A Week of EnviroMagic

Kia ora! For the last three months I have been lucky enough to intern at GKTC, where I have been learning so much. All the way from little old New Zealand! What an honor it has been to be welcomed so warmly and given the opportunity to communicate with the spellers in the community… what a bunch of superheroes, seriously!

During the summer institute, I have lead a couple of sessions on topics I am passionate about. We had a plantastic time over the last couple of days – exploring both artistic and scientific ways of experiencing nature. I asked the guys for their experience of and thoughts about nature. They told us about the serenity of evening fireflies and their sensitivity to nature’s happiness, and shared thoughts about our human relationship to the cycles of the earth, which as Ian pondered, seem to be equally influenced by the other.

On day one we learnt about how the neurologist Oliver Sacks advocates for the use of gardens, nature, music and art for his patients. We read about the history of two art forms that complement nature exploration – cyanotypes (the first photographic method created without the use of a camera) and haiku! This inspired us to get in touch with our creative sides, utilising (that’s the New Zealand way to spell it, not a typo!) the native flora outside GKTC to make some stunning works of art. Take a look at what they made:

On blue stained linens

Two leaves embrace another

The sun soaked lovers. 

(By Ian Nordling)

Three leaves sit silent

To crave relief sit patient

Gust of wind to dance

(By Jack Haynes)

Rain falls, tall trees rest

A stream resists, water 

Assists. This is life. 

(By Adam Farrell)

On day two, our new bff local arborist extraordinaire, John Dudzinsky, took us on a guided walk through Runnymede park. He totally schooled us on the ecosystem! Ian wanted to know how many trees John had planted in his time, to which John simply chuckled. Too many to count! He has to offset his big carbon footprint, he said. The guys shared some beautiful descriptions of a carbon footprint, or as Adam put it, “the leaving of our presence on the earth.” What kind of trace do you leaf? A topic we’ll be diving into deeper next week!

Our Runnymede classroom included caressing skunk furs, holding some fox skulls, sniffing many divine fragrances, eating some sour wild blackberries and collecting specimens, including the not so slippery ‘Slippery Elm,’ a rather scratchy type of leaf. Oh nature, you are just so weird and wonderful!

Afterwards, we got up close to explore the textures as we experimented with our last art technique of the week, frottage – an abstract surrealist art method of capturing whatever surface lies beneath the paper.

Finally, we worked on our gift to thank John for his generosity – a cyanotype of all our collected materials from the walk. But if you happen to run into him, please don’t mention it! He is with us for one session yet to come, where he help us to plant some trees. And plus, we still have to write him a poem to match. So come along this week or be sure to follow closely online to upskill your environmentality and be inspired by whatever else our speller masterminds create.

With love,
Ruby

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