The Magical Hawthorn Tree

Connect to Nature online Creative Writing Class

06.05.2020

Welcome back to another week of Connect to Nature Creative Writing. I can’t believe that May is already here! As mentioned on Monday’s Poem, this week’s class is dedicated to the beautiful and magical Hawthorn Tree. Hawthorn is often overlooked in it’s beauty, particularly when not in flower. I hope that today’s class sparks an interest for you and that you find many lovely Hawthorn varieties following this!

Hawthorn is probably one of our native trees most strongly associated with folklore and fairy tales. The following tasks will involve observation and imagination. I have included lot’s of photographs for inspiration and ideas. I hope that you enjoy the class.

Task 1: (5mins) The word Hawthorn originates from the old Anglo Saxon word Hagethorn meaning literally – Hedge Thorn. Write ten words describing the beautiful May Blossom lining our hedgerows at this time of year.

Task 2: (5 mins) In times gone by the Hawthorn has been seen as a blessing to the land that it stands on and a symbol of good luck and prosperity. Hawthorn often appears in the wreath of the Green Man and is a symbol of summer approaching. Sprigs of hawthorn were also once worn in the trim of a hat to guard against a lightning strike*. If you could use the magical powers of the Hawthorn to protect something what would you choose and why?

Task 3: Hawthorn trees have long been said to mark the meeting place of the fairies and the entrance to fairy world. It is such bad luck to cut a bloom of May Blossom or to cut down a Hawthorn tree that whole roads have been built around them. Use your imagination to describe a walk through an enchanted woodland. You follow winding footpaths through the trees, hawthorn blossom lines your way. You notice something amongst the leaves……what happens next? (Make sure to describe the sounds, scents and scenes that appear before you on your walk – there are some pictures below to help you on your way).

Nb: If you aren’t feeling imaginative focus on a woodland walk and see where your mind takes you.

Task 4: (5 mins) Folklore tells us that the fairies hang their washing on the branches of the hawthorn tree, who ever takes the blossom will incur the wrath of the fairies! This made me laugh, my wrath was incurred on Saturday when I got caught in a rain storm and all my washing also got drenched on the line! In ten lines tell me about a natural event that has incurred your wrath! Perhaps you have been caught in extreme weather, or lost a welly to some mud? I’d love to hear your tales.

For more information on the magical hawthorn I found these two great sites:

In the meantime, enjoy the May Blossom and try not to incur the wrath of any fairies out there! Wishing you many May blessings.

With best wishes,

Emma

This was taken in the allotment shed after getting caught in the rain storm – there was nothing else I could do but laugh! I may as well have chucked a bucket of water over my head!

Top photo with many thanks to Sean Garvey 🙂

Monday’s Poem

04.05.2020

Hawthorn Haikus!

Please feel free
Mother, 
daughter
To breathe
To anchor
With my Hawthorn tree

By Eloise Clark

*

Ground me
Hawthorn tree
From your gnarled trunk
I imagine
The fairy door

By Eloise Clark

*

Hawthorn, strong and sharp -
or soft, gentle, pinkish-white.
Mayflower: does both.

By Sean Garvey

These beautiful little Haiku were sent to me by my sister Eloise and my good friend Sean from St Nicks. Hawthorn trees have a special place in my heart as they are tied up in folklore. I find them fascinating, beautiful and inspirational.

It is said that the Hawthorn tree marks the entrance to the world of fairies. Hawthorn brings us the May Blossom, so a perfect way to start this month, although don’t pick the blossom or you will incur the wrath of the fairies!

For more about the humble Hawthorn look out for this week’s Connect to Nature online writing class which will use the Hawthorn as the main theme.

See you then!

With best wishes,

Emma

Nb: All pictures with credit to Sean Garvey. (Many thanks Sean)

Saturday Art Challenge!

Adding Bees to your nature journal…

02.05.2020

This week I had a little art session planned on drawing wildlife….however…I then got distracted by bees! When I was researching bees for the Wednesday class I started doodling some in my note book. I was thinking about their patterns of flight and the lovely dances that bees do in the sky. So I thought it might be nice to include it here as a Saturday nature journal challenge.

