An update from our twenty-fifth Writing Workshop!
A summary of the workshop held on Saturday October 17, plus some of the output published below
This week's class focused on writing about nature, thinking about landscape, plants, animals, weather, and all the elements of lyrical writing that go into bringing the natural world alive on the page and in the minds of our readers.
To watch a video of the instruction in full, click here
The Writing Challenge: Write a piece of nature writing, delving deep into an animal, a landscape or other piece of nature.
The Participants: Anya, Peri, Maddie, Ava, Nami, Nova, Tegan, Ma'ayan, Lena, Georgia, Gia, Rithesh, Lena, Emma, Lucy, Madeline, Lucy, James, Olivia, Hera, Liam, Charlotte, Lina, Margaret, Janani, Enni, Samantha, Tilly, Simran, Angela, Madeline, Jonathan, Charlotte, Sophia, Elbert.
The Plum Tree
Lena Aloise, 11
He was happiest early in the daytime, when the sky was painted over crimson and violet, when the crisp breeze flushed his cheeks a rosy red, when the birds sang their soft melody, whimsically conversing. Nowadays, there was nothing that brought him more pleasure than such a beautiful silence and he was content to be alone, for the most part. Human company depressed him.
There was a plum tree up on the hill, surveying her lower domain with a watchful, protective eye. She sat on her throne of grasses, boughs reaching towards an infinite expanse of sky, bearing leaves of olive green and sagging under the weight of her indigo fruits. She bore the look of not a queen, but a mother, like the ones he had only read about in story books. He could not help feeling a twinge of jealousy, looking upon the spherical children that she loved so dearly. Why could not someone hold him with such tenderness? It brought him such anger that one day, he walked up to the tree with his hatchet, planning to end it’s happiness.
The tree sat there, calmly, waiting for the worst.
He threw his blade to the ground and sunk to the ground, leaning up against her trunk, tears spilling from his eyes. Her branches touched his hair and the wind murmured words of consolation.
From that day forth, the tree acted like the mother he had lost. He told it everything and she listened, in a way that only a mother could. She did not speak words, but was alive and growing. She cared about him and was a constant presence throughout the rest of his childhood.
And when her fruits were picked at the turn of the season and when the boy was a young man, she lovingly bid them farewell.
Because that was what mothers did.
Ava Angeles, 12
Flourishing bushes enveloped a small brook that babbled to itself as it ran along. It weaved between the protruding clumps of leaves, which sometimes broke free and ran along with it, tumbling over small pebbles and stones that had been lying there for decades. The bushes gave an occasional rustle now and then, and this was a sign that a small animal or insect was making its way through the thick branches entwined beneath the cover of leaves. It looked peaceful from the outside, but underneath the leaves of the bushes was another hurried, bustling world: earthworms burrowed through the earth, poking their light pink bodies up here and there; a small colony of ants were crawling up and down their anthill, scurrying, vanishing into the small hole at the top; and a beetle, sporting a glossy black shell, scampered along on its six legs in a quest to find food.
Lena D., 12
The wind blew wildly
A full moon arose
Across the path
I run across the breeze
Rain pours down
Giant oceans of puddles.
Crossing over the river.
The sound of my friend calls me.
She doesn’t stop.
I ran towards her.
The breeze blows wildly.
A sudden tornado goes into the distance.
Tree leaves drop.
I head to my friend.
“I was so worried about you,” she says.
“I’m sorry,” I told her.
“It’s fine, but don’t go running off again.”
I crawl under the corner of the cave.
I close my eyes.
“Wake up,” says my friend.
I open my eyes.
“What’s wrong?” I ask her.
“Nothing. The storm went away,” she says.
I look up.
It was true.
It was gone.
I ran outside.
“We must find a home,” I told her.
Soon we would find a home.
Someday we would find peace.
Underneath the Tree
Anya Geist, 14
The child glided through long waving grasses, grasses that flickered and danced like fire in the setting sun. A small breeze was pushing its way through the air, just a puff of breath that caused the small girl’s cheeks to grow the slightest bit rosy, and her soft blond curls to sway gently about her little face.
