Connect to Nature Creative Writing Class

22.07.2020

Rock Pools and other delights….

Hi there!

Welcome back to another week of creative writing. As it’s the start of the summer holidays, I thought we could take a virtual trip back to the beach to explore in a bit more detail.

I promised we would return to some more focused writing about different species, so this week my chosen topic is the rockpool and the species that live within. Rock pools can be micro worlds full of creatures. Studies have shown that some fish live out their whole lives in one rock pool. So this will be our coastal theme, I hope that you enjoy dipping your thoughts into a virtual pool!

Task 1: (5 mins) The rock pool as a garden! Just for fun, to get us warmed up for writing, I thought it might be nice to think of a rock pool as an underwater garden. Can you incorporate these garden themed words into a description of a rock pool? (For example you might think about the sea weed and describe it as branches of seaweed, or rivulets of water running down rocky paths, perhaps sea anemones are like jewels in a flower bed? If you need more inspiration use the pictures below). Don’t worry if the words don’t inspire you, just write what comes into your head and see what happens!

  • Branches
  • Paths
  • Rockery
  • Leaves
  • Petals

Task 2: (5 mins) The bestest of friends! Here is an interesting fact! Some hermit crabs and sea anemones have a symbiotic relationship. The sea anemone will attach itself to the hermit crab’s shell and ride around on the hermit crab’s back. The anemone will open up and protect the hermit crab from potential predators. In return the anemone can eat scraps and titbits left over from the hermit crab’s meals! The relationship is so complimentary that when the hermit crab upgrades to a bigger shell the anemone moves on to the new shell too!

Using this fact as inspiration write from the perspective of either the crab or the anemone to describe the friendship. Perhaps you could give them names and human traits, perhaps one is grumblier than the other. Describe how they get along living together!

Or: (If the above task doesn’t inspire you) write about another relationship in the natural world, for example a squirrel living in a favourite tree, or butterflies and flowers. Perhaps you would like to write about something you have personally witnessed?

Task 3: (10 mins) Choosing just the right home. Choose one of the following rock pool dwellers: (If you need more detail to identify any of these creatures click here.

  • Starfish
  • Hermit crab
  • Anemone
  • Barnacle
  • Shrimp
  • Muscle

Now you have picked your chosen creature write for ten minutes on the following theme ‘Choosing the perfect home’. You might want to write from the perspective of a creature and finding just the right rock pool or spot within a pool, or perhaps you might want to write about our environment and why our seashores should be protected. Another option could be to write about your own home using inspiration from one of these creatures?? Be as creative as you like.

Task 4: (5 mins) Reflections. If you look back at the photographs of rock pools you will see that I also managed to photograph reflections of the clouds. Imagine that you are standing on the beach staring into a rock pool, suddenly you notice something unusual in the reflection ….what do you see!?

Well, as usual I hope that you enjoyed this week’s watery theme! Next week we will be moving on to a species that lives on the land, but I will surprise you with that topic next week!

Hope you are all enjoying some better weather and thinking about these themes. Don’t forget – there is no pressure with these tasks, you can pick one or two, or just use them as something lovely to think about and to learn something of the natural world.

Look forward to hearing from some of you!

Best wishes,
Emma

Monday’s Poem

20.07.2020

Green

The dawn was apple-green,
         The sky was green wine held up in the sun,
The moon was a golden petal between.

She opened her eyes, and green
They shone, clear like flowers undone
For the first time, now for the first time seen.

                                                       D. H.  Lawrence

I found this beautiful poem by DH Lawrence in a book I picked up at a car boot sale last summer. The thing that I personally love about poetry and prose, is that for me, it is painting with words. In this sketch of ‘green’ we see a vivid colour so beautifully described, it reminds me of the glowing green wings of an emerald moth. I also love that the colour of the book is similar – this photo unfortunately doesn’t do it justice.

See you this Wednesday for the Connect to Nature Creative Writing class. To celebrate the start of the summer holidays this week’s theme will focus on species found in rock pools for a virtual visit to the coast.

See you there.

Best wishes,
Emma

Saturday Art Challenge

18.07.2020

Dreaming away the weekend!!

Hello! Happy weekend!

I have an interesting little task for you this weekend, making dream catchers!

Did you know that dream catchers come from American Indian Culture? In basic detail they were traditionally made by mothers to pass on to their children and relatives moving away from the tribe into another. The dream catcher represents a web, with a bead representing a spider which was a positive symbol in their culture, linked to the earth and Mother Nature. The basic premise being that the mother would be watching over the family member wherever they were.

