Introducing the Planthunter Ode Project
Imagine an untamed and entangled garden of words that whisper, shout, murmur and yell of the beauty and importance and value of the natural world. Imagine gentle words imbued with love and affection; imagine wise words capturing the ways we connect; imagine mad words that speak of mystery and chaos; imagine wild words that speak of dirt and microbes and all the things that matter. Imagine attention, connection and care wrapped in a package of words and offered as a gift to the natural world, in exchange for all we’ve been offered, all we’ve taken. In exchange, as Robin Wall Kimmerer writes, for the privilege of breath.
Being imagined, suggests Nobel Prize winning author Olga Tokarczuk, is the first stage of existence. Stories and creativity and art are the core of how we see the world, how we are in the world, yet at times like this – times of transformation and loss and fear – the quiet power found within the depths of the human imagination is often obscured by the noisy push/pull of politics and protest.
Within the context of ecological crisis, the focus is typically on physically ‘doing’ things. Endless lists, news reports and activist organisations help us take action – composting, changing banks, eating less meat, flying less, protesting – obvious, tangible and important work. There’s more, though, to the story of what do to and where to be: the work of imagination and creation and reflection. It’s in this place that The Planthunter dwells.
We’re interested in getting closer to the underlying forces that shape human action/ The stories, the ways of seeing and being. The ways in which we imagine our relationship to the world.
At a time like this, what can we give? What can I give? I realised recently that I had never really considered what it is I can offer the trees, stones, shrubs. I’ve loved these beings always but had never thought much about showing it explicitly. And yet, I exist in relationship to these beings. A relationship, I realised, needing attention.
Think for any length of time about what a good relationship looks like and you’ll arrive very quickly (I hope!) at an important concept: Reciprocity. We give, we receive. We offer, we accept. With gratitude, with grace. What is needed right now – in addition to big, swift, global, political, individual changes – are small human gifts of imagination and attention and compassion. Odes to the world!
The Planthunter Ode Project
The Planthunter Ode Project is an attempt to grow a garden of words that celebrate the ways we’re entangled with each other and the other-than-human world. It’s about stepping into relationship and gifting personal offerings of attention, imagination and gratitude to those who sustain us.
An ode is a wondrous thing. In its purest form, it’s a poem, a prayer of celebration and reverence, focused on a particular person or thing. Yes, it sounds earnest, but read Pablo Neruda’s Ode to the Onion and you’ll see the madness too.
First things first, YOU DON’T HAVE TO WRITE A POEM to contribute to the Planthunter Ode Project.
In the context of this project, an ode is simply a creative way of illustrating gratitude, connection, attention and imagination. Some formats to consider:
Poem: verse, freeform or whatever you want. Go wild.
Letter: a love letter, a note from a place, a note to a place, plant, animal, person.
Vignette: a short snippet of adoration. A few sentences or a paragraph capturing who, what, why.
List: a collection of all the things you like about something, all the places you love, all the things you’ve noticed in your garden in the last minute, all the things you know about ants, all the things you’re yet to know about bees etcetera.
WRITING AN ODE: A SHORT GUIDE
Start where you are: Look around. What aspect of the natural world are you drawn to? A branch, a view, a bug on the windowsill, a patch of dirt, a bird? If you’re indoors with no windows, recall your favourite tree, or garden, or wild place. Any being/place/thing, whether large or small, shiny or invisible, is ode-worthy.
Pay attention: Once you’ve decided on the subject of your ode spend as long as you can just looking at it. Watch where your mind and heart go when you take the time to really see it, consider it.
Be curious: Ask questions of your subject. Who are you? Where are you from? Why am I drawn to you? What is it about you that I’m grateful for?
Write: Don’t get caught up in constructing the perfect sentence. Just write and see where the words take you. Try to keep your head out of it – heads are very good for grammar and sentence structure and refining ideas but the heart is where the essence of a piece of writing comes from. Write, and don’t think too much about it.
Be yourself: Don’t get all gooey and romantic and earnest if it’s not your vibe, but go there if it is. Be funny, be angry, be sad, be amazed – be who and where you are. Most of all, be grateful to whatever/whoever is the subject of your ode. Write from this place. Edit later.
WE WANT YOUR ODES
We’d love to read your odes, if you’re comfortable sharing them. If not, don’t worry and keep writing!
This project is not about publishing polished work, it’s about collectively cultivating relationship and paying attention. This can be a very personal act and doesn’t need to be publicly validated to have an impact or to be worthy. If you are sitting with a bug on your back deck, and you are paying attention to it, learning about it, writing about it, imagining it, you’re doing important work. Know this.
If you want to share your work, please post your ode and an accompanying image on Instagram and tag @theplanthunter and #planthunterodeproject.
We have created an image tile, if you’d like to use it to accompany your Instagram post. It’s based on a glorious illustration commissioned by another mad publisher called Robert John Thornton, for his masterwork The Temple of Flora. Very ode-a-rific. Download it here.
Alternatively, you can email your ode to us at firstname.lastname@example.org and we’ll be delighted to read it.
This project is a seed. We don’t know where or how it’ll grow. If it sprouts tendrils, we may consider regularly publishing some of the submitted odes on The Planthunter website, or even creating an anthology, but this is all future talk. First things first: get growing odes!