Today’s finds 10.02.21

As I’m still home schooling I had an exciting walk out this lunch time accompanied by two little bears!! We enjoyed looking for footprints in the snow and even found a rabbit print at the edge of our local park!

We were surprised to see that the park was still flooded and that the flood water was frozen. It made it look surreal like a scene from The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe by CS Lewis.

Despite the freezing conditions, signs of new life were everywhere, our favourite were the soft silky catkins that were like little creatures and bulbs pushing up through the ground.

Here are the pics:

See you next week 🙂

Best wishes,

Emma

Week 6: Words from the Wild 10.02.21

Words inspired by the full moon, snow and snowshoe hares!
(This is an online creative writing class produced for St Nicks Ecotherapy programme in York. Anyone is welcome to join in on line. At present we are using inspiration from the St Nicks book club to create the writing tasks. If you are local to York and would like to find out more about how to get involved in person please click here.)

Hi Everyone,
This week William and I chose another chapter from 50 Words for Snow as inspiration from our creative writing tasks. This week we looked at chapter 7 which describes the Anishinaabeg people and their words for the moon which are linked directly to the natural seasons throughout the calendar year. For example in different phases of the year the moon might be referred to as the ‘Hard Crust on the Snow Moon’ or the ‘Broken Snowshoe Moon’ reflecting the change in season and how snow settles.

The chapter also discusses how this language would have helped the people to navigate the land and to understand the conditions to expect. This would have been especially useful on hunting trips or long journeys navigating a snow covered landscape where glimpses of wild animals such as the hare would be found fleetingly on their journey.

The following tasks are inspired by the chapter:

Task 1: (5mins) Night foraging:TheSnowshoe hare is nocturnal and feeds at night on grass, shrubs and lower branches in the forest. Imagine venturing out in a wintery woodland at night. Describe foraging in snow. How easy do you him think it would be to find food?

Task 2: (10 mins) The full moon. The literature we looked at this week describes different names for the moon depending on a season. Can you think of a favourite landscape or garden. Can you imagine it blanketed under thick snow and lit up by the moon? Describe what you see. Imagine how the pale glow highlights particular features. What would you name this special effect on your favourite landscape?

Task 3: (5 mins) Snowshoe Hares. Hares have developed large feet that work brilliantly to travel across the snow acting as a natural snow shoe, a design that we have copied to help us walk safely across drifts of snow. If you could develop one aspect of yourself inspired by nature what would it be? Perhaps you would be colourful in Spring, or you would develop super large feet in winter to help walk on snow, or gills to enable you to swim under water!! Have some fun taking inspiration from the natural world to tell me what attribute you would like!

Task 4 (5 mins): During Spring we experience Spring and neap tides , when the tides are unusually high and low. This is caused by the angles of the sun and moon. Tell me about a walk or a view of a beach under moonlight. You can write from a true memory or from your imagination, if you can, include a neap or spring tide in your writing.

I hope that you enjoyed the tasks today. It was too irresistible not to investigate snow a little further!

See you next week.

Best wishes,

Emma

Today’s finds! Melted snow people!!

Hello! I hope everyone enjoyed the class today (see previous blog post). I had a very muddy walk this afternoon, what a difference a day makes – no snow other than the remains of yesterday’s snowmen / people!

Despite it being wet we enjoyed looking at print marks left in the mud and imagining who had made them. We also enjoyed the patterns and colours of the wet bark of a cherry tree and new buds appearing.

I hope you all had a good afternoon too!

Best wishes,

Emma

Week 5: Words from the Wild! Snow! 03.02.2021

(This blog is produced as part of the eco-therapy project at St Nicks Nature Reserve in York. To find out how to get directly involved please click here.)

Dear Readers,

I am writing this on Tuesday, ready to be posted on Wednesday morning. Today we woke up to a blanket of snow covering everything, William and I had seen that snow was forecast so thought that it would be nice to use snow as a theme for our class this week. For those new to this blog – we have combined our usual book club with creative writing tasks to create this online resource to help people to connect to nature from home. This term we have been focusing on poetry but have taken a break from poems this week to explore snow in more detail!

