Tag Archive: Nature

Surprising, Sensational and Strange, it’s Nature!

WOSLetterSHappy 2014 Earth Day everyone!

This is one of my favorite holidays, and anyone who follows my posts knows I’m crazy about Old Mother Earth, and I write about her as often as I can.

Luckily for me, the other sisters haven’t told me to give it a rest. Yet!

Here are excerpts from two of my favorite nature posts. I hope they motivate you to go outside and give nature a great big thank-you for being stupendous. Also for each of you to put pen to paper when nature is threatened, exploited and abused. Because if we don’t, who will?

Excerpt from Into the Wild II, originally posted on October 23, 2014

Last week my local government dredged the creek that borders my home, and since that fateful day, I’ve watched as a solitary egret stands motionless in the creek. I wonder if the devastation of home leaves this bird as dazed and disoriented as it does me. Is it a mother looking for her late season young? Or a mate looking for a lost love? Or a youth who doesn’t know where to go now that its Public domain image, royalty free stock photo from www.public-domain-image.comsource of food and protection is gone?

The city says they did this for me. All this devastation will prevent possible flooding to the homes in my area, and since they want to rezone a section near the creek “High Density” for a luxury condominium complex, I guess unpredictable water levels wouldn’t make the new developers happy. They bestowed my gift in fall, a time when the whole ecosystem of the watershed is under stress. Migratory birds are arriving, desperate for habitat and a place to rest up before pushing onward to warmer climates. The year round critters of the waterway are stocking for the winter, collecting their acorns and fattening up as best they can on the last desiccated morsels of the summer’s bounty. They dredge the stream not just before spring when plants are ready to bounce back from the angry welts of backhoes and shovels, but at the start of the rainy season. Right when thousands of gallons of water will sluice down those raw, defiled banks dumping hundreds of cubic inches of good healthy topsoil into an already stressed waterway. This massive infusion of silt will destroy water quality and kill off even more wildlife. Ironically, it will also nullify the extensive manpower, fossil fuels and funds they just expended to dredge the waterway.

For the last few days I tried not to let myself become like my egret, a sad figure, helpless and frozen in my agony, losing sleep over everything lost. Worried about the fate of the raccoons that steal from my garden, shedding tears for the lost water dwellers, the otters and even these annoying little crayfish the heron loved to pluck from between the now missing river rocks.

Instead of becoming the lone egret, I choose to join a flock and fight.

Excerpt from Friday Inspiration: Author John Muir, originally appeared 1/24/2014

 “The world, we are told, was made especially for man — a presumption not supported by all the facts.” John Muir.

Quarter webNever satisfied that nature was safe from fools, John Muir took an active role in changing government policy toward nature. He wanted people to see wild spaces differently and he made it his mission to bring important people into the mountains so they could witness the magic of the wilderness first hand.

After touring Yosemite Valley, CA with Muir, then US President Roosevelt later wrote:

“Not only are his books delightful, not only is he the author to whom all men turn when they think of the Sierras and northern glaciers, and the giant trees of the California slope, but he was also  — what few nature lovers are — a man able to influence contemporary thought and action on the subjects to which he had devoted his life.”

Muir lived the last forty-six years of his life in my home state of California. His house is now a National Historic Site, and California celebrates his life every April 21st as a commemorative day. In California his name is synonymous with the love of outdoor adventure and our rugged natural landscapes. Yet, Muir belongs to everyone who believes in having a commitment and a responsible for safeguarding the natural world.

I think the reason I find Muir inspiring is he proves to me a lone voice spoken with passion can move mountains. He serves as a brilliant model for nonfiction writers everywhere, because we still need people who dream of making a difference and who use their voices to change the world.

Happy Earth Day, I hope you enjoy this important holiday and use it to help you cultivate your own passion for nature.

“The power of imagination makes us infinite.” John Muir

 

 

Permanent link to this article: http://writeonsisters.com/a-z-challenge/surprising-sensational-and-strange-its-nature/

Friday Inspiration: Spring!

Yesterday, March 20th, was the first day of spring.

