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!

Welcome Back! WEEK 1 Jan 2021. WORDS FROM THE WILD! Poetry.

Hello Everyone,
A warm welcome back to you all following our winter break. I hope that you are all staying safe and looking forward to a new term of creative writing with St Nicks Eco-therapy Creative Writing class. As of last term we have combined our usual bookclub run by William with the Creative Writing class. This means that each week we will pick a piece of literature, prose or poetry to inspire the creative writing activities. This term we thought it would be nice to start the new year focusing on poetry.

The first poem that William has chosen for us to read is called Willow Warbler and was written by Siofra McSherry. I can’t post up the poem for copyright reasons, however if you would like to find the poem for yourself there is a link on Siofra’s webpage as follows: https://sioframcsherry.com

Willow Warbler is a beautiful poem that reflects on the journey of the migratory bird and the contrasts between the cold winter in the UK and the warmer season in Africa where the Willow Warbler goes to shelter during our winter months. Siofra writes that the Willow Warbler is a night flyer and that it is believed that the Willow Warblers navigate the journey using the stars. Migration, stars and contrasting seasons will be the inspiration points for our four creative writing tasks. Enjoy!

Task 1: Night time migration. (5 mins). We often think of birds in flight during the day. Imagine a migratory bird flying at night. Think about the shifting colours in the sky from dusk to dawn and the glittering stars in-between. Think about the contrasts of flying over ocean, country side and town. What would it feel like to be night flying? Make a list of as many words as you can think of describing the sights, sounds and senses of a night time flight for a bird.

Task 2: Hunkering down for the winter. (10 mins). Think about the creatures that remain with us during winter. Hedgehogs and Dormice will now be hibernating for the long winter months. Write for five minutes on the theme of hibernation discussing the pros and cons of curling up in a nest for a few months. You might want to argue the case from the point of it being better to migrate to a warmer climate instead, or from the point of staying cosy and tucked up at home. You can either write about your own perspective on this, or from the point of view of a chosen creature. Have fun!

Task 3: Arriving on distant shores. (10 mins). Draw a line down the middle of the page. On the left side of the page make a list of as many words as you can think of describing the current weather where you live. On the right hand side of the page make a list of contrasting words about a place that is the opposite of our current weather. For example: UK winter weather might include words such as: freezing, icy, windy, cold. If I imagine a hot desert climate my contrasting words would be things such as: hot, arid, dusty, dry.

Once you have your list imagine that when you open your front door it magically opens out to a contrasting place in the world. Go for an imaginary walk through your new landscape, describe it in detail and how it feels. If you want to you can follow this up with a contrasting piece of writing describing a local winter walk.

Task 4: Five lines: (five mins). Staying positive through the current times are essential. Write five lines depicting things you have seen recently in the natural world that are beautiful, fun or interesting, or things you are looking forward to in Spring. Here are my five lines as an example:

Cobwebs dusted with frost hanging from a railing.

A large iced puddle that when walked on cracked like creme brûlée!

Golden ash keys hanging from bare branches.

A pink dawn stretching across the sky.

A robin as round as a bauble singing at the top of his voice!

Please do share your own five lines with me via email or in the comments to this blog. The class will remain online until further notice due to the current lock down. If anyone is interested in some Saturday art challenges let me know and I will put some up on here.

Best wishes,
Emma

All images courtesy of pixabay, except for leaf shots which are my own.


16.12.2020 Today’s finds…

Today the group enjoyed a lovely walk around St Nicks – and sent me these lovely pics of details that they noticed… including the St Nicks bear who is impossible to spot in summer amongst the leaves! Apparently the squirrel task got everyone talking! (see writing tasks for this week on prev blog post)

I unfortunately had to stay home with a poorly family member, but can’t wait to be back after Christmas. In the meantime I am going to use the Christmas break to get out my paints and connect to nature through some of my favourite landscapes.

See you in the New Year.

Best wishes

Emma

Here’s my Dachshund contemplating a walk in one of her Xmas jumpers!

Week 11: Words from the Wild

16.12.2020

Dear Readers,
This week marks the end of Words from the Wild until the New Year. We also finish the book we have been focusing on – The Stubborn Light of Things by Melissa Harrison.

We end today’s session by focusing on the last pages 203 – 209, written in May 2020. During this extract Melissa is thinking about the impact of COVID and reflecting on the fact that one good thing to come out of the pandemic is that it has helped many people to reconnect with the natural world. Melissa also focuses on the woodland and copses that she is familiar with and all the beautiful flowers and scents of Spring.

