Jewelweed and Talking Trees
September 17 and 24, 2013
William Carlos Williams wrote of “the alphabet of the trees” in his poem “The Botticellean Trees,” and I began our workshop by reading an excerpt from this poem and asking everyone to write what the alphabet of the trees might be, look like, or sound like. Some responses suggested a list of trees in alphabetical order. Others contemplated how trees might communicate to us or to each other.
I then asked each writer to describe what “nature” means to him or her, and I collected these responses on index cards. As we make more connections with the natural world and our place in it, I plan to revisit this question later in the year. Initial thoughts included: “pretty things,” “trees,” “what makes all human beings and animals,” “life,” “life and death,” “gives a sense of peace and tranquility,” “the home of animals,” “decomposition and erosion,” “a certain kind of freedom, a time to be wild and yet in peace,” and “being outside.”
We began to explore our new surroundings at Awbury with a scavenger hunt. The group split into two groups, and each headed to a different space outside to create clues for the other group to solve. Through this process of writing clues and reading others, we discovered a beautiful paper wasp nest (“What a strange apple I am hanging from the evergreen, yet I can house a family.”) and the delights of jewelweed (“My little seeds are like gems; so is my name.”).
During our second workshop, we discussed whether trees talk to each other and read what current science suggests about the question in The Where, the Why, and the How. We also created small journals that we can take into the field.
In both workshops, we enjoyed a time for independent writing and sharing. An adventure/comedy collaboration, a science fiction serial, poetry, autobiography, and various fiction pieces are all in the works.