We chose an extract from the book 50 Words For Snow by Nancy Campbell to inspire today’s session. In the book Nancy looks at 50 words for snow from around the world, exploring cultural reference and meaning. Using this as our inspiration and exploring snow through writing you will find today’s writing tasks below this video I took of the snow on the Knavesmire in York to help us get in the mood for a snow themed class:

Task 1: (5 mins) Words for Snow. List as many words as you can to describe snow. Think about how it falls and lands. What is it like when it settles? What happens as it melts? What words do you associate with snow? Is it exciting, or do you think about being cosy indoors? Write down all the words that come to mind.

Task 2: (5 mins) Using our words. In Robert MacFarlane’s book Landmarks he has researched the meanings of words and place. At the end of each chapter is a glossary of words associated with landscape – that are now often forgotten or unused. Here are some words that I found in Landmarks that are associated with snow and ice: Blenk, clinkerbell, fleeches, frazil, smored, verglas, windle. Without knowing the true meaning of these words can you build them into a paragraph about snow – using them alongside words from the first task? Try to think about how the words sound and what you imagine them to describe about ice and snow. You might like to describe a walk down a snowy path to get you started.

Task 3: (10 mins) In 50 Words for Snow – we used an extract describing ‘Seanáš’ which is a Sami word describing granulated snow. Write about the experience of creating a snowman. How easy is it to find the perfect snow to do this. How does it feel to roll a snowball? What happens if the snow is too wet, or to fluffy?

Task 4: (5 mins) Tracks in the Snow. In the extract that we looked at from 5o words of Snow, the author describes a cave painting that was made 14,000 years ago in a Welsh cave depicting Reindeer. The author reflects on the movements of Reindeer across the land and how at one time they would have roamed across Southern Europe and even New Mexico. Have you ever noticed any unusual tracks in the snow? Today the field was full of dog paw markings. When I visited Austria there were lots of deer and rabbit / hare prints in the snow. Imagine walking across an untouched field on a snowy day. You notice some unusual tracks. Write about what you find and where the tracks lead.

I hope that everyone else got to enjoy the view of some snow this week! I would love to hear what you have been up to. For anyone interested in cheering up the views for other people there is a fantastic window exhibition initiative happening nationally – please see the link here: https://www.theguardian.com/artanddesign/2021/jan/28/great-big-art-exhibition-invites-locked-down-brits-to-put-creativity-on-show

See you next week!
Best wishes,
Emma

Week 4: Words from the Wild Poetry. Inspired by water and rivers….

Hello Everyone,

Welcome to week 4 of our poetry inspired book club and creative writing class. Before we get on to the theme for this week I would like to share this beautiful poem, sent in by Jane, inspired by last weeks snowdrop themed session. It’s such a privilege to share a love of nature with others and even greater when I receive such lovely words:

Snowdrop

Hope emerging from frozen ground
A speck of green, then white
As spring makes slow return
Following long months of slumber

There may still be snow to come
Much to be endured, again
Yet rising from land unthawed
A speck of green, then white

By Jane

This week William and I chose Dart by Alice Oswald to inspire our walks and writing tasks. There is a tradition for writers to connect to rivers to inspire their work. In Dart, Alice Oswald follows the journey of the river Dart in Devon, recording the people who use the river, wildlife and details of the water in beautiful poetic form.

Here in York we have the River Ouse flowing through the city, with footpaths running along much of the course of the river. In recent days the river has flooded the fields making giant ice rinks on the race course in York and flooding over our local Ings. I’ve had fun walking on the ice, enjoying the sounds and discovering some beautiful patterns and formations. Here’s a short video to give you a flavour, just for fun!

So here are this weeks writing tasks:

Task 1: (5 mins) Write about the sound of water in any form you like. Perhaps you have also been walking on frozen ground or snow? Or you might like to think about rain falling on a pond, or the surface of a tent. Perhaps you have visited a babbling brook or have a water feature in your garden? Try and think of words that bring the sound to life. (Onomatopoeic words like crack, crackle, crunch, drip…etc!)

Task 2: (5 mins) Dancing in the shallows. Alice Oswald makes reference to dragonflies at the end of our chosen extract (we will be reading pages 5 – 6). We often see dragonflies at St Nick’s pond skimming over the shallow water. Write about an interaction of nature in shallow water. Here are some species to inspire you: dragonflies, minnows, shrimp, pond skaters, water beetles….). You can either describe an observation or work from your imagination playing with the perspectives of species.