Sometimes it’s nice just to doodle. I often have little scribbles and notes throughout my journals. The zigzag lines on the page represent the buzzing noises. I kept to black, yellow and orange colours to represent the bees. I used a series of images I found on google as inspiration.

You will notice that once I had drawn them I added notes. As I was just playing around I didn’t add any technical terminology. I just kept it simple to what I noticed; the wings being positioned higher up the body than I had imagined, the little hooks on the end of each foot, the fact that when you look at bees they are often more of an orangey colour than the yellow we think of (yes orangey is my very own word!).

The point is – it’s fun and liberating not to be perfect and to doodle and learn. It inspired some reasearch questions to think about in more detail:

These might in turn inspire one of my future creative writing classes. I also thought it might be fun to get out some paint and create some bees using printing with sponges to get the fluffy shapes of the body. I might do this as a future art challenge.

So here is your art challenge for this week:

Task: Create a journal page with doodles of something that you couldn’t normally get close to and that inspires you. It could be bees, or another insect that you are intrigued about. Don’t be too precious about your style, just relax and have fun, see what you learn. If you haven’t got an outdoor space, or haven’t found your chosen thing use your imagination and then use google images to check the facts. If you are drawing bees the links on last Wednesday’s class have some good images for inspiration. Don’t forget to send me your results!

Thanks for visiting the Saturday Art Challenge. I have some lovely things planned for next week to welcome the month of May. The focus will be Hawthorn trees and the magical May Blossom! See you on Monday where I will be starting us off with some Hawthorn Haiku as the poems of the week.

See you then!

Best wishes,

Emma

Friday’s Letters

A Real Treat!

01.05.2020

Hello! Welcome back to another week of Friday Letters. This week I was in for a real treat…

An actual letter arrived through my door! A physical envelope of loveliness!!!! It’s funny, I used to write letters all the time, I have a box full of them from my student days. Although we have instant access to communication now, there is nothing quite like a real, physical letter; something that you can carry with you for the day and re-visit, like the person is with you in your pocket for just when you need them.

This letter was from an old friend from school. It was so lovely to receive and brought me much joy. In fact it’s been all around York with me today in tucked safely inside my bag.

My second treat was a distanced contact with Meg who showed me this beautiful book through the window:

Meg and I share many interests in art and writing. This book is so much of a visual treat that we decided to nickname it a ‘visual pudding’!! (There’s some good Yorkshire to that phrase!) Even if you aren’t an artist this book is so beautifully illustrated it’s worth having just to drool over.

My third treat was in relation to this week’s Connect to Nature Writing Class – entitled Tell it to the Bees. My brilliant staff member Lee sent in his writing on completion of the tasks. These were my favourites:

Task 1: A charm to welcome the bees:

Summer welcomes you the Honeybee
Sunshine fragrance humming flowers
Open up for you nectar blossom budding.

I loved the alliteration of the fragrant flowers and blossom budding, such lovely imagery.

For the fourth task Lee wrote about telling the bees a secret:

Task 4: I treat my bees as a extended part of my family. I always tell them all my news and what has been happening. The highs and lows the joys and sorrows. I also share my secrets with them, you may wonder what they are and could ask my bees, but they will never tell!

This made me smile, I’ve told quite a few secrets to the bees too this week!

My fourth treat, was the arrival of clouds! Do you remember a couple of weeks ago the class on skylines? Well, this guaranteed not a cloud in the sky and clear blue for the entire week! Since then there have been some really dramatic skies – here are some pictures I took on recent walks.

Thank you to everyone that has been in touch this week to tell me that they are enjoying the blog. I have a lovely theme planned for next week all about the magical Hawthorn Tree to welcome the lovely month of May with the May Blossom.

See you tomorrow for an Art Challenge – it’s all about beautiful Buzzy Bees – following on from this weeks Connect to Nature Writing class.

