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

Week 9: Words from the Wild

02.12.2020

Welcome to week 9 of Words from the Wild.

For anyone new stumbling across this site, Words from the Wild is a book club and creative writing class run at St Nicks environment centre in York. During lock down and COVID we are putting our class content on this blog to support people accessing helpful opportunities from home.

Words from the Wild works by choosing a book to follow (which you are welcome to follow at home). Each week we choose a section to read at the class and combine with some creative writing activities linked to the theme.

At present we are reading The Stubborn Light of Things by Melissa Harrison. William (resident book club tutor ) and I chose pages 121-129 as our theme this week. During these pages Melissa includes her last journal entry from London and a new journal entry from her country side home. The following tasks are inspired by her words:

Task 1. (5 mins) Page 121 of The Stubborn Light of Things opens with a beautiful paragraph describing the sky at dusk. Think back to a beautiful sunset that you have enjoyed. Describe it in detail and the changing shapes and colours of the sky. I particularly liked Melissa’s closing line to the paragraph where she wrote that ‘Fistfuls of birds are flung overhead’. Try to include how dusk makes you feel, is it haunting, or sad that the day is ending. Does it make you feel reflective, or perhaps eager to get inside and get cosy?

Task 2: (10 mins) Melissa tells us about colonies of Seahorses found thriving in the Thames in London. This is remarkable when we consider that the Thames river was once so polluted it was declared to be a dead river. Melissa also describes thousands of Pied Wagtails nesting hidden in Laurel bushes in Kent. Using this knowledge of nature thriving as inspiration, free write for ten minutes starting with the words ‘The world is alive and breathing again……..’

Task 3 (10 mins). Once Melissa moves to the country side she is startled by the clear night skies and the stars that are visible. Melissa describes suddenly being aware of the rhythms of dawn and dusk and the evenings drawing in earlier over winter. We are approaching the winter solstice on the 21st of December when we will experience the shortest night of the year. Can you use the letters from the word Solstice to make an acrostic poem (each line should start with a letter from the word solstice). Think about the significance of Solstice and what it means for the nights to become lighter again and what you might look forward to.

Task 4: (5 mins) A winter feast. Melissa Harrison makes many fantastic observations about birds. In the final pages this week she reflects on the dwindling food for birds over the winter months. Can you write an imaginary recipe for a feast for a party of birds? Perhaps it is a table laden with berries, or a meal worm surprise!!! Have fun describing how to prepare the meal and how to make it attractive to a bird! (Top too: if you are based in York Askham Bog is a great place for feeding wild birds. I had a robin land on my hand and feed last winter).

Hope you enjoyed the session!

Take care, for those who we have been able to invite back onto the site we will be back on track on the reserve next week!

Best wishes,

Emma

Image courtesy of pixabay

25.11.2020 Today’s finds…

I hope you all enjoyed thinking about this mornings creative writing tasks. I had fun thinking about the characters of Autumn and Winter. I had such a colourful walk that I could imagine ‘Autumn’ as a person bejewelled in flowers and a riot of colours!

I also thought about regeneration and the opportunity to give as much back to nature as we can through our small urban patches of green, front yards and available spaces. I’ve seen alleyways done up with flower boxes and paintings in the past and I imagined what the York alleyways might look like if they were turned into vibrant community places….food for thought!!

For anyone local to York – one of our lovely participants put me onto this free resource of green walks around the city: https://www.itravelyork.info/downloads/download/9/wildlife-walks Enjoy!

See you online next week!
Best wishes,

Emma

Week 8: Words from the Wild

25.11.2020

Hello Everyone,

Welcome back to ‘Words from the Wild’ – I can’t believe we have reached our eighth session of this new group and am so glad we have been able to continue online during the current lock down.

This week William chose pages 72 – 78 of Melissa Harrison’s book The Stubborn Light of Things for anyone reading the book at home. During the chosen extract Melissa writes of a piece of land that has been regenerated for wildlife following the closure of industry. This reminded us very much of our beautiful St Nicks site, which was at one time a landfill site and before that clay pits. You can read more about that here if you are interested.

So, to start us off our first task is about regeneration and the following tasks are taking inspiration from the Melissa’s observations of wildlife and changing seasons :

Task 1: (5 mins) Regeneration: Last week we thought about transforming a manicured racecourse into a meadow. This week start by thinking about a place you would like to see regenerated for green space. Draw two columns on your page. On the left side write a list of what the space looks like now. On the right side of the page write contrasting sentences describing what it might look like if regenerated in the future. It can be anywhere that you like!

Task 2: Red Kites. (5 mins) Melissa writes about sightings of Red Kite birds of prey in her descriptions and informs us that they were once extinct in the UK (in 1871 for England and 1879 in Scotland) until they were an effort was made to protect them in 1903 when only a few remaining pairs were found in Wales (see here for more info). Red Kites are now successfully breeding across the UK and are wonderful to watch gliding on the air currents. For five minutes free write about your experiences of the Red Kite bird, this might have been a sighting, or if you prefer you can imagine you are a Red Kite flying across the city. What do you see? Imagine how it feels to have wings stretched out on the breeze and razor sharp vision hunting for prey!

Task 3: (10 mins) A farewell to Autumn. As the days draw closer we are getting the last of the harvest from the allotment. The final few blackberries are clinging on to brittle stems. Teasles have now lost their colours. Imagine that Autumn and Winter are people. Write about Winter coming home to tidy up after Autumn. What does Winter do to clean up. How does Winter take care of the next few months!?

Task 4: (5 mins) My Oasis. Think of a green place where you feel peaceful. Write for 5 minutes telling me about your oasis wherever that is.

Hope you all manage to enjoy some nature today!
Best wishes,

Emma

18.11.2020 Today’s finds

Hello Everyone,

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