This time last year I asked my Roath Writers group to make a list of things they were grateful for. Not generic things but specific people, experiences, qualities, places, and anything else that mattered to them. My initial list included both my ankles and my energy.
Since then, I have continued thinking about the importance of gratitude. Last year I had so many wonderful opportunities to run workshops in University lecture halls all the way to the wilds of mid-Wales. In an effort to celebrate the work of those who have supported these endeavors, I now hope to write blog posts detailing what I loved about them.
To kick things off I’d like to say that I am grateful to the dynamic ladies who joined my first ever Landscape Writing Residential at Orielton FSC in November. In particular, I owe a huge amount of thanks to my former intern Rebecca Roy, who researched, made calls and exchanged many emails with venues to find the perfect place for us to spend the weekend.
This residential was born from a successful mid-Wales landscape writing workshop series which I co-developed and ran with the wonderful Emma Beynon (formerly known as Emma Metcalfe). For the retreat we moved west, near Pembroke, to explore forests, run along beaches and get lost in the rooms of a fantastic Georgian mansion. We read work by Tess Gallagher, Rebecca Goss, Cynan Jones, Hilary Menos and clare e. potter. We found hiding spots, fictionalized a lily pond and even opened the gates to a walled garden. It was more beautiful and more thought-provoking than we could have hoped for.
Over the weekend, our 8 participants from Wales and England, were given the opportunity to write in a supportive and informal environment, using the beautiful space as well as poetry and prose as inspiration. We walked, wrote, and had meals together. We laughed, ate homemade cakes and drank too much tea in the little library we called home. Emma and I even led a reading (with wine!) on our first evening. Although we talked a bit about writing and craft, the weekend was primarily concerned with developing a space to share and creating a community of writers.
Emma and I could not be more pleased with the way this great adventure turned out. We like taking risks, inviting people in, sharing work that we are passionate about. In a few weeks we are meeting to discuss the next retreat which will surely be even more invigorating than the last. I cannot wait.
In the meantime, please enjoy the community poems which our group created together as well as some photographs from the residential itself:
A Walk in the Woods
Solitary flower, splash of colour
the remains of a fading world –
hope for a new beginning personified.
I think of names and shapes and ages –
rings calling out the age of each tree,
staired logs exposing rings of time,
rings on felled trees; splintered bracken
broken branch, hanging on,
teen tache tendrils
twin trees – a broken brother.
Individuals in a crowd, strikingly similar,
Brown chocolate cake path
tracked by materialism.
Bird boxes stand empty and alone,
previous occupants enjoying flight in warmer climes.
The lake is nostalgia, a glance back
that insists on your looking forward.
Beyond the house
Hay bales, like Swiss rolls,
the street gate – damp, dark, soft with green,
yellow tree glimpsed through shaking lines.
The lake is a folded shawl embroidered
in patterns of leaves, threaded with gold
shimmering in the light.
Soapy, foamy algae; frosted blue sheen
of ivy and the green – the true green leaves,
soft as pastry.
Humped logs swollen with rain,
brambles arch, curve and crawl.
Fierce strands thickening the undergrowth –
Yonic, sturdy, sprouting.
Logs, the harsh bled pinkness of their stumps,
flesh and rings and age revealed,
are stacked in pyramids.
The bramble pulls my heels, holding me back
from the flailing grass, keeping their seeds
for next year.