Orange County Nature Writing Workshop . . . A Poem For Summer
On June 2, 2011, I led a group of writers to the mouth of Fremont Canyon on the Old Irvine Ranch (now part of OC Parks) for a nature writing workshop. We wandered and observed the signs of summer on a peaceful Thursday morning, then sat for a while–near oak, willow, and the still-flowing creek–to record what our five senses had gathered.
One of the exercises we did (the format is based on a paragraph by John Hay), resulted in the following short pieces (I took the liberty of breaking some of them into lines . . . any errors in transcription are mine . . . )
When set next to each other, the pieces become a weaving of words, with some common threads mixed with bright lines of individuality.
Fremont Canyon Group Poem
I. It is June again, and the winter rains
now seep from golden hills,
and join in slow moving creeks and pools
Cottony willows fill the air
with floating puffs
a phoebe snatches insects
that hover over the gurgling stream
mice and gophers rustle in the drying
weeds looking for tasty seed and roots
These early summer sights tell us
nature is awakening from its winter rest
and will continue to change
as summer warms.
II. It is June again, and the world
is alive and greeting the sun.
Between, really among, the leaves
creating safe passage for their creators
and perhaps others.
These webs that sparkle and shimmer
in the sun, that move ever so
slightly in the breeze, making it
appear that the sun is moving
among the leaves, from one end of the web
to the other, moving, moving . . .
These webs tell us
that everything in nature is
connected and to touch one is
to touch all.
III. It’s June again, sky stretched towards solstice
The sun has opened
A lens that lets us see.
On smooth stones
Glides on the creek’s wet skin
And floats like the willow’s summer down
To find its home in a hummingbird nest.
These mirrors tell us we have survived another winter.
IV. It is June again
the cotton fairies have arrived in endless numbers
they float form tree to tree
they ride the flowing ripples of the creek
they land on my nose
These cotton fairies, they whisper legends
they know the secrets of the arroyo willow tree
from which they were born
V. It is June again
we discover the place so many have found before
a place of song sung brilliantly by the diversity of birds
Precariously placed tree trunks tell the story of perseverance
and challenges of time told not in years but in seasons
the oak clings to the embankment rooted in rock soon to be swept away with seasons anew.
The layers of sound are consistent with our senses
and longing ears hear: choruses of buzzing flies and
chirping songs orchestrated to the cool breeze on my arms and face.
These places tell us of our rightful place
and connection to our Mother Earth.
VI. It is June again,
but the creek is still flowing,
glinting down canyon
to rocks where it sings
a low murmur of stories—
how last winter’s rain
funneled its wild rush here
meander of sparkle,
tadpoles lazily facing up stream.
This creek tells us
floods and torrents pass
but June will bring willow drift,
tadpoles, time to sit and soak.
Authors: Brittany Amsler (IV), Lyndi Bradshaw (V), Thea Gavin (VI), Sherry Fuller (II), Kevin Herbinson (I), Linda Southwell (III)