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On the last day of August, while the weather went wild – thrashing rain one minute, scorching sun the next - we sat inside the greenhouse for our third Global Gardens creative writing workshop.

This time round, I asked our small group of writers to focus on the theme of ‘making the ugly beautiful’, with the idea that things usually seen as unpleasant, repellent or unwanted can be viewed in other lights.

This is an idea that has started to emerge from my writing residency here at the garden. My second piece was about slugs falling into beer traps. Even I will admit that these creatures leave me feeling a little sick, and they are pests to our plants - and yet there is always a different way of looking, which is what I tried to bring out in my writing. We used this slugs piece as inspiration, and I sent the writers out into the garden to find something ‘ugly’ to write about. There is a lot of unpleasantness in the natural world, but we worked on the idea that the more you explore it, and you zoom in on details, the more individual beauty can reveal itself.

Below are two writers’ wonderful responses to the exercise:

Perfectly Imperfect

By Natalie Allen

The crab-apple lies glistening on the ground, coated in raindrops, embraced by the grass surrounding it. Its burnt amber colour as warm as a ray of sunshine. Engraved with cracks, providing a small keyhole into its sweet interior. It glows amongst the greenery of the less weathered apples, a pillar of strength. Perfectly imperfect in its own way.

Fearful beauty

By Saph White

I see you.

Your tenacity astounds me. Your determination floors me in a way you refuse to be floored.

You cling to your flowerhead, a once-perfect petal now inches away from death, afraid to fall. You’ve lost your comrades, your siblings, everyone you’ve ever known – yet still you linger looking at their broken bits strewn in the soil below. It must take so much willpower, so much strength to hold yourself there, all alone, knowing the inevitable will happen. I admire your defiance in the face of death, but I also pity your dread. Your last hours on this earth shouldn’t be filled with fear. Soak in the last moments of sunlight, feel the energy of the earth all around you, and then graciously let the inevitable happen. The fall won’t be the end of you, you see – oh no; it will be a new beginning. Your matter will become one with the earth and enrich the soil, giving way to new life, new hope. You’ll live on in some other form. So, let go when you’re ready.

You’re ready?

Let go.

We finished the workshop by casting a new light on the everyday events and issues that can bother us in our lives, such as depression and chronic pain, which, as the writers explored them deeper, became things which also were a source of hope, or peace, alongside all their negative qualities.

Below is Natalie Allen’s response to the exercise, casting a new light on the menstrual cycle.

Time of the Month

By Natalie Allen

It's that time again, a time of fertility and femininity. The cogs of the female body turning and churning, a beautifully intelligent piece of machinery. The egg had patiently awaited its fate, this month would it help create life? This month was not its time; instead, it swims through a strong current to its new home, fulfilling an alternate destiny.

Our workshop writers were brilliant at taking on the job which I believe falls to every writer: to offer alternative ways of thinking and seeing.

In everybody’s lives, it is important to talk about all the ‘ugly’ things that happen to us. But more important is to dig deeper, and seek out the positive, the precious and the hopeful, to let good and bad coexist – to know that something can be ugly and beautiful at the same time.

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