from Write a Poem, Save Your Life
by Meredith Heller | Posted 8/14/22
"Everything is ceremony in the wild garden of childhood." —PABLO NERUDA, The Lost Ones of the Forest
I love to construct art out of natural objects I find. Choose an afternoon to spend outdoors with friends. Collect nature objects to make art: mandalas, or circular wheels of focus, and talismans, or power objects.
In my Write of Passage nature program, I dedicate a whole day to this activity. First we collect a bag full of nature treasures, then we build circular mandalas on the beach with the objects we've collected. In these mandalas we put all the limiting thoughts and feelings that we're ready to let go of, such as fear, self-doubt, self-criticism, self-pity, apathy, confusion, you name it, all the things that hold us back.
We assemble the mandalas where the tide will come and wash them away, taking all our limiting beliefs with it. Next we build talismans with our remaining nature treasures, tying them to handheld, arm-length branches or pieces of driftwood. We imbue our talisman with all the qualities we want to call into our lives, such as confidence, inspiration, love, compassion, productivity, friendship, creativity, insight, self-worth. We take our talismans home with us to help us remember and call on the power of our intentions we seeded within them. Let's make our own!
INVITATION: You'll need a bag and some twine. Go into nature with a few friend and walk in silence as you collect a bag full of nature objects, such as branches, seedpods, dried flowers, feathers, rocks, sticks, shells, bones, birds' nests.
Think about what these objects symbolize for you. Think about what draining qualities you're ready to let go of in yourself and what qualities you want to call in to empower you. Use your senses when choosing and gathering. Which plants and flowers, alive or dead, call to you?
Notice color, texture, symbolism. A bright-green leafy sprig may signify life force, a bird's nest may symbolize home, driftwood could represent resiliency, the ability to tumble through the waves and bob to the surface. Trust your intuition. Whatever you write is right!
Mandala: Find a flat spot on the beach or ground. Think about what you're ready to let go of in yourself, what thoughts, feelings, and behaviors no longer serve you. Use about half the objects you've collected. Choose treasures to represent each limiting belief that you're ready to let go of. Arrange your treasures in a circle mandala, like a flower, wheel, or spiral.
JUST WRITE: When you feel complete with what you've made, write a poem about your experience. How did you choose each piece? What message, magic, or medicine does it hold for you? How does naming this quality, and having something tangible to represent it, help you to see, understand, heal, release, and grow at this moment in your life? After you've written your poem, step away and allow the tide to claim it, the wind to blow it, or the animals, people, and elements to scatter it. Let it go!
Talisman: Now take your remaining treasures and find a branch, a large twig, or a piece of driftwood about the length or your hand or lower arm. Think about which qualities you want to call in to empower yourself at this moment in your life, ones to help you respect and value yourself, to trust and believe in yourself, to be true to yourself, and to express yourself fully.
Choose pieces from your nature treasures that represent each quality you want to call in. Using your twine, attach these pieces to your branch or driftwood by wrapping the twine around them to bind them to the branch. Feel the power of the talisman you've created, filled with the positive intentions and visions of who you want to become.
JUST WRITE: When you feel complete with making your talisman, write about your experience. How did you choose the pieces to represent the different qualities? What is the meaning, magic, and medicine of the nature treasures you've chosen? How does it feel to hold this talisman in your hands? Take your talisman home with you. Look at it and hold it when you need to remember your strength, courage, value, and vision.
Treasure Maps — Owen, 16
All morning I walk along the trail
gathering nature skeletons
shells, dried flowers, driftwood
I empty my pockets of self-doubt and loathing
I assemble my treasures
into spiral galaxies on the beach
aligning them with my own constellations
and lunar eclipse
When the tide roars up on the beach
it takes away all the broken pieces of me
I wash myself in the sea
shedding the stench of self-pity
from my skin
I roll on the sand
happy as a dog
light as a bird
I am a tall warrior
I build a home of driftwood and kelp
I am strong and powerful
I make a sword of dreams
I am worthy of love.
Copyright ©2021 Meredith Heller. All rights reserved.
Meredith Heller studied writing and education in the graduate departments of Johns Hopkins University, Naropa University, and Goddard College. ....