On she walked, her sandaled feet making hardly any noise, her eyes casting their gaze out all around her at the large field which spread for miles, until it was abutted by a small house -her house- to the east, and the great, looming mountains to the west. There was no buzzing of bees, no chirping of birds, as she passed, for they had all fled this silent field, afraid of the power that the quiet bestowed upon the land.
After a few minutes, the girl’s footsteps slowed, and then stopped. Stopped in the middle of the plain. She breathed in and out and looked at her surroundings. She had some upon a small oasis in the field -although perhaps oasis is not the right word, for the field was already a beautiful paradise. Here the grasses were clipped short; they were small and green and neat, like a carpet beneath the girl’s feet.
In the middle of the oasis was a tree. It wasn’t terribly tall; and its branches were thick and knotted and twisted; not in an unnatural way, though, but in a starkly natural one. Large green leaves burst from the tips of the branches, accompanied by small fruits, fruits that were red and sweet, and melted on the tip of your tongue. Their vibrant hues were even richer in the setting sun, as the golden rays enhanced their color, making them richer and more royal than ever before.
Dangling from one of those strong branches was a bench: that swung in the wind when it blew so harshly; whose white paint faded, peeled, and curled in hot summer sun; whose seat was stained by piles of snow that fell in the frigid winters. The girl, smoothing her light blue, airy dress that hung off her frame like petals on a flower, sat down upon the bench, crossed her legs in a lady-like way, and looked about.
The sun had now reached the tips of those great mountains, and its light trickled like molten chocolate down the snowy mountain caps and the sparse stone sides which were a barrier to this field, which protected it from all harm. The girl gazed peacefully out at her fiery realm of grasses; up at the indigo sky which appeared so tangible it seemed to drip its hues to earth; and, most importantly, up at the tree, with its little red fruits. She smiled a soft smile, let the sweet air cocoon her, and the rays of sun lick her face, and the breeze tousle her hair, and reached up, fingered one of the berries, and let its taste erupt quietly on her tongue, and spread its warmth all throughout her.
A Day in Nature
Peri Gordon, 11
A vast meadow sprawled for miles to no end, dotted with bright yellow daffodils and the occasional red tulip. A leafy bush could be found, one of only a few on the vast plains. Out of the bush suddenly popped a small black shape. The crow burst out of the bush, made a few circles in the air, flapped his wings twice more to warm up, and then took off. He soared freely through the air, squawking at more of his kind as he went, and they quickly joined him. He arrived at a small stream, running his feet across the water as he flew. The other crows got fed up flying so low and soared higher, so he finished playing with the little stream and hastened to rejoin his friends. He flew up, making more little circles all the while, because that was how he liked to fly. He squawked, annoyed at his friends that they had ditched him, for he was sure they liked him, but the other four just squawked right back. And the five kept soaring, all day, each crow going off on their own one at a time, until he was all alone again. That was okay; he had had a full day.
Liam Hancock, 13
You wake up, waist deep in soot and rubble. But not really awake, just halfway, or possibly even less than that. Maybe a quarter. Once upon a time, there was a number you remembered that was less than ¼, but that time has passed you by. For now, even reminiscence of the past milliseconds seem like a feat for the gods. Don’t be too hard on yourself, though. You have too many other variables to thicken the equation.
Ridding yourself of fractions and brain functions, you fitfully shuffle around and discover with a heave of relief that everything is still intact. At least on the outside, that is. If finding a number less than a quarter is a mission, the idea of understanding the thoughts running like acid through your mind—burning, scorning, acid that carves away any sort of pleasantries—is a couple hundred miles away from attainable.
You tentatively probe the air with your free nostril. It’s crisp and tainted with pine leaves and nipping cold freshwater. Another treat. If you were in the midst of a raging fire or trapped under a collapsed skyscraper, you definitely wouldn’t feel so nice. The news alone is cause for an excavation through the loose rocks until your entire face is free to catch the sunlight.