It might not look like spring where you are. Heather just mentioned having 100 consecutive days of snow in Toronto, and posted some fetching photos of herself in a snowsuit on Twitter. I, on the other hand, live in California. I know I’m better off than most. Not as well off as you might imagine. I’m in Northern California, the wetter, colder, less bikini friendly part of the state. Still, doesn’t everyone, no matter where they live, look forward to spring? It’s the perfect season. Not too hot, or too cold and every sliver of green makes us happy. It’s almost like we are emerging from a spiritual hibernation. Our mood improves and we take every opportunity to welcome the sun.

I don’t know what spring looks like where you are, but here it will look a bit like this:

Beeweb

 

This is my wonderful rosemary bush, it sits right outside my kitchen door. The bees and hummingbirds flock around it every spring, dancing among the dark purple flowers for several minutes before moving off. Since I’m highly allergic to bees, every bloom season is a bit scary for me, but so pretty it more than makes up for the fear factor.

 

 

CherrywebMy back yard has a number of fruit trees. In springtime the Golden Delicious apple and the two cherry trees set clusters of pink buds. This is always my favorite part of the cycle, just before the buds explode and reveal their delicate white blooms. When my youngest was little he would go around the whole yard pulling down every flower he could wrap his pudgy toddler fingers around.

 

 

chairbookwebIn springtime if I have a spare moment you’ll find me here, at the edge of the deck under a huge evergreen. sunteawebThe tree cast lots of shade when the sun gets high, but it also oozes sap all over me.

You can’t miss me, I’ll be the one in a huge floppy hat, a tumbler of sun tea in one hand and a stack of books within easy reach of the other. I might also be writing, or perhaps napping.

 

 

 

Viewweb

 

grapewebI live in wine country, so spring means the dry desiccate bones of the ancient vines suddenly sprout leaves and turn the hillsides a pale grey green. I’m not a huge fan of the grapes in spring; fall is much prettier in my opinion.

 

 

mustardwebMustard is what I love best about spring, when huge fields are blanketed by vivid yellow flowers. They wave in the winds, and it’s so peaceful to soak in this ocean of color. I watch the birds swooping in and out of the tall stalks and I dream about being a painter. I feel an urgent desire to trap some of this magic, and I wish I could do it with a brush as well as my pen. I’m sure this longing, capturing what I feel outside, is what makes me so enamored of skillful nature writers. I share their passion to plant words on the page that can do these natural wonders justice.

Happy second day of Spring. May it come soon where you are, and may you greet it with joy and a ready pen.

 

Permanent link to this article: http://writeonsisters.com/friday-inspiration/friday-inspiration-spring/

Friday Inspiration: Writer Wanderlust

When I was a kid, my family went to Disney World in Florida. Apparently, the favorite Disney theme park for most kids is The Magic Kingdom, but I loved The EPCOT Center’s World Showcase. Now an adult, I realize this is hardly an adequate representation of the world’s countries, but to a small town girl who’d never been off the continent, I was mesmerized! I had so much fun learning about different cultures and countries that I didn’t want to leave.

At the time, I didn’t know why I was so fascinated by EPCOT, but when I grew up and started traveling on my own, leaving the continent for the first time at age 27 (by cashing in my inaugural writer paycheck), I figured it out – I have an insatiable curiosity about people. I’m the kind of traveler who is most interested in discovering what people do currently and did historically in the places I visit. Beautiful scenery alone doesn’t hold my attention. I want to know what people do/did amidst that breathtaking landscape or in that crumbling ruin, because “people doing things” are stories.

No wonder so many writers have wanderlust.

Here are some of the most inspiring places I’ve travelled…

The first time I crossed the ocean I went to London, England. I stayed with a friend in one of the southern boroughs and took the train into downtown London every day to explore. Victoria Station was my entrance point, and I thought about the many millions of people who have passed through Victoria Station since it was built in 1860. A train station can be a gateway to another world and another life. Endless fodder for stories.

My entrance point to London, England: Victoria Station

Next trip was Paris. I made the trek out to see the palace of Versailles. On the grounds is Marie-Antoinette’s Hamlet, a “play village” she had built. What kind of character moves out of a palace to play house? No wonder so many stories have been written about eccentric royals.

