Last Wednesday, while battling a bout of illness that swept through our family last week, I drove down to the Hines Hill Conference Center in the Cuyahoga Valley National Park for a nature writing workshop. The room was filled with writers of varying experience levels, the kind I love working with, interested, open to ideas, a little unsure. We read and talked about nature essays by Anthony Doerr (who’s a Cleveland native) and Edward Abbey, and also discussed the concept of the “new” nature writing that’s emerged in the past decade.
After dipping into a piece by Mary Oliver where she talks about capturing unfiltered thoughts and words using a notebook she keeps in her back pocket, we took a walk in the woods. The sound of footsteps in the grass and a dozen writers jotting in their notebooks as I-271 blurred past in the background was pretty powerful. As one writer remarked afterwards, “I’ve never tried that. Usually when I write it’s late at night, and I’m writing something down I’m remembering from earlier. I’ve never tried to capture it in the moment.”
When we came back, Chris Auerbach-Brown from the Conservancy for the Cuyahoga Valley National Park gave us a fun, brief history of the park. I’m excited to read participants’ writing over the next two sessions. Many of them are interested in writing about the park itself, an amazing resource that blends wildness, people, and wildlife in an urban setting.