Celebrating National Poetry Month: Part 4

April 15, 2022
Two students write under the stone pergolia at Stoneleigh

Photo: Catherine Staples

Villanova’s Nature Writing Workshop takes place almost exclusively out of doors. Last  fall, students read and wrote their way through the gardens, meadows, and woods of Stoneleigh: a natural garden.

In honor of National Poetry Month, this blog will feature student work from Nature Writing Workshop 2021. Please enjoy the 4th post in our 5-part series.



Daniel Gorman, Villanova School of Business, Class of 2022; Marketing & Business Analytics Major, Engineering Entrepreneurship Minor

If there is one insight I have gleaned above all else from this semester, it’s to look at the world with the joy and curiosity of a child. Children are constantly asking questions (sometimes annoyingly so), inquiring “Why? What’s this? How does this work? Why, why, why?” As we get older, that curiosity often seems to dim a bit. We stop asking questions, running around, wandering. Being able to explore Stoneleigh Gardens this semester for two hours a week changed that for me. Suddenly, while exploring every nook and cranny of the expansive property, I felt compelled to ask questions, to imagine. I felt compelled to wander aimlessly. I felt compelled to stop for a moment and listen.

Two Women, By The Shore

Two women sit idly as the darkness closes in

on them, covering them in a deep violet shadow.

On the horizon, a ship drifts away, its wind smacked sails

blending into the overcast white sky.


When will the ship return?

The question looms in the reflection of the women’s piercing

blue eyes, puffy and bloodshot from tears held in

for fear of looking weak, incompetent, hysterical.

Across the shore, orange and yellow bleed through

the faces of the lilting leaves, the burning change of fall

peering into the women’s idyllic summer like

an unwanted visitor who has let himself in.


This is change, change they know all too well.


The women dream of leaves lifting themselves off

the ground and back onto the branches, dream of

flowers blooming and bright colors bursting out from

the muddy, foot-trodden ground they perch upon,

dirt staining their best blue dresses.


The women dream of a time when they can be reunited

with their loves, and hold them fiercely in their sore arms,

never letting go. No more sewing and cooking and cleaning

all day in an empty home with an empty bed. Winter is coming,

the house will be cold and damp and dark.


As they sit in the shadows, the white sun begins to set,

casting a serene pink glow over the beach.

They cannot tell where the sea ends and the sky

begins, only that their loves have left,

and taken the color with them.

Hillary O’Neill, Class of 2023. Major Psychology. Minors in Sustainability and Peace & Justice.

When I first wrote this piece, we had just finished reading Henry David Thoreau’s Walking. I was particularly inspired by the sentiment of adventure and excitement he was able to capture which drove me to practice walking merely for its own sake. Too often, I treat walking merely as a way to get from point A to point B. However, as I walked through Stoneleigh that day, I consciously made an effort to take in all the sensory experiences around me; I began to notice things I never had before. I grabbed my pen and my journal as I was immediately transported back to the place I have always felt most absorbed in the moment and free of distractions: Little Compton, Rhode Island.

The Dog Days of Summer

Most often when we walk, it is merely a means to get to a destination. We scurry from one place to another like frantic worker bees afraid of wasted time. We meticulously map out our journey down to the second to ensure we will have the precise amount of time needed to get to a location. Typically, when we walk, our focus is so strongly directed at the chaotic energy inwards that we fail to see what lies beyond us.

We put our headphones in and turn our music up so loud that we deprive ourselves of the symphonies of the leaves rustling in the breeze, the chirping of the birds, the whoosh of the grass under our feet, or the waves of the chorus of cicadas. When we learn to walk merely for the sake of walking and free ourselves from the need to multitask or to feed our constant need for “productivity” we can find ourselves rejuvenated. We become masters at the art of noticing.

When I think of the art of noticing, I am immediately transported back to an August afternoon. It was one of those dog days of summer where you can start to feel the season slipping out of your grasp. The sun had been blazing all day, but had begun to soften at this time of day giving everything in the town of Little Compton, Rhode Island a golden hue. The beach was bustling with activity: day-trippers and weekenders looking for a quick getaway. As I wandered down the beach looking for pieces of perfectly frosted sea glass, I noticed a path leading up through the dunes and sea grasses alongside me. I quickly glanced around to see if there was any signage stopping me from entering the path before changing my course and heading towards it. The foliage on either side of the sandy path had started to overgrow and spill into it. As a gust of wind sent the grasses bowing down and poking at my bare feet. As I felt the heat of the sand below me, my breath became short and I started to weave my way through the path more quickly, wincing a bit with each burning step. As I wandered further and further down the path, the voices on the beach completely vanished and all that I could hear was the crashing of the waves, reminding me of their power. Suddenly, I saw a flash of orange gracefully dance past me. Completely forgetting about the burning sand below me, I bent down, mesmerized, until I was eye-level with the grasses. I sat kneeling, waiting, until the vibrant orange monarch re-entered my sightline. I was enraptured by its delicacy and grace as it rested a moment slowly flapping its wings, until it once again vanished from my view. Suddenly, I awoke from the spell and was reawakened to the burning at the bottom of my feet.

Part 5