The dream catcher is meant to hang in an opening or window, with the belief that as dreams enter the house they will filter down through the web. The bad dreams will be caught and held in the web, good dreams will softly fall down through the feathers to reach the sleeping person.

I am no expert on this – so apologies to anyone who knows more about the cultural beliefs, any mistakes in this are mine entirely. I found this link which should give better detail. What I love about dream catchers is the link to the spiritual side of life and also nature. I followed a very simple YouTube tutorial which you can find here on how to make one. I used cherry tree twigs to bend into a hoop but willow would be much better!

Here is my attempt:

Let me see your results! Sweet dreams!

Best wishes,

Emma

Friday’s Letters

17.07.2020

Keep on Keeping On!

Hi Everyone,

I hope that you are all keeping well and continuing to enjoy connecting with nature.

It’s an incredibly difficult time for everyone at present, particularly with the changing guidelines around COVID and the easing of lock down, leaving some people to be more free and some feeling even more isolated.

I hope through Friday’s letters to bring a little of the outside world to those of you still only tentatively getting outside and I also hope to bring a little inspiration regarding the smallest things to look out for where you can.

This week I have been using inspiration from the butterflies that I spotted earlier in the week to begin adding to the oil painting that I am working on:

I also had a lovely distanced walk with Mark on Thursday morning around the Railway Pond in York. It’s amazing that such tranquil spaces exist within a city and I would encourage you all, where possible, to seek out a moment of solace in your own favourite green spaces or gardens. If you live in a flat, how about setting up a seat by the window and watching the birds. My desk faces another house and a brick wall, however I have swifts nesting in the guttering, and I take great delight in watching them swoop by as I write to you.

Mark also shared these beautiful words with me from the poem Desiderata (thank you!) which I will leave you to ponder and hopefully bring you some hope.

With best wishes,
Emma

Connect to Nature Creative Writing Class

15.07.2020

Caught on a breeze….

Hi Everyone,

Welcome to a new week of creative writing. This week we set off with a beautiful poem entitled ‘Descent to Earth’ sent in by Jane. Jane had captured the movement of a feather gently drifting earthwards, if you missed it the Monday’s Poem link is at the bottom of the page, or just click on the picture.

Photo courtesy of pixabay

This tied in really nicely with a theme I have been considering, the movement of air and the way that nature interacts with the breezes and gusts that so often sweep our landscape. I am also interested in creatures that can fly and how swiftly and easily they do so. I’ll get started with a really fun task which involved trying to film sycamore seeds falling in slow motion! (If you haven’t tried trying to capture a sycamore seed on film I would urge you to give it a go, we had a happy hour in the park doing this!!) Here is my effort:

So, Task 1: (5 mins) Write ten words that describe the descent of a sycamore seed spiralling towards the ground!

Task 2: (5 mins) The Sound of Silence: This week I have spotted tortoiseshell and comma butterflies in Danesmead Wood in York. They were really beautiful to watch silently flitting between thistle flowers. Imagine that you suddenly developed an extra sense to your hearing. You can suddenly hear hidden sounds, including the noise of a butterfly as it flies. What does it sound like? Be as imaginative as you like, perhaps it is flapping like the wings of a bird, or perhaps it is like tinkling bells and chimes. Remember in creative writing there are NO rules!! Perhaps they sing as they fly?!!!

Task 3: (10 mins) A rolling breeze. In mountainous areas you often get cold breezes rushing down the valleys as the warm air rises. Imagine that you are that breeze. Describe your journey, travelling down the mountain side, through the valley, into a town and out into the countryside. What is it like at each stage of the journey? How does it feel moving from urban to rural space?

Task 4: (5 mins) Give me Wings! I am very lucky that in my other role as a key worker I currently spend a lot of time working from my car. This means that I can park up in really beautiful places and watch birds and scenery while I complete my work. This week I was lucky enough to have a Red Kite circling over the top of my car for half an hour. It was so close I could see the stripes under the wings and the splayed wing tips.

Imagine that for one day I could gift you a pair of wings. In ten lines write about where you would fly and what it would feel like. Include taking off and landing! Try to keep your sentences short and simple. You might find a poem emerging!

I hope that you enjoyed these tasks. Next week we will be focusing again on a specific species. Please send any responses, comments or pictures to e.mckenzie1@yorksj.ac.uk, or you can leave comments below.

