To the Trees - Nature and Creative Writing with Emily Wilkinson
It’s easy to let stresses take over your day, especially before it’s even begun. Whether you’ve got a lot that needs doing, or a schedule that’s a little too empty, the mindset you start out with can have a huge effect on your mood and whether or not, by the end of it, you feel you’ve wasted time.
Case and point, Tuesday the First of March 2022, was moving day for me. For the third time in six months. Moving two people’s worth of stuff is physically, mentally, and bureaucratically taxing at the best of times. Having done this a few times already, with addresses and guarantors and card readers and mis-inputs going more than a little wrong right up until the final sleep in the old place, it’s safe to say that burnout was really, really close by.
Tuning in to Emily’s Nature and Creative Writing Workshop, then, two hours before the new keys would be handed over, was initially considered poor timing. Of course that Zoom workshop I’d signed up for would clash with everything else. Just something else to go wrong, right? Wrong.
There were six of us altogether - a nice size. Just small enough for everybody to be able to have a say, just large enough to sit back and enjoy, whichever camp you felt in at the time. Emily has a relaxing presence in groups of all sizes, and so after we introduced ourselves to the group, she set us off on some mindful creative thinking.
We were presented with couple of short poems, a few photographs of a few different trees, which we had time to take in at our own pace, and write some immediate thoughts down on each. For me, the naked, winding winter trees caught my eye - making me think of how something that appears still can actually be thriving. For others, it was the ancient, monolithic trees, proudly standing in the Summer light, wrapping up the soil in its warm, rooty embrace.
Apart from being a cozy activity, it was interesting to find out what your head will cook up for you if you let it. I’d entered this room a little worried about perhaps not fitting in with the group, but as it turned out, everyone had completely different experience with writing, and everyone had written up something completely different. Some wrote of the trees themselves, some wrote what the tree made them feel, and some wrote stories (factual, OR fictional) inspired by the selection.
And then Emily told us to cut our writing up. With scissors.
Far from being an act of destruction, suddenly those notes we had written down became tools - cutting up words let us rearrange them, rethink them, discover brand new thoughts and feelings that may or may not make any sense. But the joy was in finding sense where you’d not thought of it before.
With this in mind, it was time to create, properly. With such a gentle lead-in, we had a number of tools at our disposal to create a tree-based piece of art. Starting with a bare outline of a tree on some paper, we were invited to go ahead and use anything we liked to fill in the paper. Gluing fragments of our notes to the branches, covering them up again with a light brush of watercolour paint - inking over branches, rewriting our rearrangements as tiny lines of poetry across the leaves - plastering on acrylic to recreate our favourite of the photographs; the list of technique goes on.
Set to some unique but comforting music, the group sat at their six corners of the country, each represented by a corner of Zoom, and we crafted. The six pieces we ended up with were, again, so different in their aesthetic, in their perspective, in their beginnings and in their endings. Some were pretty - some were pretty deep. Perhaps the nicest part of the whole workshop, at least for me, was hearing how everyone ended up with their finished (or unfinished!) piece. It seems we all had one thing in common, at least - that by taking the art as it comes, and not having a rigid goal in mind, we all felt we produced the best version of whatever it was we’d made.
It wasn’t until showed-and-told our finished pieces of art at the very end, that I remembered something: I’m moving flat in twenty minutes! And you know what? It was at that moment that I knew it was all going to be fine.