Marie Antoinette's Cottage House

Marie Antoinette’s Cottage House

The Catacombs in Paris left an impression. Millions of bones piled along the walls as a result of above-ground cemeteries posing a health hazard in the late 18th century. But what really struck me was how the bones had been arranged in patterns, like art, for miles and miles in the old underground quarry that became the catacombs. What would it have been like to be one of those workers arranging femurs and skulls? Who came up with the designs?

Paris Catacombs

Paris Catacombs

Many a fairy tale was born in Ireland, and it wasn’t hard to see why when I went to Blarney Castle’s Rock Close Park. I totally believe fairy creatures live in this tree.

175 Blarney Castle - Rock Close Park - me hugging giant tree

Blarney Castle – Rock Close Park

I took thousands of pictures in Italy. So much history, so many stories, it blew my mind. But if I have to pick just one it’s of this ruin in Ostia Antica just outside of Rome of a café from 2000 years ago. A café! Looking rather modern for a ruin. I couldn’t help but make up stories for the people who would have enjoyed a drink and a snack here two millennia before I was even born.

Ostia Antica, Italy

Ostia Antica, Italy

In Australia I went spelunking in the Jenolan caves and learned about the people who explored them in the 19th century, long before battery-operated flashlights, crawling in the dark with just a candle, often held in their mouths!

Jenolan caves, Australia

Jenolan caves, Australia

One of these unofficial explorers was a woman named Jane Falls. Yes, a woman, during an era where women weren’t allowed to do much of anything. I was intrigued, so when I returned to Canada I researched Jane Falls. There’s not a lot of information about her (as a woman, her life wasn’t well documented and she was never credited with discovering any caves, though her signature often predates the male explorers who were given credit), but I did learn she emigrated from Ireland to Australia in the early 1800s with her family when she was 21.

Jane Falls left her mark

Jane Falls left her mark

So that’s a book I will write one day, all because I went traveling.

I can't image doing this with a candle in my mouth.

I can’t image doing this with a candle in my mouth.

Wow, that’s a lot of inspiration. And I haven’t even talked about my most recent bike trip through Cuba. If anyone is interested, check out bromptoning.com. Otherwise, I’d better get back to writing something, because this trip down Inspiration Memory Lane just gave me another half dozen story ideas…

 

For More Blog Posts from Heather, click here! 

 

Permanent link to this article: http://writeonsisters.com/friday-inspiration/writer-wanderlust/

Friday Inspiration: Author John Muir

Today we kick off the weekend with a Friday inspiration post.

During these posts each of us takes turns selecting something that inspires us, and we hope offers inspiration to other writers.

I’m showcasing one of my favorite nature writers, John Muir (1838 – 1914) Writer, naturalist, political activist, and Co-founder of the Sierra Club, as my first topic.

JohnMuir_sSome may remember I wrote about Muir in another post, The Call of the Wild and How Writers Respond.

Muir is perhaps best known for his books, My First Summer in the Sierra, and Stickeen: The Story of a Dog. However, Muir wrote over a dozen other books, and countless essays and magazine articles in his lifetime.

Muir said he never found writing easy, and he often described the pains and the speed of his writing process in glacial terms. He agonized over every word and his associates would watch him scratch out and replace a word up to twenty times before he felt satisfied.

Muir also didn’t think his prose had the ability to capture nature, often feeling his words were a poor substitute for the real thing. I disagree.

John_Muir web_1912“That memorable day died in purple and gold, and just as the last traces of the sunset faded in the west and the star-lilies filled the sky, the full moon looked down over the rim of the valley, and the great rocks, catching the silvery glow, came forth out of the dusky shadows like very spirits.”

Muir favored a plain speak style of writing, something that’s not so apparent to modern readers as it was in Muir’s own day. He used words with reverence and respect, often seeking to bring forth a complicated idea with dignity and deep emotion.