Folding like paper mache from a baby-powder blue lake is an elaborate frame of snow-capped peaks. Proud trees with jutted chins rise from the rocky shoreline, but you can’t help but notice a couple others lay, lifeless on the ground. The intensity of the silence, the dead, still air—you know that either a storm is rolling in or a storm has just passed. Neither sounds great for you, but it’s all you can do to hope for the latter.
But second by second, your confidence is subconsciously pasting itself back together into some excuse for a fortification. You don’t know exactly what there is to protect, though, and that alone is unnerving enough to make you more awake and alert to the silence all around. There should be pikas squealing, bighorns ramming their heads into one another, the unsteady wavering of a hawk suspended in the clouds.
The word is piercing, and even it’s one single syllable peels a strangled shout from your lips. As if in protest for breaking the silence, a warning thunderclap ripples across the chiseled blue sky. There are no clouds, but there is a thunderclap. There are no wounds, but there is blood on the rocks. It’s not your blood, you know that. But it’s something else’s, something else that is nearby.
You bend yourself painfully over to the side, feeling like elastic when flexed and yanked to breaking, and you gratefully dunk your head into the freezing water. A feeling that you think is pain rockets through your pores, but it’s a good pain. It’s the ¼ kind of pain, because only ¾ of it actually hurts and that small fraction is all that really matters. Now you can open your eyes and scan the sooty bottom of the lake. It is a lifeless lake. There’s nothing darting around in it’s depths, although you can’t remember right now what exactly would be. Nothing can live in water. No living creature can find air underwater, right? No air. The head will become heavy, and the world will swirl all around, and eyes will droop closed and the world will fall away.
By the time your eyes startle open and you’ve gasped into the fetal position, you feel as if the entire lake has been tainted red. Not blood red, no. Just red. You tentatively bend your neck, pleased to find that it doesn’t scream in protest, to find no blood painting the rocks. Maybe, possibly, in your drunken state, you imagined it all. There’s no blood, there’s no thunder, there is life all around.
Then the lake shifts.
Water is resistantly torn away from water, like the seams of a dress unweaving themselves. A long, narrow kayak is drifting with ease towards you. You smile. Of course! Somebody has come to save you. All this time, lying stretched out like a bear rug on the rocks—it’s a one to none chance that you went unnoticed. You can’t help but call out, even as the kayak drifts close.
The woman steering sits secure inside, bundled in a ploom of a life jacket, smiling with perfectly square teeth, chapped lips. She nods towards you, she nods at her boat. And your own smile drops into nothing.
It’s a one seater, and she has no intention of inviting you to go for a ride.
Leaders of the Jungle
The squirrels jumped from branch to branch, chasing each other around the tree and landing on each branch like acrobats or gymnasts with such grace. Birds sang from high up in the trees, telling a story of freedom. If you looked closely you could see chipmunks hiding in the bushes, not wanting to be seen. A thunderous sound broke the silence, the sound louder than a lion's roar. A herd of horses flew by the other animals, not having a care in the world as they galloped through the forest, sweat trickling down their necks. It was a very hot day and the herd of horses were heading to a water hole, just outside the jungle, at the beginning of the hot dessert. The thumping of the horses hooves was rhythmic, sounding as a kind of music all by itself. The herd had reached the water hole now and were plunging into the cooling water, splashing each other with their head playfully. A few other brave animals had come to the water hole to get a drink daintily sipping from the edge of the water, scared to go any further. The horses jumped out, shaking their bodies to get rid of the water, spraying each other with droplets of water.
Suddenly a loud roar sounded outside the jungle, scaring every animal around him for miles. All the animals scattered, except the horses. They had traveled through deserts and fierce jungles to get water and were not about to give it up to a lion, even as scary as he was. The lion came closer and yet the horses stood their ground. It was only the foals who were shaken with fear, trembling, as it was their first time seeing such a best. The leader of the herd, a strong black stallion, told the mothers and the foals to move further back, as the foals were not so strong and he did not want them to get injured. The lion pounced, unleashing his claws and jumping up on the leaders' back. One thing the lion didn't know though is that the stallion was prepared to buck him off the second he was touched and gave a mighty buck as soon as the lion had leaped upon his back. The lion went flying, sliding across the hot sand and meowing softly in pain as he had struck a sharp rock when he had landed. The stallion trotted over to him, holding his head high, since he had won this battle.
