where crab apples had littered the woodland floor and popped underfoot!
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 🙂
We made beautiful discoveries this morning at the class at St Nicks. Dew drops on leaves, candle snuff fungus, late flowers, autumn leaves … hope you all had a good morning too!
You will notice one photo is of a small seed with roots – there were clusters of these on the woodland floor at St Nicks. We weren’t sure what they were, so in the true spirit of Maria Sibylla Merian I brought one home and planted it in a pot….let’s see what happens next!