We've reached the time of year where days become darker, temperatures drop, and the trees and plants lose their vibrancy and colour. You may find winter decidedly ‘unlovely’ and it can have profound effects on our moods. Here's a simple writing for wellbeing exercise from Carolyn Jess-Cooke’s 4-week online WriteWell course, The Big Picture..
In American poet Galway Kinnell’s poem ‘Saint Francis and the Sow’, the theme of ‘loveliness’ features quite heavily. Among other things, the poem describes the loveliness of a pig – Saint Francis places his hand on its forehead and blesses it – and a seed that doesn’t reach full bloom.
It’s a striking scene, and a striking contrast – the saint and the pig, writes Carolyn-Jess Cooke, director of WriteWell’s online writing for wellbeing course, The Big Picture. We are told that ‘sometimes it is necessary / to reteach a thing its loveliness’, and Saint Francis’ blessing appears to have the effect of making the sow recognise her own ‘loveliness’.
The poem focuses on the beauty to be found in all life (‘for everything flowers, from within, of self-blessing’) especially the elements that may seem unworthy at first glance. As part of our 4-week course, our writers are encouraged to explore challenges from a fresh perspective to help bring about a greater sense of clarity and balance.
Here’s a simple writing exercise from Carolyn which draws on this idea. You can do this in just 5-10 minutes with a pen and paper, a Word doc or the Notes app.
- Take notice of the world around you and find something traditionally unlovely to focus your awareness on, eg. a weed growing in the ground or the feeling of sharp coastal wind against your bare face.
- You might like to start by jotting down some ideas of how it feels to be caught outside in the cold or noticing and seeing the remains of a twig where a flower once bloomed so fully.
- Try and see or perhaps feel it from another point of view. Can you find something lovely in this moment? Can beauty be discovered here? For example, the windy seaside may also bring about a feeling of being alive, or perhaps the thought of a warm cup of tea to greet you when you come in from the cold. That would be lending you the opportunity to see this moment’s bigger picture.
- There’s no right or wrong answer to this — simply write whatever comes to mind instinctively. You might find yourself writing a list, a piece of prose or even a poem.
This writing prompt is taken from WriteWell’s four-week online writing for wellbeing course, The Big Picture, led by author and academic Carolyn Jess-Cooke. Find out more or come chat to us any time: firstname.lastname@example.org.