“Writers meld love of language, nature”



By Janice De Jesus
Contra Costa Times

Whether Mother Nature brings sunshine or rain, Cynthia Leslie-Bole and Karen Mireau have dedicated their lives to helping people becoming more creative.

When the women met years ago, they realized that they shared the same mission — combining their love of writing and nature to help people foster a sense of creativity in their lives while helping them connect with themselves.

This spring, the writers will be sharing their vision with children and teens — the segment of the population they believe needs the most creative nurturing at this time of their lives.

Young people will write and create handmade books at a “playshop,” a creative take on the concept of a workshop, at the Ruth Bancroft Garden.

“Stepping Stones: Exploring our Inner Nature for Teens and Preteens,” is an extension of a similar pilot program introduced at the garden last fall where kids dropped in and created projects on-the-go.

This time around, children have more time to reflect as they create their bookmaking projects in two sessions divided by age groups, said Leslie-Bole, an Orinda writer, teacher and life coach.

Both writers combine their interests in writing, art, and nature to create a fun and safe environment that encourages exploration and self-discovery, said Sophie Damerel, education coordinator for the Ruth Bancroft Garden.

“We deal with the expressive arts — a combination of different ways of expressing yourself,” Leslie-Bole said.

The writers said they will encourage the students ask themselves such questions as: “What are my values? What do I love? What are my strengths? What makes me unique? Who am I?”

“You can ask deep questions with a sense of playfulness,” Leslie-Bole said. “Do something meaningful while creating something beautiful.” She said that because teens are typically trained to think in academic terms when it comes to writing, they especially need time to reflect on their lives while surrounded by nature and to write creatively about their thoughts and experiences.

“They need to get into the heart of who they are in society and ask themselves, ‘How can I make a positive contribution to society?'” said Leslie-Bole, who also conducts writing workshops for adults. “They will be encouraged to look ahead — what’s the next phase in life?” The writers will also ask students to reflect on their relationship with nature and society.

“We can’t really go in-depth in two hours,” Leslie-Bole said. “This is just the beginning. We want to ask questions to get them to explore themselves through writing.”

Leslie-Bole and Mireau will encourage students to take what they’ve written and choose the words or phrases that they think are the most powerful and that accurately portray who they are to use as inspiration in creating a handmade book with art and natural materials.

“When you live the creative life, all challenges are solved, ultimately, by being in touch with one’s heart and intuition,” said Mireau, explaining the philosophy she’s embraced and applied to her entire professional journey as a writer and visual artist.

“Both Cynthia and I are very excited about presenting this in association with The Ruth Bancroft Garden. What a lovely and perfect setting for allowing creativity to grow and flourish.”