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!
Welcome back to Words from the Wild. Over the last two weeks we have looked at the first two chapters written about Maria Sibylla Merian: Artist, Scientist, Explorer. One thing that caught my attention in the beautiful illustrations in the book are the very minute details recorded.
Maria spent many hours observing insects and small creatures, often bringing them home so that she didn’t miss changes as they occurred. Observing in this way we start to understand the habits, environments and life cycles of even the tiniest creatures. This week’s class is therefore focused on getting into detail, imagining ourselves in miniature worlds.
You are free to read through the exercises as something interesting to think about in your day, or to pick one or two that capture your interest. Please do send me any writing or sketching that you do, I would love to share your work on this blog.
Task 1: (5 mins) Imagine yourself as a tiny ladybird. Free write for five minutes imagining that you are walking on a leaf covered in beads of dew. (Consider your perspective from a ladybird’s view point, how do you navigate your environment, how does the leaf feel underneath you?)
Task 2: (10 mins) Life in a pond. Maria Sibylla Marian spent many hours studying wildlife. Maria recorded all the stages of frog spawn developing from an egg, to a tadpole, to beautiful golden eyed frogs. Imagine that you are a scientist discovering frogs eggs for the first time. Write a diary entry recording where you found jelly eggs in a pond, describe your amazement as you have watched them develop. Write about your observations and what has surprised you. To help with this task you might want to research the lifecycle of a frog!
Task 3: (5 mins) What can we learn from insects? For fun write an advice column from a ‘’minibeast’ addressed to the ‘Human Beings’! (Perhaps an ant is encouraging us to get out to the gym, or a snail gives a lesson in mindfulness and slowing down!?)
Task 4: (5mins) If you can get outdoors record any evidence of mini beasts that you find! Have leaves been munched? Have trails been left? Did you notice any cobwebs? If you are indoors – look around- is anyone living on your window frames or even in your home?!
Thank you to everyone who participated today, either online or at St Nicks!
Here are some of the beautiful finds from the class. It’s a great time of year for fungi – I love the textures and shapes, they are brilliant to sketch and paint. You can have fun making making fungi prints at home using scrunched up cloth or torn up sponges.
Hope everyone else made some curious and interesting discoveries.
Curiosity and Questions…..A creative writing and literature class online.
Last week we began our new class at St Nicks in York, combining our eco therapy book club and creative writing class to create ‘Words from the Wild’.
We are following the book Maria Sibylla Merian – Artist / Scientist / Adventurer by Sarah. B Pomeroy and Jeyaraney Kathirithamby. This week we will be reading further into the book to discover more about Maria’s life (pages 18 – 28 for those following from home). Last week we looked at the world through fresh eyes and made new discoveries through close observation. Below are some beautiful images sent to me from Jane who is following the class from home (thank you Jane!). I have also included a poem that I wrote inspired by last weeks class and observations made by Kev and Chad during our walk around St Nicks.
So, on to this week: Maria Sibylla Merian grew up in a house of full of life and curiosity. Her father and step-father were both artists so Maria had access to a range of resources and books that sparked her curiosity and hunger to learn. Maria was also captivated by natural discoveries and used the tools she had to record and research what she found. This week we will be using curiosity and research as a theme for creative writing. We are going to have a go at creative questioning and reflective writing.
Task 1: (5 mins) Write a list of ten questions about nature. (It doesn’t matter how silly they sound, ponder things and start asking why!?) Here are a few examples:
Why do leaves fall off the trees in Autumn?
Where do snails go in the winter?
How do birds hear when I can’t see any ears!?
Task 2: (10 mins) Scientific discovery and journalling: Once you have a list of questions write a reflective paragraph for five minutes exploring one of your questions. What made you think about it? Have you ever considered this question before? Do you think you might know the answer?
When you have done the first part of this task follow it up with some research to answer your question. Write for a further five minutes describing what you found out. Did anything surprise you? Did you enjoy this type of writing and research?
Task 3: (5 mins) Nature table. Go out for a short walk in nature, or a garden, or just down the road. What do you see that sparks curiosity? Write down five lines recording your observations. It can be as simple as an unusual weed growing through a crack in the pavement, to pondering the different shapes of clouds!
