Scavenging: Writing with the world around us

A land-based special project
Designed & facilitated by Reuben Jentink


Now, as before, there are so, so many ways that people have found to tell stories about the land and of our place in the land. These stories range across geographies and places; they differ throughout time, and take shape within specific cultures and histories. People write about these relationships to place and to land in myriad ways, through poetry, memoir, short stories, graphic novels, science fiction, as well as personal and academic writing and their hybrids, most of which were studied in the Writing 101 and 201 courses! And then there are those other languages, the stillness of stones, the geometry of a pinecone’s scales, the tireless dance of a tree’s branches in the wind….

Scavenging is a four-week-long self-directed project that looks closely at the many different ways that we relate to and are a part of the world around us, in keeping with that year’s theme, “What if everything depends on everything else?” Over this past year, we’ve learnt so much about our place in this lively world, and how much we depend on one another (human and non-human)—even when “depending” means staying put and taking care during this pandemic. Each Friday, participants receive a “shell” (a sanitized package), which includes masks, readings, a summary of the week’s themes, inspiring materials, and questions for participants to write, draw, animate, and daydream with!

Like a mushroom forager’s carrier bag, the themed shells gather together a bunch of related things, each unique and worthy of consideration—yours to ponder, turn upside down, weave together, and maybe share. Like the science fiction writer Ursula K. Le Guin does with her carrier bag, participants might have found themselves scavenging, foraging, and adding other things to their shell! Science fiction is a way of describing the world, Le Guin writes, and what’s “going on, what people actually do and feel, how people relate to everything else in this vast sack, this belly of the universe, this womb of things to be and tomb of things that were, this unending story.”

A scavenger hunt, the childhood game from which this project takes its name, is just the sort of game that we could play right now—together while physically apart. Setting off with a common project we might have moseyed in the city, lingered in a written place, or gotten comfortable in a park. There is an opportunity to submit writings for feedback. Participants do all aspects of the project on their own, but through shared readings, writings, and Hum experiences, it is almost as though we are together again.