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Prompt #127 Becoming landscape, pt.1

October 11, 2012


Becoming landscape

part one of a two part exercise and poem prompt

We Write Poems:
It is said we humans have become accustomed to being lords of our world, that commonly we have little fear of our surroundings, that we have become complacent, even arrogant of our status in relationship to the environment.  Here, now, our meaning is not on a broad scale, but personally, how intimately we relate within our surroundings.  Consider if however you were some creature like a bird.  What threatens your very survival, both on the ground and from the sky above?  You learn to pay deep attention!  We feel apart from that motivation, that need.  But at what cost?  What blindness do we allow within our daily lives and experience?  It is said that we tend to “plow through” our physical interactions with the life in which we are yet enmeshed.

That’s the boundary we are challenging you to cross with our two part exercise and poem prompt.  It may be quietly challenging, yet a genuine reward awaits we think.  This is about our ability to observe the natural world around us each day.  We acknowledge this series only scratches at the bones of what is possible, but perhaps you’ll find it a beginning for something far far more revealing and satisfying.

Here’s what we are suggesting for you to do.

First, this week let go the notion that you’re producing a poem.

Find and choose some more quiet spot in your natural environment – some place convenient for you to visit, maybe a close by park with trees, maybe even just your backyard, someplace where you can simply sit and observe.

Early morning dawn or evening’s dusk would probably be best, most fruitful for observing the birds and animals, even bugs, that consider this space their home.

Even before you go to “visit” your spot, notice your own state of being. Calm yourself and enter quietly so much as you’re able to do. (Try not to “splash” your way into the scene.) Remember, you are also being observed.

Sit and simply observe anything and everything. There’s no goal, nothing to “do”. Just observe. Is there a wind? Are the leaves moving? Are there birds you can see, or ones you can only hear? Other animals? How about insects too? Use all your senses.

Try to observe for at least 30 minutes or more. You can bring pen and paper if you wish, but don’t make that the focus of you being there. There should be far more time spent observing than writing. No poems please. What you write, then or afterward, should be simply observational notes. Allow your eyes to do the writing rather than your thoughts.

Plan to return to this very same spot several more times during this coming week. The more often, the better. Aim for the same time of day each time. Allow your familiarity thus to grow and mature into this place. What might you see one day that you didn’t the days before?

Your observations are less about yourself and more about what you see and hear and feel in your place of observation and “seeing”.

When you return home, take a few minutes to write down what you observed (if you haven’t already done so). Remember, this week we’re not trying to write a poem. More so, just observations. Let the place determine what words you write. Trust those words to be enough and right.

At the end of the week we’d ask you to post your notes on your blog (or here). Some condensing allowed if you wish. We’re not saying “don’t write with the poetic voice within you”, but that’s not the focus or point. Let your “thinking” take a little vacation. We promise, a poem will be the second part of this series. But here, now, we want to find the ingredients, let it simmer unspoken for a while.

So this “prompt” will be a little work and require some more time than usual we expect. We know we’re asking a lot, but do the best you can, and that will be fine.

While this prompt is not about “birding” (bird watching), even though they are certainly a common and active player in our environment. However we acknowledge some of the specifics about observational “seeing”, as presented in the book, “What The Robin Knows, How Birds Reveal the Secrets of the Natural World“, by Jon Young.

Come back to leave a link to your poem next Wednesday when you see our second follow-up post called, It’s Post Your Poems Day!  If you have questions about We Write Poems and our prompt-and-poem process, or if you are new here at WWP, please read our about page.

  1. October 11, 2012 10:24 pm

    I don’t know what the weather’s doing down your way, but here it is very wet and chilly, and likely to be so for at least the next week. I wish you’d set this exercise earlier in the year! Good prompt, though.

    • October 11, 2012 11:10 pm

      You’re absolutely right Viv. However, simply, this is when the idea decided to arrive (not my fault!). And yes, we here in too sunny California just got our very first season rain (although small and not yet really cold). But that’s what coats and scarves and mittens are for. And I sure don’t wanna have you catch a cold.

      Then again, all the seasons do count, each in their manner too.

      And, really really, this exercise is something deserving of far more than just one week, but it’s a start and we can at least get a starting taste. And yea, it would be good to do this one again (many times). What impressed me most were some of the very specific notions about how to “quiet” ourselves in the environment. We can’t observe what we scare away! Or by our “busy” thoughts, simply not see.

      And you can always look through a window, it’s just easier from closer in. But please yes, stay warm and well. And thanks.

      • October 12, 2012 2:28 am

        Too chilly this morning to sit about, so I plodded through the field across the lane and accumulated 3 pages of notes and umpteen good photos. I oplan to repeat the exercise, whatever the weather throws at me! Apropos seasons:


        Freshly turned in spring,
        the earth at my feet
        is rich and ready.

        Summer in serenity
        is born afresh to waken
        seeds to rampant growth.

        The flame of autumn
        ripens fruit, replenishes
        stores for coming hardship.

        Precognition fails
        to startle, but shocks

        as inexorable winter
        transforms the field,
        impermeable in frozen anguish.

        • October 13, 2012 11:01 am

          Viv, I love your reflections on the changing seasons. Unlike you, I am unable to “hike” anywhere and even my patio has been too chilly to sit for any amount of time. Am wondering if I might take notes on some of the photos I recently took on a road trip to view the changing colors of Autumn. At this time, I think the prompt is beyond my abilities. My apologies, but age and arthritis simply doesn’t allow it.


        • vivinfrance permalink
          October 13, 2012 12:45 pm

          And I chickened out today – torrential rain and wind – but did a bit of human nature watching in the market this morning instead.

  2. October 16, 2012 8:07 am

    Excellent as a regular practice-connecting quietly with nature…bravo Neil on a thoughtful and meaningful series idea! 🙂

  3. October 16, 2012 4:27 pm

    A natural landscape is elusive for me. 😦

  4. October 17, 2012 7:07 am

    I am thankful for our windows that look out on beautiful and ever-changing scenery (including neighbors’ houses, sheds, woodpiles, junk heaps and gardens!)

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