“Most people are on the world, not in it– having no conscious sympathy or relationship to anything about them– undiffused separate, and rigidly alone like marbles of polished stone, touching but separate.”

muir drawing web jpgMuir wrote copiously about the world he encountered, filling journals with his musings and travel notes. Today readers can devour not only his prose, but his maps, sketches, doodles and detailed accounts of flora and fauna.  Muir exchanged letters with people all over the world during his lifetime. The volume and depth of his observations still benefit natural scientists today. And his ideas were highly progressive for his time, for Muir believed in valuing the needs of nature above the needs of men.

“The world, we are told, was made especially for man — a presumption not supported by all the facts.”

Muir_and_Roosevelt_restoredNever satisfied that nature was safe from fools, Muir took an active role in changing government policy toward nature. He wanted people to see wild spaces differently and he made it his mission to bring important people into the mountains so they could witness the magic of the wilderness first hand.

After touring Yosemite Valley with Muir, President Roosevelt later wrote:

“Not only are his books delightful, not only is he the author to whom all men turn when they think of the Sierras and northern glaciers, and the giant trees of the California slope, but he was also  — what few nature lovers are — a man able to influence contemporary thought and action on the subjects to which he had devoted his life.”

Muir lived the last forty-six years of his life in my home state of California. His house is now a National Historic Site, and California celebrates his life every April 21st as a commemorative day. In California his name is Quarter websynonymous with the love of outdoor adventure and our rugged natural landscapes. Yet, Muir belongs to everyone who believes in the commitment and responsible of safeguarding the natural world for future generations.

I think the reason I find Muir inspiring is he proves to me a lone voice spoken with passion can move mountains. He serves as a brilliant model for nonfiction writers everywhere. We still need people like Muir, the ones who dream about making a difference and who are willing to use their voices to change the world.

“The power of imagination makes us infinite.”

 

Permanent link to this article: http://writeonsisters.com/friday-inspiration/friday-inspirations-from-great-writers/

The Call of the Wild and How Writers Respond.

I’ve always felt the call of the wild, that deep magnetic draw to be outside. The feeling stuck with me even after bad times, days when Mother Nature let me know she held all the cards. Like when I lost my footing while backpacking and tumbled down an embankment, or when a Tarantula Hawk sting sent me to the hospital. I learned long ago that nature is the perfect antagonist, and she’s ready to strike without warning.

Sometimes in fiction nature plays the part of the accomplice to the antagonist, a component in their egomaniacal plan. Villains often unwisely believe they can master nature’s fury. Nature can give our protagonists the chance to brave something bigger, stronger, and infinitely more complicated than they are. Nature can become the protagonist’s best friend at unlikely moments, the river that allows the hero to escape, while whisking away the bad guys in a flurry of rapids. Nature can be the catalyst for a protagonist’s inner/outer development, the mountain they must climb, or the storm they must survive, in order to achieve their end goals.

Regardless of how you plan to use nature in your plot, this post will remind everyone that quality nature writing in either nonfiction or fictional landscapes takes on new dimensions when created with care. This is a subset of setting craft well worth learning. Not to mention a subset that holds a revered list of charter members. I’ve picked four, but they are by no means definitive, they are just writers who have influenced me.

Jean Craighead George: Many writers have authors from their childhood we credit with changing us. Jean is one of mine, best known for her Newbery winner, Julie of the Wolves, but my favorite is My Side of The Mountain. I wanted to be her character Sam, a boy who spends a year living alone in the mountains. I wanted a home in a hollowed out tree and a bird of prey for a best friend. So did millions of other kids. Including my own, who debate Sam’s many choices as if they are talking about a neighborhood boy and not a character in a book. Jean’s love of nature led her to write hundreds of books, and won her posthumously the US Department of the Interior’s 2013 Conservation Hero Award. If you missed reading Jean as a kid, it’s time to discover her. Maybe let her books work some nature magic on your own kids. Learn more about Jean Craighead George’s life and work at: http://www.jeancraigheadgeorge.com/J_London_writing_1905

