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Orange County Nature Writing Workshop . . . A Poem For Summer

July 27, 2011

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

webs connect,

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.

Light dances

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

flattened saplings

scoured rocks.

Today’s tale:

a cool-to-the-toes

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)

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