Take care!
Best wishes,

Emma

Tell it to the Bees

Connect to Nature Online Creative Writing Class

29.04.2020

Welcome to a new online Connect to Nature creative writing class. Now that we are well in to Spring and approaching the Summer months I thought it would be lovely to create a session to welcome our beautiful Bees! There are many charms and omens associated with bees lets start with a couple of traditional rhymes:

A swarm of bees in May is worth a load of hay,
A swarm of bees in June is worth a silver spoon,
A swarm of bees in July isn't worth a fly!

*

When bees to distance wing their flight,
Days are warm and skies are bright,
But when their flight ends near their home
Stormy weather is sure to come.

The first rhyme indicates bees as a prediction for the harvest, the second as a sign of the weather to come.

There are lots of varieties and types of bees. Bees are fascinating and gentle creatures. They are captivating. From the lovely buff tailed fluffy bumble bee, to the leaf cutter and mason bees – you can identify them all here on this excellent guide. I love them all! I’ve put lots of links within the tasks this week, don’t feel you have to click on them all, they are there if you want some extra inspiration or are excited to discover more.

So lets start this week’s class:

Task 1: (5 mins) A charm for the Bees! Just for fun to start the class; write a three line charm for the Bees welcoming them to the summer and wishing them well. For fun try and include some of the following words:- Welcome, Sunshine, Flowers and Pollen as part of your writing. Don’t worry about making it rhyme, just have fun!

Heres an example:

Welcome honey coloured bees
Happy gathering of pollen
Enjoy our dew drenched summer flowers

Task 2: (5 mins) What type of bee would you be!? Have a look at the bee identification guide in the link at the start of the class. Some bees live in colonies and hives, others such as the leaf cutter bee live a solitary life and pack themselves away in their leaf cuttings to hibernate. Choose a bee that reflects your personality. Write for five minutes matching the bee’s traits to your own.

Task 3: (10 mins) A day in the life of…..! Writers often use personification – where we apply human traits to something non-human. Write about the day in a life of a bee. Imagine the bee’s journey, can you give the bee a voice and describe what the bee sees as she flies (worker bees are all female – for more info link here if want to!).

Task 4: (5 mins) Tell it to the Bees. It is a long tradition of Bee Keepers to tell their secrets and big events to the bees. Without doing this you could risk a swarm! There’s an interesting blog post on this here. Just for fun to end the class, think of a secret that you could tell to the bees. In five lines tell them your secret, if you want to – go and find a bee to whisper it to!

I hope you enjoyed this week’s class. The more you look the more bees you will see and identify. Also look out for the golden hover-flies starting to appear – they are just as important pollinators as the bees!

I will leave you with this final bee folklore which, along with the top two rhymes, were sent to me by my fantastic colleague Paul Botting. Paul has run horticultural therapy for many years for various teams that I have worked in and now his main role is to deliver supported voluntary work sessions at Poppleton Community Railway Nursery in partnership with Converge.

Rob your bees during the new of the moon and they’ll produce more honey next time. ( I take that to mean remove the honey)

It’s bad luck to sell bees.

If you sell your bees and receive payment into your hand you have sold your luck with your bees. To sell bees you must have the buyer lay the payment on a rock and refrain from picking up the money until the bees are gone with their new owner.

When a member of the family dies the bee hives must be draped in black cloth to make sure they don’t leave.

If you fail to move your bees when a family member dies-all the bees will die as well.

If a bee flies in and out of the house-it brings good luck.

If a bee owner dies, the bees must be told of the death and moved or they will leave the hive.

Don’t forget to send me your words, images and inspirations for inclusion in the Friday Letters blog post. They can be on the theme of bees or something that has inspired you from your own interactions with the natural world.

Take care,

See you Friday!

Best wishes,

Emma

Monday’s Poem

The Heart of White and Green
By Llykael Dert-Ethrae
Ooooh, she's a merry young lady from Illarien 
Who carries the joys of ladies and men 
Hair shining so bright in the light of the moon 
Freely sharing her love – oh my what a boon!

