Weekend Nature Journal – Art Challenge

Have you ever thought about all the colours in water? At some point in childhood we are taught that if we draw the sea, the river, or a lake – that it should be blue. Look at the photographs included here. What colours can you see in the reflections? Forget that you are looking at water, instead think about the colours you would use if you had to match the details in the pictures to a paint palette.

Have a go at your own picture, how about filling a jam jar or a vase with water (even better if it also has some spring flowers in). What colours do you see in the clear space through the glass? Something fun to think about, or have a go at creating on the page.

When you go out for your daily walk notice any reflections in water. It doesn’t matter if it’s a small puddle, or a huge river – what colours would you use if you were to paint it?

Sometimes I can’t always find the words that I want to describe things. Sometimes sketching and painting can help us to create a visual language that we can later translate into words.

Happy Weekend! Look out for a poem posted up on Monday.

Best wishes,

Emma

More lovely reflections sent in from Sean … Thank you!!

Friday Letters 03.04.2020

Hello Everyone! We’ve almost reached the end of another week and I thank you so much for all your beautiful comments and pictures. I’ve been blown away by the responses I have received, not only from our lovely community of writers from St Nicks / Converge partnership, but also from long lost friends who have seen my blog on facebook and got in touch with letters and pictures of their own green spaces.

This week I want to feature an absolutely beautiful piece of writing sent to me by ‘K’ from my current class at St Nicks who wrote:

Standing proud amid the bigger saplings your corkscrew curls and beautiful bends caught my eye. I knew at once you were the tree for me.  I brought you home, knowing if I nurtured you now, we could, and probably would, become lifelong friends. Sharing the space together we would both grow, our roots and branches forever entwined. You would see me everyday, observe my comings and goings, whilst I would see you slowly growing to fill a space not only in my garden, but more importantly in my life. I would keep you watered and in return you would keep me connected. I would ensure you kept your shape and in return you would cast shade. Together, we would symbiotically care for the health of each other. I bought you and now I own you, I planted you and nurtured you, but now I am not so sure, are you really mine? or am I instead forever in your debt, my little twisted willow tree.  ‘K’

Such beautiful words and also a reminder of how interactions with nature can keep us grounded and focused in our complicated daily lives.

I also received this gorgeous picture from the ‘Day’ family garden. They set up under this beautiful magnolia tree to have a go at the Connect to Nature creative writing tasks as a family.

My lovely OT student Nicki who has remained on placement with the Converge Team, despite the current crisis, wrote to send me photo’s of the horses at the back of her house. These brought back memories of my own childhood playing on a friend’s farm and the soft velvet snuffles of a horse’s nose.

I’ve also received quite a few poems, thank you folks! I’ve decided to put a Poetry Post up every Monday as a result – so check the blog on Monday for the first one! For those of you who have enjoyed my Connect to Nature Art Class at St Nicks I will be uploading a ‘Weekend Nature Journal’ post every Saturday with ideas and inspiration for an art activity linked to the natural world.

Keep safe and keep in touch!
With Best Wishes,
Emma

Cover picture kindly sent to me by Joan Taylor (thanks Mum ๐Ÿ™‚ )

Friday Letters…Connect to Nature, Letters from the Allotment..

Connect to Nature online class 01.04.2020

Miniature Worlds

Welcome to April and a brand new online creative writing class. One of the most exciting things about creative writing is getting to experience different perspectives and new worlds through our imagination and writing.

Before we start – a big thank you so much to everyone who sent me feedback and comments / pieces of writing last week (if you haven’t read them look in the comments section at the bottom of previous posts). It was lovely to read all of them. I loved the variety too – from Jonathan writing about his view from the window to Kev sharing childhood memories of playing in woodland.

This week we’re going to focus on miniature worlds and paying special attention to notice those things we usually rush by without giving a second glance. People often say that they don’t have access to a natural landscape near to their home, well here is my message, look again!

All around us are mini worlds. The home’s of insects, wildlife and flowers. In these miniature landscapes our imagination can come alive and we can lose ourselves in a completely new landscape we may never have noticed before.

Task 1: Let’s start by focusing on something small and beautiful. List ten words to describe a butterfly….

Task 2: Find a mini world! This might be a sprout of moss growing in the wall of your house, a jungle in a pot plant container, or perhaps the inside of a flower head. (If you are stuck you can choose one of the photographs below for inspiration). Imagine that you are the size of an ant. Describe your world in detail. How do the textures feel to walk on? Is it soft or smooth, slippery or hard? What do you notice about your mini world?

Task 3: Guessing game…what am I? Find something in nature that is small and that you can describe in detail. Don’t tell me what it is, show me what it is through words, I will see if I can guess what you are describing.

Task 4: In three lines tell me the experience of one of these insects!

Happy Writing Everyone! Don’t forget to post your writing in the comments, or email it to me at e.mckenzie1@yorksj.ac.uk . Also look out for new Monday Poetry Posts! Starting next week. (Oh and a big thank you to Richard M for sending me the header photo for this post and Lewis Outing for the insect pics!)

Best wishes,
Emma ๐Ÿ™‚

Friday Letters…27.03.2020

What a week! Thank you to all those who have posted comments and also contacted me individually to share their green space stories. It’s so lovely to Connect through Nature ๐Ÿ™‚

Every Friday I will be posting featured letters / emails that people have sent to me about their own interactions with the natural world. This week before I share a letter I would like to draw your attention to the lovely comments left at the bottom of Wednesday’s class and also a post written by my friend Sean from St Nicks under my ‘Hello’ post.

