Nature and writing, the prep

On the full moon in August I did a tarot reading to shine some light on my nature and writing project. The eight of pentacles came up which, astrologically, corresponds to the sun in Virgo. Which just happens to be about the time I was planning on diving in. It feels like a nice reassurance that I am following my path.

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I also selected a crystal I was drawn to to help me hold my intention around this project. I’ve talked before about this (although I can’t find the post) but essentially by doing this, the crystal (in this case rose quartz) acts as a reminder, a touchstone, an inspiration and something to turn to if I need help.

I also recently got a message from the lovely Crystal Cornwall UK saying they were having a summer sale and was instantly drawn to labradorite and ended up buying three stones as well as some other lovely crystals.  They have amazing names, are fascinating to look at and are a beautiful part of geology. Different parts of the world are home to different gemstones. For example, Whitby is well known for its jet.

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Other preparations I’m making include writing up a month by month vague curriculum as well as creating a poetry jar as words call to me.  It’s a great way to warm up if you’re going to write but also little gems come straight from the jar without too much polishing.

Winter magic
twists sun beams
to night

In terms of my plans (which are entirely flexible and reactive to both my health and what I find along the journey), I am currently thinking of the following:

  • September
    • Starting the Future Learn: William Wordsworth – Poetry, People and Place course.
    • Starting the Future Learn: Learn about weather course
    • Hopefully a day trip
    • Focus on: What is nature writing?  Why do we read and write it? How has it changed? And what makes good nature writing?  Looking at all genres.
  • October
    • Future Learn: Environmental challenges – rights and values in ecosystem services course
    • Local one day course – From Ovid to Oz: A Brief Cultural History of Werewolves
    • Marking Samhain, or Halloween, 31st October
    • Focus on animals in (human) society – their roles in our lives, our roles in their lives, how we interact, how we complement each other and how we see animals?  And then honing in on animals (living, extinct or supernatural) as scapegoats.
  • November
    • Future Learn: Environmental challenges – human impact in the natural environment
    • Local one day course on the human history of York
    • Focus more on plants and/or geology this month.  It may be winter and cold and dark and it may feel like everything is closing up and going into hibernation but what are plants up to and which plants are in the spotlight?
  • December
    • Local seasonal traditions
    • Mark the winter solstice
    • Focus on weather
  • January
    • Poetry focus – reading, analysing, looking for themes, writing it…
  • February
    • Focus on rewilding.  It keeps crossing my path so I’m gathering reading and links and videos as they find me.

As always, I’d love to get to links and references and suggestions and opinions and ideas!

Writing and nature, part 2

For an introduction to my project, check out the intro post.

Having decided I want to do a longish project around nature and writing, my first step was to narrow that down.  There are so many ways it could branch out and take shape and I have lots of exciting ideas but I know that I need to have some sort of focus.  Looking specifically at Yorkshire is one way I am doing this.  I am also collecting articles and videos which sound interesting and naturally themes are starting to emerge.

However, all of this is getting ahead of myself.  First, perhaps I need to ask what is nature writing.  And then why do we write about nature or read about nature.  Quickly followed by this I hope to look at how has nature writing changed over time.  This will probably look at style, content, intent, audience, who is doing the writing… Has there been a recent resurgence and if so, why?

At this stage, I’ll probably just be skimming the surface of these topics so that I can go broad and shallow to start with and get a sense of what works for me and what is of most interest.

To inform my planning I have been looking at courses about nature writing and their outlines for inspiration and directions which I might not have come to organically.  For me, part of learning is other people’s thoughts and views and areas of interest and that is something that I know I will find hard to replicate.  One of these outlines set aside time to look at what makes good nature writing and that is certainly something I want to consider.

I’m thinking I will alternate reflective essay or blog post style writing with creative writing and theory with practical.  So perhaps one month a piece of factual writing about rewilding followed by a month about poetry, a month getting outside and submerging myself in the environment and a month that is more computer or reading based.