So quiet and soft she darts among trees 
All animals swarm and never do flee. 

Sheee's the friend upon which we always can lean 
Oh she's the great heart of pure white and green! 

Soooo with hair like the snow and eyes like a leaf 
And a soul so pure it washes all grief 
She bounds all about showing kindness to all 
Wildly dancing with us – oh my what a ball! 

Her smile so wide it's bright as the sun 
An aura as warm as a freshly baked bun. 

Sheee's the friend upon which we always can lean 
Oh she's the great heart of pure white and green! 

Allll beasts and lush plants she bids them goodnight 
Her singing sweet tunes sets their dreams alight 
She's skipping through woods never snapping a bark 
Aptly flitting is she - oh my what a lark! 

It's plain to us all as you can now see 
She adores them as much as you and me. 

Sheee's the friend upon which we always can lean 
Oh she's the great heart of pure white and green!

You may remember Llykael Dert-Ethrae’s poetry from a couple of weeks ago. Llykael Dert-Ethraeis a writer based in York, The Heart of White and Green is one of three poems by Llykael, it is from a series of works concerning a character named Willow who features in Llykael’s writing. I hope you enjoyed this poem you can find Llykael’s previous Monday poem here.

See you on Wednesday for the Connect to Nature Creative Writing Class!

Best wishes,

Emma

Saturday Art Challenge – Sketch Books

25.04.2020

Happy Saturday everyone!

This week’s Saturday art challenge was inspired by a conversation I had the other day. I was chatting with my children about edible wild plants. We were discussing Dandelion and Burdock. I realised that I had no idea what a Burdock plant looked like – or how you would go about eating one or turning it into a drink!

With this in mind we set about doing some investigation and found this great little film about foraging for Burdock plants. I suddenly realised that Burdock are the sticky burr plants that you find in woodland. (The very burrs that I enjoyed teasing my siblings with as a child and that I am forever combing out of my dogs fur!)

A while ago I started trying to sketch new discoveries and keep a record of findings. Not only is it fun but it also helps me to remember things as I spend more time focusing on the details. Over time the children have enjoyed getting involved too. The great thing is that you don’t necessarily need to be outdoors to do this, if you are interested in the natural world you can also use books and photographs as reference points.

Here are some Burdock pages we made following our findings.

We’ve also been researching herbs and plants that we grown in the allotment. This led to a nice page on Chamomile tea and one on Thyme flowers – which my little girl enjoyed illustrating for me. Sometimes we press flowers and leaves and sometimes we print out photos of findings and stick them in.

Task: Creating a Sketch Book Nature Journal Page:

Your Saturday art challenge is to find something in nature that you are intrigued by or interested in and to create a page about it. You can either sketch a drawing of your chosen item or print a photograph, then label it with observations and discoveries!
Simple!

Have fun!

Look out for a lovely nature based poem on Monday.

With best wishes,
Emma

Friday Letters

24.04.2020

Hello Everyone!

I hope that you are all keeping a safe and well. This week I have been discussing nature with many of the people that I support. It’s amazing the solace that we can find in the natural world and I am so pleased that this blog is helpful.

We have had some absolutely stunning and beautiful responses to this weeks class, alongside a wonderful collection of pictures of flowers being sent in! Be prepared for a visual treat! Here goes!

In response to The Skylines class I received these absolutely stunning pictures and words from my team member Lee who my regular writers from St Nicks all know:

Lee wrote in response to the tasks as follows:

Task 1: Describing the sky – Lee responded to each photograph on the class blog as follows:

Deep blue sea, reminds me of a view from a submarine, a city underwater.Picture two: Light blue, blue with a tint of pink, makes me think of a sunset camping.Picture three: Lovely calm blue, it almost looks like a painting with the pink looking like brushstrokes.


Task 2: Charting the sky as if it were an ocean:

Rippling waves of blue, like the wings of morpho. The moon pulls a tide of fluffy white cloudsA wash of foam in the skySome white some grey no two the sameConstant change.