I will end today with a poem inspired by last weeks class and the lovely walk that I had on St Nicks reserve:
Ruby Red Rush of Apples
(Inspired by Chad and Kev)
Ruby red, rush of apples,
Conical twists of trumpeting flowers
Entangled, winding, bold, white.
Spliced leaves, split, fall,
Woven, wavering bark of the Willow
That climbs up the trunk
Rough and calloused, chaffed and peeling.
Rosehip gems adorned with
Robin’s round pincushions.
Spherical Scabious flowers, dancing, bobbing
Waving from a forest of grass.
A green ocean of fallen crab apples
Forms a sweet-smelling carpet of bobbles
Bubbling brightly on the woodland floor.
Bright petals poke through weeds,
Wild geranium leaves creep over the path.
Ghostly fronds of a weeping Larch
Brush us softly,
The red berries of a fir tree
Translucent and rubbery
Fierce nettles and thistles guard
A patch of mellow mallow flowers
Late bergamot, blue stars
Turn violet in Autumn sunlight
A mighty shield bug clambers valiantly
A trepid explorer
Amongst splinters of gorse.
A spider’s perfect web
Placed delicately between branches
An almost invisible net
Silver against green.
The soft brush of undergrowth around my ankles
Knee deep in nature.
I hope that you enjoyed this week’s class. I will update the blog with pictures from the session at St Nicks later for everyone at home. Please do send me your words and pictures.
Have you ever considered how a young child sees the world with a fresh view of imagery and limited language to describe what they see? Imagine turning back the clock to a time when discoveries were still being made and mapped. There is still much to discover in this wonderful world of ours, yet so much has already been done sometimes we forget to look with fresh eyes.
Over the next few weeks William and I will be exploring the work and life of Maria Sibylla Merian via the wonderful book on her life by Sarah B. Pomeroy and Jeyaraney Kathirithamby, as inspiration for our new ‘Words from the Wild’ book club and creative writing class at St Nicks. In today’s first session we will be out on the reserve reading the introduction and up to p.18 (for those who want to purchase / follow the book from home).
Maria Sibylla Merian devoted her life to the study of metamorphosis and discoveries in nature and recorded her findings as beautiful watercolour paintings. A talented painter and writer she travelled the world recording her observations, which was all the more impressive considering her journey started at the age of 13 in 1660.
To begin our journey following her life and art we are going to consider today what it must be like to discover things for the first time….. to observe with patience, to watch, record and find out, please read on for this week’s creative writing exercises to compliment the theme.
Task 1: (5 mins) If you are able take yourself for a short walk outside, or spend some time looking at your garden or through a window. Make a list of what you see including observations of items as well as names. See if you can find up to twenty words. Your list might look something like this:
Task 2: (10 mins) Choose one natural item that you have observed. Imagine that you had never seen this item before and are discovering it for the very first time. Write a description of your item without naming it. (If it helps – imagine you are playing a guessing game with a friend where you have to describe something in detail so that they can guess what it is).
Task 3: (5 mins) Reflection. Spend five minutes writing about what you noticed today that you perhaps wouldn’t have usually been aware of. I would also encourage you to make a nature table or corner at home where you can record your findings and display any unusual natural items you have picked up for further observation.
I hope you enjoyed these tasks and look forward to hearing about your discoveries…sign up to follow the blog for updates as they are posted.
I have decided to re-open these blog posts to help keep my creative writing participants connected to nature while we wait to get everyone back on the St Nick’s site!
With the rise of a second wave of COVID we have only been able to re-open our St Nick’s book club and creative writing sessions to a small number of on-site participants. To help everyone stay involved I will be posting up the session content each week so that people who aren’t able to attend can follow from home. This also means that anyone outside of York can also read these posts and enjoy / participate too! I hope they will help!
The new class is called Words from the Wild. We are combining our book club and creative writing sessions to run an interactive walking group at St Nicks each week during which there will be a reading and creative writing tasks to discuss / carry out at home.
