[March 2020] Sadly, due to the COVID-19 lockdown we’ve had to suspend all our Ecotherapy group activities. However, our tutor Emma McKenzie is keeping in touch with the participants, and anyone who fancies some creative exercises, via her blog Letters from the Allotment. Emma invites you to connect to nature through words – her blog will feature poems and letters as well as creative exercises to help our mental health.
This group is normally run on Wednesdays in partnership with the Discovery Hub and Converge based at York St John University. The 10 week course alternates between nature based Creative Writing and Observational Drawing and Art. Both groups start with a short walk around the nature reserve followed by the introduction of a theme for the morning’s writing or art. The sessions are an exciting way to develop creativity while making new discoveries about nature through observation.
Below are just a few examples of the Ecotherapy group’s writing and artful creations. Enjoy and get in touch if you think you’d benefit from some ecotherapy.
With a whirring, whizzing brain thoughts become blurred. Speeding so dizzyingly fast that they can’t be read. But looking through a lens opens up a whole new world.
And what a world it is. Insects doing gymnastics and posing for photos. Tiny noses not dissimilar a fluffy elephant’s trunk. Neon-red mites clinging to fruit flies; a colour so incredibly bright and yet one that most people have never seen.
Have you ever seen a spider wrestle with a caterpillar?
Noticed a hoverfly stick out its tongue, dabbing at pollen like we might with sherbet?
Watched moth’s googly eyes follow you around?
To access this world there has to be some still. Each of these sights is invisible if rushed.
When nothing makes sense and injustices jump out at every turn. When everything seems to whizz, warp and wobble. Waxing, waning, waves of weird. Confusion, panic, and grief.
When our world is silently screaming… peace lies in a lens.
The cloud of anguish becomes just that – a wispy cloud, blowing overhead. Clouds can’t be caught in a net. They can’t be manipulated, pushed, pulled, prodded or poked.
So, all that’s left to do is focus in on the small. To zoom in on the little. Magnify things too small for human eyes to see. Explore. Be curious. Discover.
To connect. To wonder. To finally breathe out.
Branches weave tight into a drenched sky
Leaves glisten, spiral slumbering down
Bark wafer curls, moss dappled high
Searching for truth, tumbling, found.
Our arms stretch small to reach you
Through grey banked cloud, mists of time envelop night
Inky sky stretches, trees shiver whispers new
Into your palm a cascade of light.
Dewfall drips a cold crystal tear
Turning slow, bright stars splash unseen
I take your hand through our fear
Splintered trust mends each crack verdant green.
A wake up whisper, a bird calls
Nature spreads healing roots under breaks of pain
We stand amid glades of autumnal fall
Reigning majestic She soars, a glimmer of hope in our rain.
A narrow path, a stab of fear
Now someone else is walking near;
We fail to see the other sole
Is one for whom the bell might toll
And one like us, a human, peer.
To self alone our worry points,
A sad old self with aching joints
And when its gloomy like today
Our bestial nature we obey-
Our spiritual when sun anoints!
Red Caption and tufted vetch
Entices from the self, that retch;
Shrill power of the tiny wren
Draws us away a moment when
Inside the heads’ a frightening sketch;
And lured by light, by tinkling beck
Bourne far away from nations wreck
We smile at others, faces bright
Or shaded by deep green, brief height
Where horror shrinks below, mere speck.
Thus Nature heals the minds’ disease
And the observing spirit frees
And where the wild geraniums blaze,
Touched by midsummer sun, we gaze
At meadow grasses’ waves and these.
“Let’s make a swing!” Her excitement was so stark, pure. I felt myself swept into her miniature, fairy world. Grabbing a small, scraggy, flat piece of seaweed, we made a slide, little seats with tiny pebbles and a table from a skimming stone. “What about a tunnel?” her eyes were lit, alive and completely lost in the moment. We used sticks to make tiny tunnels, a network of criss crossing burrows. A pool for the fairies to swim was trickier, each scoop of water melted into the sand. She looked dismayed for a second, then an idea, ‘it could be a sludge lagoon for the fairies to glide in”.
We decorated the sludge lagoon with inzy pebbles round the sides, “so they know where the edges are”. Hope crackling, constant, lighting her own galaxy. I scooped her into my arms and we laughed, delighted with our fairy world and each other.
By Brinley Price
As I grow old I start to vegetate,
Become a garden thick with vegetation;
I’ve gone to seed now, having flowered of late;
Just being is my present occupation.
And yesterday I potted cowslip seeds;
The sun was blazing and my mind was calm;
A simple humble task is all one needs,
To just sit still and hold life in one’s palm.
So many years I built the world’s machine –
I’ve gained a perspex trophy for my toil –
But now I roam through spaces that are green
And plant these tiny living things in soil.
And peace and joy are now once more the soul’s;
The hidden meaning of it all I see,
That was obscured by clouds of aims and goals:
The purpose of existence is to be.