Task three: Describing the journey of a migrating bird:

Mystery of the House Martin – A mix of glossy blue spreading in to black on its upper and a white lower. This beautiful little bird travels to the UK from Africa around this time of year.Little is known of the route it takes or how it feeds getting here.Surprisingly it isn’t known where its wintering grounds are despite many birds been tagged.


Task four: A haiku about the sky:

Dazzling golden orb 
Shafts of light cutting the sky 
Chasing darkness down 

I also received these stunning pictures of a York Skyline from Rich which were taken during a recent sunset:

The following photos arrived from down South. Beautiful pictures of the sky taken from a door step across the last few months:

I wanted to end this week’s letters with these absolutely stunning flower photographs sent in by a Converge Student. They are perfect as a lovely way to end these letters today and to let you know that Wednesday’s class will be all about Bees!

I particularly love the Tulips in these pictures. Looking at them reminded me of an article that I read once, it said that Tulips were worth more than gold back in the 17th century. You can read more about that here if you are interested!

Thank you so much everyone for all the fantastic pictures, comments and words that you have sent me. It is such a joy to receive everyone’s interactions and it brings me much hope for when we are all back out enjoying green spaces.

With best wishes,

Emma

Ps. See you on Saturday for an art challenge!

Connect to Nature Online Class – Skylines

22.04.2020

Welcome to another Connect to Nature Online Creative Writing Class. For those of you new to this blog I use creative writing to help people notice and engage with nature for wellbeing. Think of it like mindfulness with a purpose! For more about how each class works please visit my About Page and also the How to Get Involved page.

This week’s class has been written with a special thought for all those self-isolating for protective reasons to shield themselves from the virus, for those unable to get out for daily walks and those of you who perhaps don’t have an outdoor space to enjoy or sit in.

I find a lot of beauty in the sky and thought this would be a nice theme for today. I’ve spent the last few weeks in an upstairs room looking out onto a brick wall and the sky. I love the changing colours that I see each day and also watching a little nest of starlings going in and out of the guttering across the road. I think I love the sky because it reminds me of the sea! I grew up by the sea and I often think the sky is like the sea – with its changing moods, patterns and colours. So this class is all about looking up at the sky, cloud watching and finding solace. I hope that you enjoy!

Task 1: (5 mins) After announcing this class would be about cloud watching on Monday’s Poem, there has been nothing but beautiful cornflower blue skies!! (Typical! – So you can thank me for the lovely weather). I’ve been taking pictures of the changing colours of the sky through an old round window in my home (see below). So let’s start by writing ten words to describe the different changing colours in the skyline and what it reminds you of.

Task 2: Charting the Sky like the Ocean (5 mins) .

There is a lovely little book I own called the Waves on Porthmeor beach -in which two artists charted the moving patterns of waves and water over a series of months. Thinking about this as an inspiration write a log of the sky as if it was an ocean. Even if it is a clear bright blue – let your mind wander and write about what it reminds you of. How would you describe the blue that you see? Is it the colour of a cornflower, or is it a pale white blue like the shell of a blue egg? If there are clouds, what do they remind you of, are they drifting or sweeping? If the sky is grey how would you match the colour? Is it the colour of a pebble, or a feather, or perhaps cobwebs; what can you liken it to in nature? See where your mind takes you. If you enjoy this task it might be something you would like to continue with daily.

( As an extra challenge you might want to include these ocean themed words for fun: waves, ripples, tide, drift, pull, foam, spray )

Task 3: The arrival of Swifts and Swallows. (10 mins). It’s the time of year for Swifts and Swallows to start arriving. Look out for them in the skyline, swifts particularly have a very distinctive call. I live in terraced house with no green space directly near to me, at this time of year the swifts start arriving and are often circling our streets at dusk.

Write about a bird’s arrival to our country. What kind of weather do they pass through getting here? What do they see when they arrive over the shores of the UK? What contrasts are there? (If you are reading this from elsewhere in the world, perhaps think of another migratory bird, or how it feels when your birds migrate away).