Task 3: (10 mins) Skimming stones. Last year in our face to face class, I brought in a bag of smooth flat skimming stones to inspire a task. Look at the photos of the river below. Imagine a lovely cool shaded walk in the summer along the banks of a river. You stop to skim stones. Tell me about your journey and the way that the stones travel across the surface…..

Task 4: (5 mins) choose a river dweller such as a Kingfisher, an otter, a beaver, water vole, fish etc. Write about a day in the life of your chosen species…..you might like to describe a particular season for your species. For inspiration you might like to look at the Wildlife Trust webpages.

You might have been surprised that I mentioned beaver as an example of river dwellers. They have actually been re-introduced to parts of the UK and are very helpful to the environment supporting the reduction of flooding and maintaining wetlands in the dry summer months. You can read more about them here if you are interested to find out more.

If you haven’t read Dart by Alice Oswald we can highly recommend reading it. I hope that you enjoyed today’s class. Please do feel free to send suggestions of poetry for these sessions, or any of your own writing. (That goes for members of the public who have stumbled across this blog too). The email is creativewritinganddrawing@stnicks.org.uk you can also leave messages in the comments.

See you soon!
Best wishes,
Emma

Image taken from Pixabay

Today’s finds 20.01.2021 – Allotmenting and Wasp Nest Discoveries!

Hello, I hope you all enjoyed the session on snowdrops this morning 🙂

Rather than including finds of the day I’m going to start including weekly finds – as with home school commitments I’m not always getting out as planned on a Wednesday.

I have adapted my outings to include time at my allotment over the weekends to have a break from screens and my home environment. Last weekend I took an old un-inhabited wasps nest to the plot that a friend gifted me to look at in more detail. The colours and structure were amazing, scroll down for pics of the allotment and the wasps nest. The amazing thing is that the wasps chew on bark and then spit it out to make the paper – just imagine all the plants from the colours that you can see. There were lines of red and iridescent blue! Do let me know what you have been up to too!

Best wishes,

Emma!

Week 3: Words from the Wild – Poetry

20.01.2021 – Theme Snowdrops

Hello Everyone,
I hope that you are all keeping safe and well. This week William and I chose the theme of Snowdrops as our inspiration for Words from the Wild. We found two poems about snowdrops: The Snowdrop by Anna Laetitia Barbauld and Snowdrops by Louise Gluck. They are included in a a beautiful poetry book (Flora Poetica – The Chatto Book of Botanical Verse) for anyone that is interested, but I have also found them available online so if you click on the name of each poem it should take you to it.

Snowdrops have an unusual place in folklore, in the past being associated with bad luck and even death. On doing some research I found two interesting blogs about this – in the first which you can find here, I found out that some of the negative associations originate from Greek mythology and Persephone, who brought snowdrops back from her time in the underworld to create Spring, however the flowers held negative connotations due to the underworld that they had come from. In the second webpage I also discovered that snowdrops have been viewed as a symbol of hope after an angel reportedly brought snowdrops to Eve when she was banished from the garden of Eden and grew tired of the endless winters. The snowdrops symbolised hope and proved that winter doesn’t last forever. If you want to read more you can find further info here.

Whatever you believe, snowdrops are certainly a sign that Spring is on the way and they are growing increasingly popular due to rare and unusual varieties that can be found. If you tip the head of the snowdrop upwards you will discover a range of different shapes and patterns. Some of the rarest snowdrops are now kept under guard and are worth hundreds of pounds, in a lovely moment of synchronicity Open Country on radio four made a whole show about snowdrops which was aired last Saturday. You can find it here – it’s well worth a listen!

Here are this weeks creative writing tasks:

Task 1: (5 mins) A symbol of hope. In Snowdrop by Anna Laetitia Barbauld she draws parallels to the snowdrop and winter, reflecting that they are almost icicles turned to flowers. For five minutes free write on the theme of winter and the appearance of the first snowdrops. Try to include where you first notice them each year, or where you might search for them if you haven’t seen any already.

Task 2: (5 minutes) Making our own mythology. What does a snowdrop remind you of? When you tip the flower head up I always thing of little stars shining down on the earth. Can you create your own fun mythological story explaining why snowdrops appear? Perhaps they are little lanterns warming the earth and melting the ice, or perhaps they are the night stars fallen to earth to create Spring. Be as creative as you like. Perhaps there is a special place that you know of where snowdrops grow, what do they symbolise for you? If you are unsure where to start write on the them of Hope.