I’m trying hard not to dive straight in now and try and do everything at once.  It’s tempting but August is busy and I know that that approach will lead to me being flat out exhausted and burnt out.  This is the key reason I want a bit of a curriculum, probably a rough outline focusing me each month.  That way instead of feeling I need to read something as soon as I find it, I can jot down the details for the relevant time.

To hold myself back for now, I have been engaging in some gentle, sort of related reading and watching:

  • Walking through History: Bronte Country
  • Tree of the year – 4OD
  • Charlotte’s web (the film which is on Amazon Prime at the moment)
  • Extinct
  • Bridge To Terabithia – technically not a nature film but it is great for stimulating the imagination and is on Netflix
  • Again, not exactly nature writing but this series about fairytales from Jen Campbell is interesting and I want to look at how nature is portrayed in fairytales and what that reveals about the natural world and our relationship to it.  As an example, think about the role that forests often play in fairy tales.
  • A Yorkshire Miscellany – useful for titbits and language and ideas for exploration at a later date
  • Yorkshire Rock: A Journey Through Time – this promises to be a really interesting book which is aimed at children and thus is very accessible and talks about the geology of Yorkshire and how it varies and how it was all formed

As per my previous post I would love suggestions of reading, viewing, resources and people or ideas to look into.

Writing and nature

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I was looking online at an amazing sounding poetry and nature course.  It was really energising and inspiring and I was nearly at the point of signing up when I remembered that I don’t keep up well with that sort of thing… I can do the reading mostly but it’s the thinking and having enough energy to be creative and poetic that I know I would struggle with.  And that then gets into a vicious circle which ends in me being sad.

So, I have decided, from September, I shall be following my own, self guided version.  I have various books I want to read, talks I want to listen to, exercises I want to try and things I want to ponder.

To narrow down the focus a bit, I am thinking local for my “assignments” and global for my reading.

I am hoping to challenge my own ideas and find new ways of thinking and I know that this is going to be the hard part.  As such, if you have any articles, comments, questions, books etc that you feel may be relevant, please pass them my way.  The internet is wonderful but it does have a tendency to be an echo chamber.

Alongside my own planned stuff (which is still very vague), there are a few one day courses locally which I want to do and some free online courses which complement my current direction.  In particular, I’m thinking Learn About Weather and William Wordsworth: Poetry, People and Place.

I am also pulling together a list of day trips ranging from nature reserves to local natural history museums.  I want to get to know not just the area as it is today but how it has been shaped and transformed and changed by time, by climate and by humanity.  I hope to be able to identify more birds, more animals and more plants by the end of this project.  Right now I don’t know how long I’m thinking this’ll be.  But it ties into some bits of work I’ve already been doing since I retired.  2016 was the year I focused on trees in my art, this year is butterflies.  I have written my animal and plant posts and reflected on what fog has to teach me.  And I have pondered ways of bringing nature into my life despite the wheelchair/sometimes housebound thing.

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I’m hoping to use my blog to help me unravel ideas and thoughts and opinions and to share resources and articles and my writing.

Whilst I’m trying to not throw myself in too fast and too this month (August is busy by my standards), there are a few bits and pieces I want to share.  I haven’t read the articles critically but I have bookmarked them to return to.

In terms of books, I’m trying to start with those I already have (but I do love an excuse to buy books…) which includes:

  • World Enough and Time by Christian McEwen
  • Landmarks by Robert MacFarlane
  • If Women Rose Rooted by Sharon Blackie
  • The Living Mountain by Nan Shepherd
  • Speaking With Nature by
  • Whispers From the Earth by Taz Thornton
  • The English Year by Steve Roud (about local traditions)
  • The Seasons: A Celebration of the English Year by Nick Groom

And there are some youtube videos that give a glimpse into some of what I want to dig deeper into (all except the first are less than ten mins).

I would love to hear any ideas anyone has for exercises or things to read or watch or do.  I am hoping to return soon with a post which narrows down my focus a bit more, or at least provides a jumping off point.