St Nick’s book club have been exploring the diaries of Wordsworth and his sister this week who also recorded brilliant observations of the natural world. They have also been thinking about Haiku poetry to capture nature based images. This inspired a final task about Haiku:

Task 4: (5 mins) Haiku are tiny forms of poems written in three lines. (Follow the link if you wish to be exact – they usually follow the rule of 5 syllables for the first line, 7 syllables for the second line and 5 for the last line). Your final task is to cut out a little view finder from a scrap of paper, or use your hands to make one. Hold your view finder up to the sky. In three lines write what you see, be as descriptive as possible. Don’t tell me that there are clouds in the sky, or that it is simply blue….show me through a Haiku -or three lines! Here are a couple of examples to get you going:

Scattered drifting clouds
Cotton wool wisps across sky
Glimpses of bright blue
The glare of bright sun
Piercing the brightest blue sky
Above shadowed streets


*Traditional Haiku are themed on nature and end with the third line as a contrast to the first two. So I used the shadowy image of the houses to contrast the bright sun. There are lots of Haiku poets on twitter. Search #haiku in your twitter search bar if you use it.

If you enjoyed this class you might also be interested in the artist James Turrell and his light installations. You can see Jame’s Turrell’s work at The Yorkshire Sculpture Park. If you want to see something on a grander scale I highly recommend watching this film on the Roden Crater and Jame’s Turrell’s work.

I also highly recommend St Nick’s Phil Taylor – our fabulous group leader from Discover Nature. Phil has put a series of nature based films on YouTube which you can find via the St Nick’s eco therapy page here. They are absolutely brilliant and inspiring and a good dose of nature if you are confined indoors at the moment.

Happy sky viewing everyone! Lots of blue sky dreams for the future I hope!

Watch out for Friday’s post with reader’s pictures and words from other green spaces and nature based interactions.

With best wishes,

Emma

Monday’s Poem

20.04.2020

A letter from my Garden

By Nicki Joyce

Before you moved in my world was dark and gloomy. 
No sounds of laughter. 
No vibrant colours. 
No pitter patter of tiny animal feet
pottering along the freshly mown grass.
Before you moved in, 
I was unloved. 
Cast away, neglected, forgotten. 
Fleeting looks glanced my way and then immediately back, 
by the villagers who walked past me daily 
and tutted at how unkempt I looked. 
My soul, filled with sorrow at seeing their faces, 
I felt their shudders as they walked by. 
How I longed to be loved.
Then you moved in,
and I heard you laugh,
and I felt a sense of belonging. 
I knew you were home. 
As the damp, and the weeds and the stones were removed,
the sunlight began to flood within me.
I could breathe for the first time in years.
I began sprouting new life, new buds, new seedlings. 
The insects returned, 
the birds too,
an endless view of new beginnings and opportunities.
I am reborn,
In the hands of someone who loves me.
I thrive.
Laughter of children saturates the air
And birdsong fills my ears
I am grateful.
I am blooming.

This lovely poem was sent in by my fantastic occupational therapy student Nicki, who is currently on placement with Converge. (Thank you Nicki!)

Nicki wrote:

My house was abandoned for 10 years before we moved in.

The garden had been separated into two parts; one completely unused and filled in with tonnes and tonnes of gravel. It was overrun with weeds and damp moss. The second part was used as a driveway; part gravel, part grass.

We are in the process of restoring the garden to the quintessential English garden we have heard it once was. There is still much to be done, but it is a lifelong project for us. 

I hope you enjoyed this lovely gift of a poem. I am imagining how this beautiful space may transform over the years and wish Nicki and her family many happy days enjoying this amazing space.

See you on Wednesday for the Connect to Nature Creative Writing Class. This week’s creative writing theme is going to be cloud watching! Something we can all enjoy by simply looking out of a window or stepping out of doors….see you then!

Best wishes,

Emma