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Naturalist-in-Residence: Community Poems

Madison Public LIbrary Naturalist in Residence Qwantese Winters at EdnaTaylorConservationparkDuring the 2023 Naturalist-in-Residence program at Madison Public Library, Qwantese Dourese Winters hosted two Nature Writing and Meditative Walks. Each walk went to a different location - Edna Taylor Conservation Park and Heritage Prairie - but both groups had the opportunity to combine the serenity of nature with the art of reflective writing.

Along the way, participants were encouraged to immerse themselves in the nature all around them and to observe the details of their experience, picking up on things sense by sense. What sights or sounds or sensations did they notice as they meandered through the beautiful prairies, along the lake-sides and down the forest paths? The short poems you see below have been combined to create two collaborative poems - one from each walk - that showcase the joy, beauty, connection, and more that we can find in nature and in each other. 

Heritage Prairie Poem

Heritage Prairie Walk Naturalist in Residence 2023 Madison Public LIbrary
Each disrupting step sends the crickets flying between my legs
The grass is the ocean
My feet the wind
The crickets the ocean’s mysterious creatures 
Naturalist-in-Residence 2023 Qwantese Dourese Winters Community PoetryWhitesnake root, goldenrod, purple coneflowers
Blackeyed susans
Big (or little) bluestem
Wild false indigo (maybe?)
I wish i knew all your names
While walking the trail
 I note the leaves
some smooth and round
 others serrated, and sharp
 leaves larger than my outstretched hand
and smaller than my pinky fingernail
all reaching up to feel the setting sun 
on their faces 
Naturalist-in-Residence 2023 Qwantese Dourese Winters Community PoetryI love Autumn 
written on the graffiti wall on one side 
and freeway vehicles of probably every color 
Whiz by like insects, but nonstop 
on this side the yellow of Goldenrod 
and black eyed Susan flowers
the pollinators paradise
 it is the last hour of daylight 
and the bees and beetles 
have been making their own way through this place
the bright pink and red of autumn kisses the endless green of the meadow 
And what’s not to love 
the birds chase each other through the trees 
which soon will follow suit
 with the reds 
 and browns 
I’m sure this beautiful place is buzzing nonstop
and always has.
Naturalist-in-Residence 2023 Qwantese Dourese Winters Community PoetryWeeping, willow alone, strangers among shimmering leaves, now united among the paths and highways 
A peaceful celebratory day with three generations, a mom, her daughter, then grandson and partners, each of the five marveling and false splendor, commenting on sumac, bright and fading, golden rod the daughters Girl Scout crest and echinacea, purple coneflower seeds collecting happy birthday to me the lucky daughter 
No waste here only what the plants and trees no longer need. 
They have shared it with the soil only to start a new beginning
A cluster of oaks
In their teenage years
Then remember the caged 
Rebel prisoner yells
Naturalist-in-Residence 2023 Qwantese Dourese Winters Community PoetryThe trees have branches gripping the ground
They have branches twisting up to the sky
The birds have songs that make a heart sing
And songs that go off to die
Who am i when i look at all things
Am i someone whose spirit lives in
Or am i just here for the love that is today
Like the grass when the last seed is gone
I want to stay here
In these moments
Where nothing matters
And anything could happen

Edna Taylor Poem

Naturalist in REsidence 2023 EdnaTaylorConservationpark
One day I’m going to take every fear, every worry and bury it underneath an elderberry tree
Maybe they can fertilize the ground like compost does

So nice to meet you Edna Taylor
And your family of goldenrods, sumac, cattails
Serenaded by the cranes and geese

Summer lingers in the goldenrod, glowing under cloudy skies

What is a cold snap 
to something that has only known summer
Do they know what it means 
When cranes and geese leave
Do they know the rich life blooming bounty
Of goldenrod could be their last supper?
Are they so instant, so omnipresent
Because they now its their last song?

I smell the season changing and 
It feels intoxicating
Sweet like my grandmothers homemade biscuits
I miss them…
I miss her…
Do bees sleep in the flowers or have they simply grown tired?

The oak tree doesn’t question how much space it takes up 
Or how much sunlight it needs
It takes up its space and stack in its sunlight and 
Just is
I am art of nature and I’m allowed to need what I need and 
Just be
As I am
Like the oak tree

Walking in the wood is not a race
Its a conversation
Its a discussion
Its the waking of rocks
And the whoosh of the grass
Its hearing the birds
And taking the time to listen to their declaration

All the colors are always there
Some are harder to see at different times
Does not mean
They don’t exist

September is too rich for its own good
Sweat and sunflowers
Goldenrod and ashes
The last mosquito bites of the year

As I walk through 
Parts of an unknown but still a sense of direction
Causes me to see a path
One that will lead me somewhere
It has life
I hear birds
Smell fresh grass
One duck by the lake singing
That im not alone
We are here together

Moments of beauty find us
If we let them

Purple Astor licked star bright by bees tongues
Blood red leaves begin to twin with green
Herons silky charcoal wings smooth the pond
Where are you going in such a hurry?

Its okay to wade through slowly
And alone
Said the lone heron

From Poetry to Painting

Alina Puenta Final Naturalist In Residence Painting

Fears Buried at Sunset by Alina Puente

Artist Alina Puente, who helped created the imagery for the Rooted in Nature theme, also took inspiration from the poems written by community on these walks. Alina painted the piece pictured to the right, entitled Fears Buried at Sunset, as a visual storytelling element to accompany the poems. You can see Fears Buried at Sunset on display at Central Library November 2023 - February 2024 in the second floor stairwell. The painting is placed alongside the poems written by community members. 

Artist Statement: 

In a poignant synthesis of art and nature, Alina Puente’s “Fears Buried at Sunset” emerges as a visual echo to the soul-stirring poem composed by the patrons of the Madison Public Libraries’ Naturalist-in-Residence Nature Walk. This piece is an ode to a transformative walk on a Midwestern trail, where the artist encountered the serene yet fleeting beauty of the late afternoon. As the sun dipped below the horizon, casting its final golden hues upon the elderberry trees and the whispers of goldenrod, a powerful moment was born. The vibrant strokes capture the essence of release, where fears are surrendered to the nurturing arms of God’s perfect order, and life—in its infinite cycle—continues unabated. Puente’s painting invites viewers to step into a space where the majestic oak stands undaunted, an emblem of the strength and steadfastness provided by divine grace. This is not just a trail depicted in bright colors; it is a journey of connection, reflection, and the serene discovery that in the stillness of God’s embrace, we find companionship and the promise of unwavering peace.


This program was made possible in part by generous support from: