At the Nature Writing Workshop hosted by Appalachian Understories, participants were able to explore their creativity while strolling along the two mile John Knouse path in the Canaan Preserve. The three hour workshop was hosted by Emma Loomis-Amrhein, a poet that uses her passion of nature to address trans struggle and liberation, through a unique rural lens. Prior to the hike, Emma had everyone do introductions, with an unusual question posed for hikers to begin their creative journeys.

“So tell everyone your name, pronouns, and what food you don’t like,” Emma asked of her attendees. Unusual to begin a hike intended to inspire people through beauty and nature by asking people to think about something unpleasant.

Hazel Escobedo, an AmeriCorps member at Rural Action and Nature Writing Workshop participant said that this exercise allowed her to become more comfortable with unpleasant feelings.

“I think in writing, and especially writing about nature, we tend to only focus on the positive aspects. When the reality is nature can bring you such a wide variety of emotions and feelings, those deserve to be noticed and expressed too.”

Of course—there was plenty of inspiration to draw from surrounding the group. The John Knouse Trail, a beautiful mostly forested two-mile trail, opened in early June this year. Crossing the Canaan Preserve, this new trail link allows hikers to hike the nine-mile trail from Sells Park to SR-690 without crossing a road.

Hiking along the new trail, Emma asked her participants to describe the home of something they saw. Anything, no rules, no expectations – just talk about the home. What lives there? What color is it? What makes it a good home?

Emma then invited her creative hikers to describe their home, with similar questions posed. By having participants think about themselves in relation to the world and its beings that surround them, Emma asked them to process, notice, and write. In no particular style, with no expectations.

Madison Donohue, tourism specialist for Appalachian Understories, says she hopes that they will be able to host more hikes like this that connect the arts with nature, and participants agreed.

“I think that all appreciation of art comes from the adoration of beauty, which ultimately stems from adoration in nature. So, I don’t think you can appreciate nature without finding something beautiful, and the original most beautiful thing is nature,” said Hazel.

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