What Nature Teaches Us
When writing about nature, there is often the needless, self-imposed pressure to create some sort of epic tale, an Old Man and the Sea type story about conflict and opposition. Although that impulse can lead one down a meaningful creative path, for this exercise, I suggest that you ask yourself: What can nature teach me? Considering this approach, I think of Linda Hogan’s poem, “Loneliness.”
They say there are only four chambers of the heart.
I know there are five
and that fifth one opened,
not opened, but broke.
It was a pure thing, that moment.
And if my heart could kneel down
and if my spirit could call back that moment,
if my body hadn’t begun its ripening
into old age
and been also as young as the first grape in an arbor
believing in future wine, it wouldn’t.
Loneliness had to prove again
that I was only human
and there was one part of myself not yet
And hearing the gnats that day in their circle above us,
the smell of earth around us,
The wild grass, altogether so natural
as if I was, we were, alive with it,
as if I was not a human separate, but earth,
part of it again,
as splendid as the deer standing in trees
or the blue dragonflies in air.
I longed to be a flowering branch,
the sea in its rocking; an unguessed world.
Even now it seems so much as if the body was only
the desire of the planet,
as if it could turn itself into the universe
both together, the same,
because such a thing is irrational flesh,
As illustrated in Linda Hogan’s poem, writing about nature helps us learn many things. First, it encourages us to look outside ourselves in order to gain a different perspective, one that is broader and other than our inner world. Often, writers use metaphor to explore an aspect of nature as doing so can offer insights into situations that otherwise may be difficult to understand or talk about.
Looking outside ourselves in nature helps us learn about and supports acceptance of impermanence. When writing about nature, we observe that nothing lasts forever; we see that joy and beauty are transient, that change is constantly happening around us. We begin to recognize how the rhythms of our lives may parallel the life cycles found in nature, such as birth, growth, death, etc. In this way, writing about nature strengthens one’s connection to the earth and it’s cycles. Just as we are continually evolving, so are the elements of the natural world. Writing about nature—in a fundamental way—is an invitation to write about change.
Writing about nature can also remind us that we are connected to something greater, something beyond the mundane aspects of our daily life, the routines we follow, the busyness that often occupies our time. Stepping out of that busyness to be with and observe nature helps us develop the ability to be still and to use all of our senses in the present moment. It is a powerful reminder that we are connected, that we are not alone.
Here’s a process about writing about nature that may be a helpful starting point.
1. Choose one aspect of the natural world that you feel has something to teach you. Is there an aspect of nature that you have always felt drawn to or were fascinated by? For some this may be an animal, a type of tree, the ocean, the mountains, or the wind.
2. Consider its characteristics. What specific quality does it express that speaks to you about your own life? To begin answering this question, close your eyes and imagine yourself becoming that element. What might you have to say?
3. When you are ready, start to write.
Listen to what is inside of you and courageously write what you hear.
Let me know how this writing prompt worked for you!
I would love to hear about your experience responding to this writing prompt. What worked for you? What didn't quite get your words flowing? What more do you want to know about "what nature teaches us"? Do you have any suggestions for ways to approach this topic? Do you have any other comments, ideas, suggestions, or questions? Let's chat!
You can contact me through this form or at email@example.com. I look forward to hearing from you!
Liz Burke-Cravens, EdD