With best wishes,

Emma

Monday’s Poem

13.07.2020

Descent to Earth

Descent to Earth

I am 
Impossibly soft and delicate, 
as I flutter and float into 
An all too brief life of my own


Time is suspended for just a moment
As I enjoy my freedom
From the bird, and the wing


I am
Held gently in the air,
As the world, my only world, stands still 
For an eternity


Then I am taken
By the soft currents of the breeze


My delicate passage, as I fall
And flutter to the surface
Of the Earth


And I settle
And I rest

This absolutely stunning poem was sent in by Jane to include on the blog. I am bowled over by the gentleness that Jane has captured and the evocative words. When I read it I could literally see the feather floating down before me. This ties in with this week’s creative writing theme which will be all about air and movement…..watch this space! I hope you like the photo’s that accompany the poem, they are of a beautiful barn owl I was lucky enough to meet.

What a beautiful and gentle way to start the week.

With best wishes,

Emma

Saturday Art Challenge

11.07.2020

Nature Inspired Creations! Collaborative Art!

The Story of Gary the Goldian Finch

Hello!

Welcome to another Saturday Art Challenge!

This week’s art started out as a little adventure. My son was out cycling with his friends when he phoned me to say he had found an injured bird. I thought it might just be a fledgling and told him to leave it be, but then he said he thought that he had found a baby parrot, at which point I thought he had better text me a picture!! This is what I received!

Sadly this little bird had escaped from an aviary and was badly injured and didn’t survive much longer. It is a little Goldian Finch – usually native to Australia. My children were very upset that it died, but also absolutely captivated by the beautiful colours and the size of the bird. My daughter decided to make an art collage to celebrate the bird and to hope that it’s spirit is somewhere lovely.

This tied in with me starting an AMAZING and completely free Art Course available online on the Este MacLeod webpage. I love Este MacLeod and made a collage using a print I had of her work a few weeks ago – you can see that here.

Este MacLeod’s course is aimed at making beautiful nature inspired drawings and colour work! I can’t share the process here as they are quite rightly copyrighted to Este, however you can have a go here!

I created the leaves and plants following Este’s techniques and used the colours of the finch for inspiration. My little girl made a painting of the goldian finch. We cut out our creations and collaged them together in celebration of ‘Gary’ the Goldian Finch’s life (name chosen by the children!). Making the collage helped the children process the experience and also reflect on the beauty of nature and the difficult relationships we have in the life cycle.

I would really recommend Este’s course as her tutorials are little 10 minute films, very accessible and easy to follow. If like me you are juggling a family in lock down this is also something fun that all in the household can get involved with.

So I am sorry it was a sad tale that inspired this artwork, but at least something beautiful was born from it and I am now aware of another gorgeous bird that I never even knew existed.

Task: Your challenge is to think of something in the natural world that inspires you and either use your own techniques or Este’s to create a beautiful collage celebrating the colours of your chosen subject.

Hope you enjoy!

Best wishes,

Emma

Friday’s Letters

10.07.2020

More new discoveries….

Happy Friday everyone!

I haven’t had any creative writing sent in this week, but I did make these new discoveries which fit nicely with our theme last Wednesday:

1. Discovering something old….On Wednesday I visited Guisborough Branch Walkway. I used to play in this woodland as a child and it was so nice to visit again and discover how it has developed and changed. There are gentle walks through the lower woodland along the old railway path and for the more adventurous you can climb all the way up to Roseberry Topping if you fancy a whole day out! The paths are lovely and wide in the lower walkway so perfect for distancing and some great views can be had from higher up the hillside.

2. On Thursday I had a walk around Rawcliffe Lake in York on a distanced visit. I hadn’t ever visited the lake before, it was very peaceful walking around and watching the patterns that the ducks make skimming across the surface of the water. It was also lovely to discover that lots of local residents have been lining the paths with beautiful painted pebbles during lock down. I will definitely be returning here for another walk soon.

3. My final discovery was sent in by my lovely sister. On reading this week’s creative writing tasks she was inspired to research her favourite flowers – Scabious (pin cushion flowers). She stumbled across this amazing website with macro photography of the flowers included.

Pin cushion flower – courtesy of pixabay!

I hope that you have all been making some lovely discoveries too! Look out for the Saturday Art Challenge!

With best wishes,

Emma

Connect to Nature Creative Writing Class

08.07.2020

New Discoveries

Welcome back to another week of Connect to Nature Creative Writing.