Jack London:  London’s home (and grave site) in the Valley of the Moon is just over the hill from me. It’s a place my guests always ask to visit, and why shouldn’t they? London, who wrote the book this blog shamelessly adopts as title, remains a best selling author nearly one hundred years after his death. Few writers grasp the role of wild nature in a story the way that London did. He did this by utilizing his journalistic skills of observation, with an impressive list of travel destinations. London often pits characters against nature; the struggle is personal, raw, and sometimes dark. Although it’s been at least ten years since I read Martin Eden, the ending stays with me. London finishes the book in a caldron of pain and pressure; he punches the reader in the gut until the horrible fateful moment when nature wins. Learn more about Jack London’s life and work at: http://www.jacklondonpark.com/

JohnMuir_sJohn Muir: Often called the father of the American conservation movement, Muir founded the Sierra Club. Muir drank in nature, he needed it to sustain himself, but lucky for us he could also translate that emotion into prose. His words lift off the page, they fuse into towering granite walls, and streams flashing with swift-moving fish. It’s hard not to love Muir. He always allows himself to be vulnerable and small, yet he’s never lost or cut adrift in the huge landscapes he writes about. Plus, Muir’s dedication to preserving wild spaces is unprecedented. After spending just three days with Muir in 1903, Theodore Roosevelt returned to Washington to push forth on sweeping US protection policies, safeguarding over a hundred million acres of wilderness for future generations to enjoy. Learn more about John Muir’s life and work at: http://www.nps.gov/jomu/index.htm

Henry David Thoreau: Walden! To say the name is to fill the mind with nature. It’s a book with the simple premises, one man will live alone in nature, making it his companion, his teacher, his muse. The book is at its heart practical, but also so much more. For Thoreau the journey is not in miles, but in spiritual evolution, he wanted to learn to live without regrets. Published in 1854, Walden‘s messages of self-reliance and purposeful living are still relevant in a modern society. Learn more about Henry Thoreau’s life and work at: http://www.thoreausociety.org/

I had trouble choosing my four authors; I considered at least a dozen others, all worthy of study. Twain, Hemingway, Whitman, Edward Abbey for his Desert Solitude. Or Rachel Carson who’s seminal book Silent Spring launched the American ecology movement in the 1960s. Because Carson is dear to me, I’ll include a link for those interested in her life and work: http://www.rachelcarson.org/

I’ll like to think everyone who reads this post will develop a case of wanderlust, and they will be packing up and taking to the wild in droves. If not, at least seek out a few of these gifted nature authors and give them a try. And if you do, please do yourself a favor, take my old friends for a nice long walk in the woods first.

Next up from Robin???

Permanent link to this article: http://writeonsisters.com/writing-craft/research/the-call-of-the-wild-and-how-writers-respond/

Into the Wild Part II

In the last few weeks, I’ve spent a great deal of time thinking about nature. And zoning laws! And bureaucratic stupidity. Well maybe not stupidity, let’s be kind and call it arrogance, or kinder still, ignorance. Can sugar-coating turn a bitter truth into candy? Or change how we as a species, deliberately, with planning and the commitment of vast resources, show utter contempt for nature?

Last week my local government dredged the creek that borders my home, and since that fateful day, Public domain image, royalty free stock photo from www.public-domain-image.comI’ve watched as a solitary egret stands motionless in the creek. I wonder if the devastation of home leaves this bird as dazed and disoriented as it does me. Is it a mother looking for her late season young? Or a mate looking for a lost love? Or a youth who doesn’t know where to go now that its source of food and protection is gone?

The city says they did this for me.

All this devastation will prevent possible flooding to the homes in my area, and since they want to rezone a section near the creek “High Density” for a luxury condominium complex, I guess unpredictable water levels wouldn’t make the new developers happy.

They bestowed my gift in fall, a time when the whole ecosystem of the watershed is under stress. Migratory birds are arriving, desperate for habitat and a place to rest up before pushing onward to warmer climates. The year round critters of the waterway are stocking for the winter, collecting their acorns and fattening up as best they can on the last desiccated morsels of the summer’s bounty. They dredge the stream not just before spring when plants are ready to bounce back from the angry welts of backhoes and shovels, but at the start of the rainy season. Right when thousands of gallons of water will sluice down those raw, defiled banks dumping hundreds of cubic inches of good healthy topsoil into an already stressed waterway. This massive infusion of silt will destroy water quality and kill off even more wildlife. Ironically, it will also nullify the extensive manpower, fossil fuels and funds they just expended to dredge the waterway.

