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Writer ~ Photographer ~ House-Sitter ~ Teacher

Feature by Betsy Blodgett, Courier Post

In tune with nature

A poet makes connections, at Hopkins Pond

Courier Post: This Week

Thursday, November 14, 1996



Hopkins Pond may not have the same ring of familiarity as Walden, but for Therése Halscheid, the tiny Haddonfield lake has provided the same connection to nature that Henry David Thoreau wrote about in 1864.

About three years ago, Halscheid found herself walking around Hopkins Pond in Haddonfield, where she enjoyed listening to “Pachelbel’s Canon,” smelling the newly fallen leaves, and watching the clouds and birds fly by. Slowly, she realized she was not alone.

“It was as if the pond was responding to the music,” says Halscheid. “It became very alive to me. It really was the beginning.” The beginning, she says, of her connection to nature. “Hopkins Pond is the place that begins my journey that started my communication with the Earth,” says Halscheid, a writing teacher and self-published author of Powertalk, a 64-page collection of poems and journal entries.

“Powertalk is a reflection of ways in which all creatures communicate,” she says. “A lot of it happened at Hopkins Pond, which is also the site where the first dinosaur bones found in North America were unearthed.”

Halscheid interprets the natural signs around her in poetry, from the shape and color of a fallen leaf under her feet to cloud forms miles from her head.

“Writing can make one aware of the Earth,” she explains. “Through poetic form, I’ve come to understand that the Earth is a living creature.” Whether Halscheid strolls through the flat Pinelands or climbs rugged mountains, she does more than place one foot in front of the other: she communicates, and remains open to the signs and symbols all around her. “You’re walking alone, and you look up, and suddenly there’s a cloud figure in the sky that’s very meaningful. You think: That symbol’s for me,” Halscheid says. “That is actually Earth speaking to you.”

The writer also looks for more earthbound forms of communication.

“It could be a bird looming over you, or a turtle popping out of a pond, and you understand,” Halscheid says. “The pattern of the bark on a tree can also be another way the Earth reaches out to her,” she adds.

As Halscheid continues her journey exploring her connection to Earth, she finds that worldly goods have become less important.

“I live very simply,” says Halscheid, whose home base is in Haddon Township. “I house-sit, for example, so that I’m able to focus my attention on the natural world.” A poet-in-residence in the Vineland School District, Halscheid teaches writing at the Wetlands Institute in Stone Harbor and Atlantic County Community College in Mays Landing, and conducts workshops in libraries.

“I work with Earth images to help children and others write poetry,” she explains.

Anyone open to these signs and symbols can communicate with Earth,” she adds.

“Walk very lightly on the Earth, as if you’re tiptoeing over a human body,” Halscheid explains. “You will experience a tenderness inside yourself for the Earth, and it will open up and communicate with you.”

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