The stallion then jumped into the cooling water to show that it was his and the lion could not
have it and the rest of the herd followed holding their head high, as they were the leaders of this land.
Lina Kim, 10
Ambrose was sitting in a wondrous open field. The branches of the trees and flowers swayed in the gentle breeze. Bees and butterflies went from flower to flower, looking for nectar. Hummingbirds hummed, whizzing around the field. There was a hill nearby. The grass was a vibrant green. She stood up, and ran around the field, the wind blowing through her blond locks of hair. She sighed. Nature was her favorite thing.
Ambrose opened her eyes to the “beep! Beep! Beep!” Of her alarm clock. It had all been a dream. She could almost smell the morning dew from her dream. Out the window, there was smoke rising high, instead of the clear skies that she had so often dreamed about. The factory next door wasn’t kind to nature. Her sisters Azalea and Willow groaned. Ambrose knew that pollution was a problem, but she also knew that there were people who wanted to fix it. Ambrose closed her eyes and imagined the field from her dream. She felt calm, and somehow knew that it would be okay.
Margaret Law, 11
Midnight crept across the brick wall. Watching. Waiting. Not knowing what was coming her way. She kept her ears perked, her eyes peeled, her footsteps as silent as a whisper. Why, she didn’t know. All she knew was that she felt that something wasn’t right. Wondering if she had been mistaken, she turned back to the safety of her loving house and leaped down, starting the journey through the tall grass to the old Victorian that served as her home.
Before Midnight had gotten far however, she turned back. She was never wrong about these sorts of things. Maybe whoever was coming was just trying to throw her off-guard. Well, it wouldn’t work. There was no way that Midnight would let someone outsmart her.
Narrowing her eyes as she got herself all the way back up onto the worn bricks, she surveyed the scene in front of her for anyone who might be the intruder. In the mostly empty field, the long, wheat-colored grass waving with the faintest breeze in the still nighttime air, nothing seemed out of place or otherwise amiss. But Midnight knew that something was going to happen, she just knew it. She hadn’t ever been wrong before, and she certainly wasn’t going to start now.
Minutes turned into hours as Midnight sat on the wall, whiskers twitching, eyes shifting back and forth, sweeping the area. She didn’t even notice that she was falling asleep until she startled awake the next morning, but everything was the same as she had last seen it. Humbled, she walked inside, her pride bruised.
Lucy Rados, 13
The hillside was a vibrant, luscious green this time of year. As the hours flew by, the bees never seemed to run out of energy, the flowers never seemed tired of their constant dance. Trees stood as sentries at the bottom of the hill, protecting all that lived there from harm. They sang to one another, changing their song as the wind shifted. On the hillside a hummingbird flew around. Its ruby throat and green wings caught the sunlight, lighting up its unique colors like a mosaic. Anyone who stumbled into this paradise could surely never leave.
An army of ants marched out of a miniscule hole in the ground, branching off in different directions in a never ending search for food. The animals continued their journeys, monarchs flitting by, bees searching for a bit of nectar. A sudden quiet came on the hillside, a slow pausing of the daily scurrying of mice and rabbits. The wind had slowed, almost to a stop. The sun started sinking, signaling to the animals that the day’s trials and adventures had completed. One by one, the birds flew quickly to their nests, the mice and rabbits went back to their holes and warrens. The bees once again found their hives. Finally, it was close to empty. That was when the bats came out, rejoicing in the empty night air. They flew around each other in an elaborate game, or perhaps it was a dance.
The hillside was peaceful. It always was, a calming presence in a hectic world. A more natural place could not be found, a more beautiful haven, there was not. The hillside was perfect.