Inspired by this final chapter here are three tasks related to the final thoughts recorded in The Stubborn Light of Things. I hope that you enjoy the tasks and look forward to starting a new book and set of creative writing tasks in the New Year.

Task 1: Woodland. (5 mins) Melissa writes of a woodland where ‘the broad, glossy straps of their leaves have been creating an unbroken emerald sea for weeks’ (p203 In The Stubborn Light of Things). Imagine a squirrel running between branches amongst the tops of trees. Can you write five lines describing a running, leaping journey in Spring amongst new green leaves, and five lines describing running amongst the branches in winter? Be as creative as you like, you can either write an observational account, or from the squirrels perspective.

Task 2: Wild flowers. ( 10 mins) We are already seeing snowdrops poking through the ground at St Nicks. Imagine a wild carpet of your favourite Spring flowers stretching across a garden. Take your readers on a journey describing your joy at discovering the scene, describe what you do next. Do you pick some flowers for a vase, or sit and admire them? Perhaps you take out a sketch book to draw them?

Here is a list of flowers to get you thinking:

  • Bluebells
  • Daffodils
  • Tulips
  • Snowdrops
  • Crocuses

Task 3: Hope. (5 mins) Melissa makes note of our new found awareness of nature through the pandemic. Instead of making a New Years Resolution this year I’m going to make a New Years commitment to spend time in nature. How will you connect with nature in 2021. Write for five minutes about an adventure you would like to have in 2021 that involves the natural world. Perhaps there is somewhere you have always promised yourself you will visit, or return to. Perhaps you want to commit to spend more time outdoors, or perhaps you will plant something unusual or beautiful? I would love to hear your thoughts.

Take care and best wishes for Christmas and the New Year,
With kindest regards,
Emma

Week 10: Words from the Wild

09.12.2020

Thinking about the experience of silence in nature.

Hi everyone,

I hope that everyone is staying cosy to read the blog and complete the writing tasks. This week we are welcoming back some writers onto St Nicks reserve and look forward to a time when our classes can fully return to include more people in the future.

This week William and I read pages 188 -194 of The Stubborn Light of Things by Melissa Harrison. During this week’s extract Melissa describes a move to a new home in the country side. She is struck by the silence that falls in the evenings without the hum of traffic or people near by. At first the silence is quite eery until she settles into her new home.

Melissa chose a home specifically with tracks around it so that she had quick and easy access to lots of dog walking opportunities. Melissa notes the sound of her dog scampering and the sudden stillness when Scout becomes alert to a noise.

This week’s creative writing tasks will start with stillness and build up a sound scape of noise in the natural world. I hope that you enjoy!

Task 1: (5 mins) Stillness. Imagine a place in the natural world where everything is quiet and still. It might be a very calm lake early in the morning. Or a garden as night settles and the birds settle down. Try to think of somewhere tranquil that you have visited. Write for 5 minutes describing the feeling of experiencing a quiet landscape.

Task 2: (5 mins)Footsteps. Now that we have imagined a quiet place let’s build some noise. Imagine walking on and through something textured in the natural world. Here are some ideas: snow, mud, dry leaves, long grass, shingle on a beach.

Try to find words to describe the noise that your foot steps make. Write ten lines each with a description of your feet walking through nature.

Task 3: (10 mins) Sudden noises in nature. Have you ever been startled by a flock of birds lifting from a path, or a large wave crashing on to a shore? Write about an experience when you have been startled in the natural world. Using the juxtaposition of a quiet landscape in contrast to a loud interaction with nature is a nice starting point to this task.

Task 4: (5 mins) I couldn’t resist adding in a fourth task today with winter approaching (both in the chapters we have been reading and in reality!). The fourth task is about snow. Free write for five minutes about the world being hushed by a white blanket of snow, if you like have fun linking today’s themes and writing about making tracks in the snow.

I hope you had fun with these tasks!
See you next week for our last session before Christmas.

Best wishes,
Emma

02.12.2020 Today’s finds….

Hello Everyone,

Today I was inspired by the first writing task and have been charting the colours of the sky and shifting clouds. I’m currently waiting for dusk to fully set in and to see pink and purple fill the sky. For anyone that has been following this blog since summer you might remember that I did a post on the colours of the sky and viewing the sky like an ocean?

I’m going to scribble down lots of words to describe the shifting colours as night closes in. Later I will craft my words into a poem…I hope to share that with you when it’s finished.

I also enjoyed the silhouettes of trees against the sky, and up close the colours and textures of bark. I thought about my paint box and how some of the yellow tones in the clouds are similar to the lichen on trees.

I hope you made some interesting connections with nature too!

Best wishes,

Emma