This week I thought it might be nice to focus on some new discoveries that I have been making, and to use those as inspiration for our creative writing tasks. So, I’m going to get started straight away, I’m excited to share these things with you.

Task 1 (5 mins): The Cinnabar Moth. When I was gardening at my allotment I found a Ragwort plant covered in caterpillars (see above). On further investigation (thank you St Nick’s buddies!) I discovered that they are the caterpillars of the Cinnabar Moth, this led me to learn that Cinnabar Moths were named after the Cinnabar Stone. The Cinnabar Stone is a gem stone with a fascinating history and was used to make mercury. The moth was named after it due to it’s vibrant red colouring.

Your task is to connect the following precious stones to plants (e.g Ruby poppies, The Emerald Oak etc). Try to think about your favourite plants and see if you can match them to the something of that colour:

  • Emerald (deep green)
  • Ruby (deep red)
  • Lapis lazuli (sea or navy blue)
  • Amethyst (purple)
  • Citron (yellow)
  • Opal (glittering rainbow colours)
  • Diamond (glowing crystal white)
  • Turquoise

Task 2: The Linden Tree: (5 mins) This is one of my favourite times of the year when Lime Blossom Trees are in flower (they are also know as Linden Blossom..another new discovery I made!). I found out this week that you can eat the young leaves of the Linden Tree and also make a tea from the flowers. You can read about the tree and the mythology of the tree here. Apparently it also has many health benefits!

Inspired by this information I want you to write about one of the following items, imagining that you had only just discovered it for the first time:

  • Strawberries
  • Honey
  • Sunflower seeds
  • Fresh pea pods

Task 3: (10 mins) Meadows! Another discovery that I made this week was a small meadow off a cycle track I use and a field full of flowers on Fulford Ings in York. I have cycled past the entrance to the meadow many times but never ventured through the opening to discover what lay beyond the hedge! I found a beautiful network of paths through wild orchids and flowers. It was teeming with butterflies. I couldn’t believe that I had never explored there before.

Your task is to choose one of the following:

a) If you can go and explore a footpath that has intrigued you, that you haven’t ventured down before. Spend ten minutes on return writing about what you found. Remember to look at the small details. Sometimes a really simple hedgerow can be teeming with life.

b) Or…pick one thing in wildlife that has intrigued you, or that you are drawn to. Do a google search on the subject, or look it up in your books. Write about what you find out, does anything surprise you, is there any mythology connected to the subject, what do you discover?

Task 4: New Discoveries! Write a wish list of discoveries and adventures that you would like to make in the future, for example spotting something that you have never seen in person before, or visiting a special garden. Use your list as inspiration for a longer term plan to do as many of the things on your list as you can!

I hope that you enjoyed today’s class. I would love to hear about your discoveries, or any writing that you have to share with me.

With best wishes,
Emma

(I also found that whilst lovely riding a vintage bike, that it’s much harder to get off a bike designed for men if you aren’t used to riding one! This picture was taken just before I fell off trying to climb off it 🙂

Monday’s Poem

06.07.2020

Creation

Creation
A single Bee,
            Solitary,
                        Weaving
Between
            Lavender, 
Thyme,
Marigolds lit like flames,
            Alliums already burst and seeded,
Roses with their gentle blooms,
   Pollinating what has been left undone,
Harbouring the mysteries of her kind
Back and forth
To her hive, a temple
To creation,
Held by delicate chambers
Of amber cells,
Was Jupiter right to gift our precious bee her sting?
When spring arrives 
            To warm the untilled earth 
Bringing life and growth to every  bough
            We wonder -
Will we see our Bees again?
We wait 
Their vibrant Hum of flight,
The fragile wavering note
Of  life

By Emma McKenzie

I wrote this little poem as part of my completing my Masters in creative writing at York St John University. It’s getting to that time of year when all the flowers are in heady blooms and full of bees. I love the colours and vibrancy of summer. I thought you all might enjoy it too.

The poem was created as part of a Pollination Project run by the University. Not only did we learn about Pollinating insects, but we also cross-pollinated writing with other art forms. We were lucky enough to visit the Hive in Kew Gardens London as part of the project, which is a sculpture by Wolfgang Buttress and amazing to see.

This week’s creative writing class will follow the theme of New Discoveries, check in on Wednesday for some fun creative writing tasks and hopefully you will learn some new things about the natural world at the same time too.

I would love to feature your poems here! Please email me any work you would like to see featured to: e.mckenzie1@yorksj.ac.uk

Best wishes,

Emma