Sean wrote to me about a Midland Hawthorn tree growing near to his home. I absolutely love Hawthorn and it’s something to look forward to at this time of year, as the hedgerows and lanes fill up with lots of beautiful varieties of white blossom. I’d love to see photos if you have any near you.

The first letter I am going to feature has been sent to me by my big sister who lives all the way down in Cornwall. It has been lovely to connect with her over making this blog, and also has given us something positive to focus on, I hope it has done the same for you. She wrote the following regarding bumping into her friend Katarzyna whilst out for her daily walk:

A secret meeting in between two villages. I arrived on an bike and placed a pink dusky rose ribbon on the wish tree. We both acknowledged our thoughts on the importance of growing. Staying 3m apartย  (I swapped seeds amongst them peas and beans for a loaf of home baked bread). I started to compose this poem, a reflection on our parting as I cycled home.

25/03/20

Sprite Katarzyna 
A pixie smile
In between the
Woodland leaves
The Stream trickles
Tinkling 
My breath expires
In the dappled sun
Hugs suggested
Carried 
On a softly
Whispered breeze

These words brightened up my day and with an unexpected surprise I also received an illustration she did to accompany the poem (featured below), along with photos of magnolia blossom and tulips from my Mum and my eldest sister…..a perfect way to start this blog – connecting through nature to those I love the most. I’m looking forward to connecting with new people here too. See you next Wednesday! Keep safe everyone!

With love Emma

Connect to Nature online Class!

Week 1: 25th March 2020- All Things Twiggy!!

This term we were due to start the class at St Nicks using the theme of Trees. As we are no longer able to meet on the reserve, I thought we could have fun with trees as a theme for our first online creative writing class! Following our usual format, I’m going to set out the class exercises below, feel free to have a go and leave your writing / comments in the box below! Top tip: Try to write using all your senses (taste, sound, touch, smell and sight) don’t just tell me about it, show me by placing me in the situation you are writing about.

Task 1: Instead of a walk around the reserve, please use your view, your garden, or green space to notice anything tree related! You might be lucky enough to have trees growing close by, if you don’t perhaps you can spend five minutes thinking about a favourite tree, or one that you like to climb in childhood. *Free write for five minutes about your observations, or a tree related memory!

Task 2: (5 mins) List ten things you can do with a stick! (Be as creative as you like – these are often good start points for a story).

Task 3: (10 mins) A place of solace. Imagine that you are out walking and come across a beautiful woodland. You venture into the woods and discover a large old oak tree that has a large hollow opening in its trunk. Intrigued you look inside – what do you find? (Hints: Use your imagination, is it an opening to another world? Perhaps there is a stair case inside, or perhaps you come across a nest or something unusual?)

Task 4: (5 – 10 minutes) Imagine being able to have a bird’s eye view from the top of a tree where you live. What can you see from your view? How does the land look in contrast to what you see from the ground? What does it feel like being at the top of the tree!?

Inspiration: If you have enjoyed these writing exercises you might also be inspired to know that trees can produce beautiful music! Check out this link where you can hear the sounds of trees via music that has been created by translating the patterns of a tree’s ring to sounds!

  • Pictures re this weeks class kindly sent in by Sean and Meg – see comments below.

Hello!

Hello my name is Emma! I am a writer, artist and occupational therapist. I work for Converge and for the last five years have been working in partnership with the beautiful St Nicks in York to deliver a creative writing class, as part of their full time eco-therapy programme which you can read more about here.

Each creative writing course lasts for 10 weeks. We usually work to a theme and have explored many different aspects of nature such as:

  • Winter Solace – exploring the beauty of nature through the dark winter months.
  • Wild Birds and Woodland Folklore – using the mythology surrounding nature.
  • Hidden Treasure – looking at the hidden workers of the natural world.
  • Nature Journaling – keeping sketch books and journals observing nature.

This blog is a platform to share the natural world with others. Running the class has never ceased to amaze me. Having started the class with a limited knowledge of plants and wildlife, I now have a fantastic community of people around me who are equally inspired and interested. We have learnt so many new things and raised so many interesting and at times comical questions – such as ‘Do spiders have noses?’…..more about that later!

Please join me for a weekly online creative writing class. Every Wednesday I will be posting a set of instructions that I normally use in my class. We usually start with a walk in nature, followed by four short tasks that are no longer than five to ten minutes each. Those who want to then share their work. (You can post yours into the comments box at the end of the weekly class post).

I encourage you to log in, have a go at the tasks and engage with the natural world around you (even if it’s just starting with looking at the clouds through your window, or finding new love for a house plant!).

If you are really inspired and want to send me a letter, a poem, or a photograph of your own special green space for me to publish on here, you are welcome to email me at: e.mckenzie1@yorksj.ac.uk or you can write to me sending your own words and drawings to:

Emma McKenzie
Letters from the Allotment
C/o Converge
York St John University
Lord Mayor's Walk,
York
YO31 7EX

Featured letters from your own green spaces will be posted up every Friday!
The first class will be published on here on the 25.03.2020

Happy Writing!
Best wishes,
Emma