I will be joined by William Davidson (St Nick’s Book Club Facilitator) to co-facilitate sessions. I hope everyone will enjoy, and we welcome creative writing and drawings for us to feature on this blog for future posts. You can reach me at my new St Nicks email address:
Welcome to the final Art Challenge of this blog. I hope that you have enjoyed the various activities that we have explored since March when this blog started.
Just for fun as a final challenge I thought it might be nice to end having fun with paint splurges, or happy accidents with a paint brush. I created these flowers following working on the pigeon painting last week, they were made using surplus paint and seeing what patterns could be formed with the paintbrush. They formed really nice flower patterns:
Your Task: To look at the photographs below and have a go at creating your own patterns and paint splurge art. Look at the way that the flowers, foliage and blackberries are made up of circles and symmetrical shapes. See if you can copy them with your paint brush.
Once you get started get creative. See if you can make repeating patterns to form a picture. Try adding two colours to the paint brush at once to see what effects you can create.
Have fun! And thanks for all the support with this blog. Don’t forget if you would still like to be involved with eco-writing you can email me at firstname.lastname@example.org to be added to the mailing list for future ideas and projects.
This is the final Friday’s Letters for this blog. I thought I would finish these letters by showing you some lovely photographs of the walk I had with one of the lovely members of my local class.
This blog is ending this week so that I am able to prepare to re-start the class in person as of October. It’s been an absolute pleasure to reach out to people through creative writing and art during COVID and I hope that everyone continues to create writing and art linked to nature as a result. If anyone is interested in staying involved either from a distance or in person you can reach me at email@example.com
There is one final art challenge tomorrow! I hope that you like it!
I hope you enjoyed these photos of a walk around York University campus lakes. If you are in the area I would really recommend it.
Glinting and Glimmering Minnows – A day on the lakes and rivers.
This is the very last creative writing class for the blog. This week’s theme is inspired by taking a walk around The University of York Lake last week with one of my class members and looking at all the beautiful wildlife. I have also been spending time walking along the river banks in York and visiting the park lake near my home. I wrote this class whilst thinking about the possibility of starting to bring my group back together in person which feels very very exciting! For all those who usually attend Kathy and I will be in touch to catch you up on plans.
For anyone reading this outside of York, please do email me to let me know if you would like me to email you with any future opportunities for Connect to Nature Writing. You can reach me at firstname.lastname@example.org
So here goes!
Task 1: (5 mins) Speckled with Sparkles! Foamy, frothy bubbles glinting at the edge of the water! My little girl and I had fun playing with alliteration and making up words to describe a little shoal of minnows that we saw in the park lake.
Your task is to think about a little shoal of minnows glinting in shallow water. Describe their movements in ten words.
Task 2: (5 mins) Gliding Gracefully! Whilst on my walk at the University Lake I was very lucky to see swans nesting. The contrast of the white swan feathers agains the water looked stunning and created a beautiful contrast to the grey /blue water. Can you find words to use describe a beautiful swan. Set a timer for one minute and see how many you can come up with. When you have done this use them in a paragraph of writing to describe what you imagine in your minds eye. (Even better, if you can get out to see a swan – describe their movements as you watch them).
Task 3: (10 mins) Dragonflies. I was told a legend once about the dragonfly. It described us as humans like dragonfly larvae. If you told a larvae at the bottom of a pond that he would one day break through the surface and have beautiful shimmering wings he would never believe it. The folklore states that when we leave this life we are like a dragonfly emerging from the pond. With this in mind imagine that you are a dragonfly hatching. You take your first flight around the waters. After spending the first part of your life in a muddy pond how does it feel? (It’s good to remind ourselves that we are describing our environment that we already have when we write this task and it helps remind us how lucky we are with this beautiful world that we live in).
Task 4: (5 mins) Ducks and ducklings…..It’s been nice watching the Mummy ducks with their little broods of baby ducklings over summer. All adults show their young how to get along in the world. Write a letter to the generation being born today. Tell them about their world, help them to see the beauty in nature and the gift that they have been born into.
Or…write about a day in the life of a duckling! You can make it as fun or as serious as you like. Where do you live, do what do you look forward to, where do you nest?
If you have enjoyed this session look out for Friday’s letters – I will show you more pictures of my lovely walk.