Writing the Nature Essay

This morning, after I learned that we probably wouldn’t get rain until later in the week, I decided I better water the plants on my deck. In doing so, I found my mind wandering as wildly as the spindly stems of a petunia someone gave me. I thought about all the plants I care for — many of which are gifts and not chosen by me — and my growing sense of responsibility for all living things.

Then Finn dashed into the woods after a squirrel and of course, my mind bent in another direction. While I appreciate the presence of these furry creatures, because any form of life is precious, I am grateful that at least right now these “tomatotarians” are thwarted from our garden.

I say all this to say that when we writers find ourselves in a rut, we do our mind and our body good by writing about nature. Just the simple act of observing a soon-to-unfold trumpet flower is a reward unto itself. And watching those long chive stems drift toward another pot to drop their seeds makes me chuckle. As does hearing the “cheerful, cheerful charmer” of our bluebirds. Starting by just observing what we see in our own little worlds can lead to more universal insights that help our jottings bloom into a true essay.

Mary Oliver’s essay titled “Owls” (from her book Owls and Other Fantasies) is a great example of a short essay that threads the poet’s observations on owls (and other elements of nature) with her own interiority. At the same time, she touches on universal themes when she says: “There is only one world.” And as “excessive” as the roses in the dunes may be, at the sight of them “might we all be struck to the heart and saturated with a simple joy.” Statements such as these speak directly to the reader and connect us with Oliver. Her piece is also noteworthy for her brevity, which is a great lesson for us all.

Enjoy your day, and I hope rain comes your way soon!

4 thoughts on “Writing the Nature Essay

  1. Ashley, As always, I enjoyed your essay. Don’t you have enough for a book already!Let me know when you decide to go for it. I’ll be first in line to buy a copy ofyour sage writing advice in a book of essays. Diane Judge

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