Winter is Coming
Ma'ayan Rosenbaum, 13
It is quite interesting to observe just how much change can occur over the course of a month. Why, just a month ago, this tree bore a woven coat of leaves painted the most striking shades of auburn rouges and butter yellows, while most of us still wore no coat at all. Eerily, now we shiver in rhythm to the trembling of naked branches, thin and frail without the protection we once took for granted. Where lush, green grass once grew, now is dominated by the bitter and barren. Crisp, fallen leaves echo with the sound of death when crunched by the weight of an unsuspecting foot. So too do I snap within as the layer of twigs blanketing the roads, feeling hollow and starved for sunlight I soaked up just weeks ago. Frigid wind whips at my hair, slicing my numbed face with its menacing claws. As I climb up the icy path that winds around the tall, epic mountain of time, I reach a fogged overlook peering over an earth of mangy grey clouds. Pushed by the cold, we are all falling into its dark, winterous clutch, and as our fingertips begin to freeze over, so too will a thick layer of frostbite paralyze our hearts, melting only at the call of springtime once more.
Day and Night
Angela Tang, 12
The grass was damp with the sweat of the sky, jagged blades were shards of glass, stolen from the abyss of the clouds. The beads of dew grew into a shattered necklace, one of bubbles meant to embellish the outfit of the sleek, young sun.
The only sound was perplexed and irritated by intermittent caws of the rage of hawks, the sentinels of the sky. Snakes of the broken sea blew in streams, deafeningly silent, rivers of the golden, starlight tears the stars have shed.
When the light has retreated to bed in the west, furnished flairs of moon topped the mountains and sky. None of the furnished cerulean that covered the sea up above in blankets of painted stripes remained, only fractures of rugged brunet shaped an elliptical sphere of light, not dim nor artificial. Broken silhouettes of hill formed lumps of bald head, only the mere outlines stood proud, flickering, fading from the painted strokes of shredded slate cloaking the night sky.
The night hovered. Lingered. It watched its people down below with a million flashing pupils, light-years away. The night tasted peaceful artistry in the refinement of the perfected trees as if they were just molded clay made ornate with a handful of gradient gold leaves.
But the trees could not express their beauty and left to only rage underneath the towering moon. The moonlight grew sticky in the fingers of the stars. The stars blinked. They breathed. They drank all the moonlight they could before the moon had dissolved and the sun had risen from bed down below the emerging thread of the horizon, where the land and sea met.
The beads of the necklace and shards of the clouds bellowed for the waiting stars to yield to the light dispersing within. It spread from the land to the sea, horizon to hills, mountains to rivers. The night and day might be at different poles, but they all live in the same world, shine
on the same glass, the same dew, the same world as they had always been in. That is and will
be until the end of this world of pervading beauty of nature.
Life of Bluebonnet
Dheshethan Thanigaivel, 11
The wind was howling, the grass was smiling, the sun was blazing hot, and the buffalos were whining. It was a regular day for a rabbit. As I sat on my steep hole, looking for predators. I cool with everyone, you see, my best friend is a Buffalo Bill! (who is a buffalo). but us rabbits always have one predator. The Fox. He was the sly, the most sneaky, creature on earth. So, us rabbits are always are on a lookout. But, right now in this beautiful morning, with the beautiful sun glaring at me proudly, I know the fox will never find me hear, in my cushiony hole. Suddenly, the bushes were rattling, there were shaking, so ran more steep into my hole, and alerted my kind. We all grouped together in my hole, knowing the fox was going to come, we all were in danger. Suddenly, we heard footsteps. The fox was lurking around somewhere around the hole. He was sniffing, with his most clever nose. Then, he caught our scent. I knew, what going to happen. We were all going to die. But, when the fox, put his mouth into to the hole ready to eat us, like toddler urgently waiting for his toy, the fox randomly stopped. He smelled something else. Something bigger to eat. But it was bigger than him. As, Buffalo bill came charging at the fox, like a NASCAR, and bolted with his pointy head, at the fox, and the fox fell down. So we all ran, before the fox woke up, and escaped him once again with my crew of rabbits and Buffalo Bill.