Seeing and Language

Nov 12, 2022 8:30AM—Nov 13, 2022 12:00PM


The Nature Institute, 20 May Hill Road, Ghent, NY

Cost $50 to $150 (sliding scale)

Event Contact The Nature Institute | Email

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Creative Reading and Writing as a Way to Experience Meaning in Nature
A Workshop with Ryan Shea and Craig Holdrege

Language can often be a barrier to deeper and more immediate encounters with the world.  It is all too easy to read books in our cozy homes rather than going into field and garden, or to sit and chat for hours with friends rather than having a conversation with nature. When our words are abstract, lifeless, and disconnected, then they can dull our senses and cast a veil over nature. However, language need not stand in our way, but can also be a practice for revealing the world. The poet Jane Hirschfield wrote of the disclosive power of concrete and creative language by noting that “poetry’s work is not simply the recording of inner or outer perception; it makes by words and music new possibilities of perceiving.”

In this workshop, we explore the ways in which a creative language practice can amplify and deepen our immediate experience and can even enable us to have experiences that might have otherwise been inaccessible to us, can give us “new possibilities of perceiving.” The workshop will integrate nature observation, readings, and writing exercises. We will move from word to world by meditatively reading short texts of great nature writers. These texts will serve as windows into a new way of seeing the world.  We will also move from world to word, using the craft of writing as a tool for sharpening our observations.  Our practice is not merely to describe nature, but to dwell with the mystery of meaning: What, exactly, is meaning?  How does language meaningfully relate to, and bring us into relationship with, the world?  Does nature have its own meaning and is there a sense in which we can learn to read nature like a book?  Phenomenological philosopher Edmund Husserl spoke of “seeing clearly and articulating faithfully.”  Our weekend will be an opportunity for us to begin to unite our seeing and our articulating into meaningful experience.

Sliding scale fee: $50 to $150 (no one will be turned away for financial reasons). Please pre-register by November 7 by phone or email, 518-672-0016 /

Ryan Shea is an adjunct researcher at The Nature Institute. He taught at Providence College for eight years, including courses in philosophy of science, environmental philosophy, and nature writing. His main interest is to learn what it might look like to read the “book of nature” in a participatory, contemplative, phenomenological, and poetic fashion.