Task 3: (10 mins) Louise Gluck’s poem describes the long journey for snowdrops being held underground and pushing forward to flower in Spring. Imagine feeling Spring air on your face for the first time. Write for ten minutes describing a refreshing Spring walk on a bright day. Remember to use your five senses to bring your writing to life (sight, sounds, taste, touch and smell).

Task 4: (5 mins) New arrivals. With the arrival of snowdrops we know that a whole range of colourful flowers will follow. Write on the theme of ‘A rainbow of Flowers’ for five minutes.

On a final note, I promised to let you know what I was drawing last week. I’ve been having fun creating paint splodges with a sponge and turning them into maps! This has become a favourite game at the moment. Once we have created our maps we name the islands and make up stories about who lives there and what types of animals we might find. Here’s one I made of an icy landscape!

Have fun writing. Remember – there are no rules! Just write, create and enjoy.
Best wishes,
Emma

13.01.2021

Today’s finds….using books for inspiration!

Hello, I hope you have all had a lovely morning. I haven’t got outside for a big walk yet today due to home school and work commitments. However I often use my reference books and art work to connect to nature when I am unable to get outside. Here are some of the books I have been dipping into today…..

I’m now going to start on some nature inspired art…..I will post some pics of what I create next week….

Best wishes,

Emma

Week 2: Words from the Wild Poetry inspired Creative Writing tasks…. 13.01.2021

Hello Readers!

The poem William and I chose for the St Nick’s Words from the Wild class this week is Something Told the Wild Geese by Rachel Field. (If you click on the poem title it will take you to the poem).

This poem was brought to our attention by Brenda who has been enjoying the class and thought we would like it. Brenda found it in a copy of Poems in the Waiting Room, an organisation that publishes poetry pamphlets for GP surgeries, if you haven’t come across them I highly recommend taking a look.

Our poem this week follows the theme of the instinct of wild geese to migrate. The words are evocative, drawing on the fading autumn days as the geese take to the skies for warmer climates. Using this as a theme I thought we could also use creative writing to reflect on the season. Scroll down for writing tasks.

Task 1: The first frosts. *5 mins. Meg sent me the beautiful pictures below of frost settling in her garden. Write for five minutes on the theme of ‘Waking up to the first frost’.

Task 2: Frozen waters. (10 mins) In the poem we hear about Geese migrating, in contrast we are going to consider the birds that remain. Think about a river, pond or lake that you are familiar with. Write about the experience of a bird that uses the water daily. How do things change in the winter? What does the landscape look like from a birds eye view? How does it feel to land, or take off on ice!? Is it confusing to suddenly be able to walk on water when it is frozen?

Task 3: Winter Companions: (5 mins). I have been enjoying feeding wild birds over winter. Here is a Lino cut print I made of a crow pecking at the ground picking up food. I like making sketches of wildlife and particularly find this a nice activity to keep me going through winter.

Write for five minutes about companionship between wildlife and humans during the winter months. Perhaps you will choose the story of birds who visit a bird feeder daily? Or perhaps you would like to write about an artist who studies wildlife to paint and draw like I do? Or a horse in a freshly made stable? Be as inventive as you like, feel free to work beyond the five minutes if a story begins to form.

Task 4: Winter berries. (5 mins) Despite the snow and ice I still see beautiful berries on my walks. They remind me of jewels amongst the hedgerows. In five lines write a tiny poem on the theme of ‘Winter Jewels’.

Happy Writing! Let me know how you get on with the tasks, or if there are any themes you would like me to help you explore in future sessions.

Best wishes,

Emma

Today’s finds 06.01.2021

Dear Readers,

Following this mornings tasks I had a nice walk out with my dog and was heartened by blue skies and the beautiful evergreens of winter. I couldn’t go for a long walk due to home school commitments but I used the time at home to research the folk lore on mistletoe as I’m planning to graft some onto an apple tree in my allotment plot! I will share my findings with you soon! In the meantime I hope you enjoyed the writing tasks and here are some pics from this morning.

Best wishes,

Emma

See you next week!