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Celebrating National Poetry Month: Part 5

April 18, 2022
Three students sit on tree branches and write

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 featured student work from Nature Writing Workshop 2021. Please enjoy the last post in our five part series. Missed the other posts in the series? Click here to read from the beginning.

 

Stephanie Frank, Villanova University School of Business, 2022; Accounting Major.

After a semester of learning and writing at Stoneleigh twice a week, I discovered something, my place in nature. Under my favorite tree, which I originally thought was a Sycamore and later discovered was a London Fog, I found comfort sitting outside. I felt at home in front of the big house as I wrote all afternoon, watching the sun disappear.

Under the London Fog Tree

Would you call a tree fat? Even if you didn’t think

she would hear because you can’t imagine her listening

 

She taught me better, how to be strong

stretching my roots further into the soil

 

Authenticity she spreads as seeds into the wind

reminding us love can be natured and can be nurtured

That handful of dirt blinding my eyes leaves me to ponder,

Why throw a rock at broken glass?

 

The human genome barely differs

yet people define beauty as a slim impossible standard

 

Anxiously pulling at the hairs of the grass bed as I am swallowed

whole by society’s expectations for women’s appearances

 

Insecurities that crawl up my bark like aphids infecting my thoughts,

How can I quiet these flies in my head that voice doubt against me?

 

Who was I before others told me I wasn’t beautiful?

What am I supposed to say to nature who gave me everything?

 

When humans spread hatred with every carbon dioxide exhale

I find my comfort sitting under our caretakers. the trees,

 

Who have given me every blessed and beautiful inch of my human body.

 

Jackie Slate, Class of 2024; Majors in Communication and French.

Jackie Slate. This is an erasure poem composed of fragments from Helen Macdonald’s essay, “The Mysterious Life of Birds Who Never Come Down.” In erasing, I came to realize that this poem reminded me how of my cousin Josh may have felt in his final moments.

Water

I

     Was

Found

     Dead

Once

 

The Water

     Picked up

Like birds

     Over sunlight                

Its wings crossed

     I don’t want

To leave now

     Swaddled in hand

 

Very akin to holiness

     May the next year

Be magical in manner

     Be pulled from darkness

 

As the dull blades swift

     And the sun returns full

The unintelligible nature of creatures

 

Return home, pulled into the water

 

Lauren Jones, Villanova University 2023; Communication Major & Economics Minor

This piece was inspired by my discovery of the Carolina Allspice plant in Stoneleigh. I remember reading its tag and being mesmerized by its name– I had never heard anything like it! I have always liked the name Carolina for a woman and thought that it would be a great main character for a story. I named my male character after my idol, Harry Styles. From here, I began writing one of my favorite pieces of the semester. I drew inspiration from my hometown, Oyster Bay Long Island, where I grew up by the park. I also incorporated the place where I have visited and hope to live in the future: Boston. The storyline was formed through real-life experiences as well as observations and conversations with my friends. It was therapeutic to get these thoughts and memories out on paper and I couldn’t be more proud. It can be scary and uncomfortable to write about love, but it allowed me to venture out of my comfort zone.

Carolina Allspice

Carolina had never experienced a New England fall before, that is, until today. She was mesmerized by the evergreen leaves surrounding her at the heart of the Boston harbor. She could get lost at any turn she made, which excited her. Carolina was an adventurer, a thrill-seeker, and an explorer. Like many well-known explorers, her travel companion was none other than herself. She was an independent woman who did not seek love or life, but rather let it find her. Boston was the perfect place for her to come alive after college and breathe in all the life around her.

She was floating through the aerial views of the bay and decided to make a left turn. She then spotted a bench that looked like it was made for children, but on it sat a man around her age. She took the seat next to him and neither one made a sound. They shared the mutual understanding that they did not want to disturb the natural piece. The bench was enveloped in a wondrous green vine that transported Carolina into an eternal garden away from the bay. She read the description of the ivy-looking plant: “Carolina Allspice, Strawberry-shrub Family.”

“Carolina. That was the name of my first love.” Carolina jolted back in surprise at the voice coming from the man sitting beside her. She realized that she must have read the plant tag out loud. She turned to face the man who had luscious curls that glistened in the morning sunlight. Something about him seemed eerily familiar.

“Carolina is my name! I am in awe that I share a name with such a unique form of life.” The man finally turned to face Carolina and she became overwhelmed by nostalgia. All it took was one glance into his eyes and it all came rushing back like the moon pulling in the tide: Harry. How had she not seen it before? She was staring into the soul of the first man she ever fell in love with.

What felt like it could have been hours, was only a few seconds worth of silence. Absolute and utter silence between these two strangers that were once lovers. It had been five years since the last time they saw each other in a small town known as Oyster Bay, Long Island. The man and the woman were both lost as the flood of memories played in their minds like a movie.

Carolina was transported back to the place she called home. Oyster Bay was where she had experienced some of the most notable moments of her life that shaped her into the person she is today. There lies a place within this small town that exists forever in her memory: Theodore Roosevelt Park. Here she had shivered from the coldest chills and had felt the warmth of a million suns, both from the summer sweat and by the comfort of those around her. As she grew older, it became her safe space. It served not only as an area where she could learn and grow, but somewhere she felt as though she could shout into the void and be comforted by the un-biased sea.

She met Harry when she was in college and embarked upon the precipice of change within her character. She had waltzed down the path of the dock with her friends to be met by the cool water’s edge. Shortly after, a group of boys around the same age moseyed over to where they were. Carolina looked up and was awestruck by the most beautiful boy she had ever seen. His smile was magnetic and she could not physically pull herself away from looking. They were together in a crowded space, but she only wanted to see his face. She desperately wanted their eyes to meet, so she looked up only to be met by Harry’s captivating eyes already on her. The speaker’s voice slowly faded out– she couldn’t even tell you who it was. All she heard was the music playing in her head as the soundtrack for two people alone together in a crowded room.

She knew it then, and was reminded of it now: the second their eyes met their kindred souls became one and her world was never the same again. Carolina was reminded of this feeling and did not want to let it go. After this rush of love and lust passed, it was replaced by the pain she had when Harry left. It was the kind of love where neither party deliberately hurt the other, but they were in different places in their lives.

Carolina used to comfort herself by saying that it was a case of “right person, wrong time.” As she matured in life, she realized that there is actually no such thing as right person wrong time. If it was the right person, nothing could keep them apart. She changed the narrative to be “right person for that time” because everything’s meant to happen, but not everything’s meant to be. Carolina and Harry needed each other at that time to learn and grow. Carolina needed Harry to teach her what love is and give her the basis for what she deserves to have in the future. Harry needed Carolina to show him that he was worthy of love and that there is good in him to be seen by the world.

Looking at him now, it was as if no time had passed. They had not spoken in the last five years because Carolina truly believed in the beauty of words left unspoken. A little bit of love remained alive through mystery and adoration from afar. Even a little bit of magic was left for her to relish in the knowledge of the words she never said, but meant with all of her heart. She found comfort in the hope that she may be able to tell him if they were to meet again.

She floated back to reality with the bay and her first love before her. To think that if she had not relished in the enchantment of the Carolina Allspice, she would have never known that she was reuniting with the man who showed her what love was. The crisp fall breeze transitioned into a sauna of summer heat, reflecting the fiery passion coming alive within Carolina’s heart. It was as if all of the autumnal colors were brighter, the sky was bluer, and the water in the bay was clearer.

“How have you been?” Harry asked. It was a simple question that would determine the rest of their lives. She did not know where these next few moments would take her, but she knew that she was exactly where she was meant to be.

Part 1

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