I am From: using nature memories to define who we are and to celebrate our unique sense of place
Recently I came across an article about the “I Am From” poem and the project that flowed from it. The poems moved me deeply as I read through the unique and diverse experiences reflected in the poems people submitted. Some of them, very powerful and moving. The original poem and catalyst for this project was written by George Ella Lyons. People are welcome to submit poems to the project’s Facebook page and website, and have even created videos for YouTube. They do this individually or as a group. There is a wonderful video of a collaborative fabric art project that not only celebrates each unique person, but creates a strong sense of place as a whole.
I wrote a poem for myself and was surprised at the countless sights, sounds, and events that define who I am today! It includes good parts and the not-so-good, and some of the pain that emerged during this process. I suggest a focus on what is true, but to also look for the good. Good seems to endure and light the way, for ourselves but also for others. I submitted this poem to the website, and hope it will be added to the “river of voices” and the amazing diversity of experiences.
A nature perspective
Then I wondered if condensing my focus to nature would also work and tried it out
– you can read that result below. This process inspired me to add the words and resulting imagery to my nature journal. I loved the renewed connection to the nature of my childhood and beyond, and drew with abandon, not worrying about tidy lines or splashing color around!
This was such a memorable experience! I suggest you try it in your own nature journal. You can see that some of my sketches are uncomplicated while some have a bit more attention. Some reflect that inner child. Don’t worry about your skill level – just the basics, or even descriptive color swathes work. Both Clare Walker Leslie and Mimi Robinson have used color shapes alone to beautifully describe environments and seasons. Try it and see. There are also other ways to add visual imagery: photos, collage, prints, or ephemera such as pressed leaves or flowers, maps, tickets, fabric, and much more.
Your own deep connection matters
It is the deep connection to place that matters, and the bits and pieces that echo place besides the flora, fauna, and geology: the colors, smells, tastes, textures, and emotions. These have created how we view and interact with nature today. It is a good thing to recognize the role they’ve played – and it is a good thing to expand our views when we experience another’s memories.
If you aren’t sure where to start, I offer you an exercise developed just for nature. The 2-page PDF can be downloaded HERE. One side has suggestions and prompts, the other has my nature poem plus links to the I Am project website and Facebook page, plus YouTube videos.
Here is my “I Am From” poem.
I am from
knee-deep snowdrifts, frozen lashes, the searing breath of winter.
Summertime poison ivy rash and itchy mosquito bumps
chasing butterflies and garter snakes
magical fireflies and a whippoorwill lullaby.
I am from
the indigo blue comfort after a midwestern sunset
the musty taste of black walnuts and joyful sweetness of tiny wild blackberries
the bright flash of cardinal and a hummingbird’s glittering eye.
Fluttering spring beauties with tiaras of columbines
and the thrum of bees in the clover.
I am from
The mighty Mississippi,
a languid longing below
the stink of fish and duckweed
and the thrill of snapping turtles.
River bottom land, and banks and bluffs of stacked limestone.
I am from
sturdy oaks and maples,
deer trails and owl pellets
under improbably green new leaves, so delicate, glowing.
Standing in prairie grasses filled with tiny treasures
and the wind in my hair.
Media Aquabee Super Deluxe 6x9” mixed media sketchbook (double spread) Daniel Smith watercolors Micron Pigma 01 black artist pen Sakura Gelly Roll white gel pen 10
On the web:
I Am From Project website: https://iamfromproject.com/
I Am From Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/iamfromproject/
Additional YouTubes videos:
I Am From | Celebrating Hispanic Heritage Month by Juan Delgado, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XFtXf1bAC-E
I Am From...A Poem by Aaric Pelc, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TVryvxLTIyU
And a collective project by participants of the 2020 Whole Child, Whole Day Social Emotional Learning Symposium: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PRM0-fdEJX4