Required materials: walking shoes, notebook, and pen/pencil. Class pdf brochure: Nature writing at Beech Hollow.
The goal of the class is not to produce in one or two hours a finished product, but to begin to develop writerly habits of observation and reflection in natural settings. The best written works from experience in nature will come from letting go of sense-making and committing to presence, rather than going out with an intention of finding something to write about. We will be in nature and let meaning find us instead.
This class will begin with a walking meditation, mostly in silence. We will leave our phones or turn them off. In addition to the fact that many of us no longer spend much time outside, by focusing so much on communication through electronic devices, we allow personal observation skills to become dull. During the walk we will use our five senses to gather information, retaining it in memory without trying to make sense of it. Any ideas that come up can be witnessed silently without labeling them good or bad. At pauses we will make lists of our “collections,” later drawing on the assorted images, sounds, smells, tastes, and tactile sensations to begin to find out “what happened” on our walk.
After the walk we will begin our process with another meditation, checking in with what our bodies feel like and are telling us after our walk. Looking over our lists, we can explore any emotional memories or associations that came up with our raw materials and take note of any voices or images to which we feel more attracted as a starting point. We might experiment with drawing – not to create a finished product, but to revisit the feelings we had about the things we saw, and to explore without judgment any lines of thinking they stirred up. If writers don’t want to draw, an alternative experiment is to write out particular words and study the typographical/iconic potential of the letters in layout. Nature writing need not be poetry, but the advantage of poetry is that as a language it admits of both rational and irrational truths.
Hester L. (“Lee”) Furey is a literary historian and poet, author of Little Fish: Poems (Finishing Line Press, 2010) and the editor of Dictionary of Literary Biography 345: American Radical and Reform Writers, Second Series. With Mike Rovinsky, in 2015 she self-published the first episode of Love & Revolution, a graphic novel about the artists and writers who worked for a magazine called The Masses (1911-1917). Her work focuses on marginal creatures and dancing with the stories that house/imprison us.