Black Nature Workshops: writing sample

For the past month, we’ve been gathering as a group to workshop together. Taking it in turns, we’ve been setting each other writing tasks to create some original work in community together. We’ve been sharing how our residencies have been going as well as discussing what nature writing would look like for us, from us.

Jini Reddy, born in London to Indian parents who grew up in apartheid-era South Africa, and she was raised in Canada, has written about her relationship with nature, She writes, “…back in the UK and sensitive to the mood of the day and the things I’d read and the voices I heard, I worried that I didn’t love nature in the right way, that I didn’t bring my gaze to bear upon Her in the approved way. What made me feel even more of a fraud was that half the time I didn’t even think in terms of the word ‘nature’. More often I’d be thinking of a specific place, some amazing, sigh-inducing landscape or a cool, twisty tree, or a small creature or squawky bird I spotted while on a walk in the countryside or in some meadow or park in my neighbourhood.” Extract from Wanderland, short-listed for the 2020 Wainwright Prize for nature writing. 

This extract created a really good discussion within the group around what is the norm, or accepted in terms of nature writing and how our own writing might fit into this or not. I know that I’m not going to be afraid to use this residency to dive deeper in to my own relationship with nature. And I don’t want that separation, of saying the ‘natural world’, as I believe there’s only one world and we are all part of it, and we are all one within it.

Anyway, during our final writing exercise, of just choosing one thing in nature to focus in on and produce some thumbnail nature writing, I chose the curlew. The curlew is the emblem of the park, and apparently the park is one of the best places in the UK to hear the bird. This is what I wrote:

Curlews     

curleee.   curleee.   ghosts heard within the fog, through the winter, along the coast.

within the mudflats, with downward curved bills, rich pickings for worms, they balance on bluish stilt-like legs.

come spring, look up. catch their white rumps sailing across the sky onto the uplands to breed, we hope. 

these mottled brown and grey waders are a keystone species, holding the whole system together. 

once upon a time, in abundance, curlews overhead were a signal of a storm brewing. 

curleee. curleee. ghosts heard less and less now, as bad weather is already upon us. 

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