What likes What? is an observational writing strategy that I have done for years (see my scratch what likes what notes on my writer’s notebook page)…In the novel Cold Mountain, Ruby tells Ada, in trying to describe how she knows so much about plants, herbs, the natural world: Well, you just have to know what likes what…”...that line spoke to me. So, I have lists, still compiling them and some have become small works of art. This is a good observational suggestion for students–to notice what likes what throughout their day. If you have students do this exercise it will open their eyes to really noticing the world. The world is full of beauty–beauty in the simplest of sights and moments. Here are a few examples of my recent photo shots, to which I have added What likes What jots…Ask your students–What likes What when Autumn comes?
…golden dune-lined path likes solitary companion
...shades-of-blue-lake like November day whitecaps
…Autumn leaves like surprise of early snowfall
…yellow maple leaves like shadow and light
..November lake likes lingering kiss of sunset
…weathered dune pine likes view from above
…brown forest floor likes nature’s brilliant contrast
…downy woodpecker likes calm Autumn morning
…a quote from a mentor who inspires me. Her book, A Trail Through Leaves (a gift to me from a treasured friend) is one I revisit from time to time, and upon each visit am startled by wonderings and images new to me, though I have held this book closely for so many years…
“A long-running journal is an invaluable document, because it records something other than the time-and-goal-dominated anxiety that drives us through our days. We can tease out of it evolving evidence of sub-lives, parallel existences, omens of shifts that won’t be realized for decades, recurrences of themes glimpsed periodically through the years….The trail of words and pictures that I am leaving is more complete than most people’s, but it is still a trail of tips and ice bergs, little slices of light and color that are all I can capture of the big masses moving underneath. But threading through are moments of the ordinary-made-extraordinary by the simple act of choosing and isolating them.”
A Trail Through Leaves: The Journal As a Path to Place
I posted this as a writer’s notebook suggestion awhile back (under wnb page), but can’t resist the urge to post here, as well. So many years ago when I attended my summer institute of the National Writing Project at Sunbelt Writing Project, Auburn University, I was introduced to the essays of Georgia Heard. One essay…Ten Observations a Day–has literally changed my daily and writing life. Such a simple concept–notice the world you are walking around in. Since that summer of ’99, I have become more wide awake as I go along through my days. Often my noticings end up in my sketchbooks (as in my bird on a limb haiku post yesterday morning)–other times they end up in writer’s notebook pages–sometimes they end up here on this blog; other times they do nothing more than tune me in to me and my reactions to what I see, hear, think, and feel about my day. I love photography, so my HaikuNorth blog is devoted to observations that result in snapshots and tiny words.
If you teach—I encourage you to suggest this to your students, especially if they keep writer’s notebooks and/or sketchbooks. Notice ten things today–intentionally, and see what comes of it–a poem, a narrative, a visual sketch, a musical sketch? A camera shot?
My visual and written notebook observations, and my HaikuNorth blog, are breadcrumbs into past paths and days, whether remarkable or mundane–they shaped and continue to shape me. Learning to look, notice, wonder simply makes life richer.
(“Ten Observations a Day”–an essay by Georgia Heard, from Writing toward home: Tales and lessons to find your way)
early morning gift
one little bird on a limb
fluffs feathers and waits for spring
I was delighted to find this poem in my email delivery today about the sandhill crane. Many years ago I was lucky enough to come across several sandhills as I drove a rural road in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan on a foggy summer morning. Later that day I sketched and wrote of the experience in one of my notebooks. Here’s the poem presented today in American Life in Poetry, and my sketchbook entry…
reprinted from….American Life in Poetry: Column 421
BY TED KOOSER, U.S. POET LAUREATE
This column originates in Nebraska, and our office is about two hours’ drive from that stretch of the Platte River where thousands of sandhill cranes stop for a few weeks each year. Linda Hogan, one of our most respected Native writers and Writer in Residence for The Chickasaw Nation, perfectly captures their magic and mystery in this fine poem.
The language of cranes
we once were told
is the wind. The wind
is their method,
their current, the translated story
of life they write across the sky.
Millions of years
they have blown here
on ancestral longing,
their wings of wide arrival,
necks long, legs stretched out
above strands of earth
where they arrive
with the shine of water,
language of exchanges
descended from the sky
and then they stand,
earth made only of crane
from bank to bank of the river
as far as you can see
the ancient story made new