For the last few days I tried not to let myself become like my egret, a sad figure, helpless and dumbstruck by my agony, sleepless over everything lost. Worried about the fate of the raccoons that steal from my garden, shedding tears for the lost water dwellers, even these annoying little crayfish the heron loved to pluck from between the now missing river rocks.

Instead of becoming the lone egret, I choose to join a flock and fight.

The time to fix my creek will come, but yesterday I logged a day fixing other egret’s homes. I worked along side my son, his school friends, and the people of STRAW (Students and Teachers Restoring a Watershed) to restore Tolay Creek.

Tolay isn’t a big water way, only about twelve miles long, but it feeds Tolay Lake and then flows into the San Pablo Bay. It’s a piece of a bigger puzzle, a cog in a vast nature machine of interconnected ecosystems, each one too long taken for granted, ignored and yes, even purposefully damaged. Sure, I could tell you more about STRAW and the work they’re doing to teach kids how to restore their own local streams, or you can look at their website for yourself if you wish.

http://www.pointblue.org/our-science-and-services/conservation-science/conservation-training/straw-program

I could tell you that we as citizens of the Earth owe it to ourselves and each other to roll up our sleeves and try to correct the damage politicians and developers have done to our wetlands. That we must do this by committing our hands to the body punishing labor of restoring lost habitat one tree at a time. I could yell and stomp my feet, demanding that people wake up, learn to see, learn to care and learn to change the giant mess we as a species have created.

But I won’t, because we are writers. Most of us are all too happy in our heated or air-conditioned shelters, shutting out the harsh real world to swim in the beauty of our own imaginations, the worlds we can dream up, the ones better and brighter than the world we call home. Instead of begging you to change who you are, I urge writers to put pen to paper and record nature. Give it all your skill, fill the pages with such reverent, exuberant worship of nature that somewhere a person will wake up, will see, will care.

Up Next from Robin… The call of the wild and how writers answer.

Permanent link to this article: http://writeonsisters.com/writers-life/into-the-wild-part-ii/

Into the Wild: Creating Nature Settings

For urban dwellers, nature sits apart. Most of us only see the spare, diminished nature of city parks and backyard gardens. Even these natural settings we relegate to the rear of our consciousness as we focus on the conditions around us, the cars in the street, our work cubical, a much-needed trip to the grocery store. However, even if city writers never see much in the way of nature, we still want to write about it in our novels. Maybe we just want to show a simple slice of metaphorical nature, a gentle changing of the seasons. Or maybe you’ve learn the secrets of other great writers and you want nature unleashed, the stuff of major plot points, stunning story reversals and awe inspiring climaxes. Regardless of your fiction project, at some point nature will come calling at your literary doorstep. The question is will you be ready to answer?

Creative Commons by Nimish Gogri

Creative Commons by Nimish Gogri

As writers we’re always being encouraged to write what we know, so how can we hope to ensnare readers with believable nature settings without experiencing them? Must we abandon our stories if we’re unwilling or unable to cast ourselves into swift rivers, or storm heaving seas? Since I tend to gravitate toward climate extremes, and enjoy my alive status too much to risk it, I hope not!

I believe we can learn to write about any form of nature, from the benevolent to the catastrophic with a few simple exercises in observation.

Spend some time with Mother Nature’s bounty:

Nothing beats the real thing, so pick up a notebook and get outside. Even if it’s just your own yard at first. Feel the plants in your garden. Turn over bits of wood and find out what bugs crawl around on them. Try to notice nature wherever you go, trust me, it’s out there. If you walk by a huge red lava rock every time you go to the bank, next time touch the boulder. Record what it feels like. Try to describe the color of the rock. Think about where this rock came from, and ask yourself why is the rock here and how did it get here? Did the builder use the rock as a metaphor; maybe the bank wants to convey permanence or stability with this huge ornamental rock. No rocks in your town to study, try to sample strange seasonal produce in the grocery store, what about star fruits, guavas, or prickly pears? Find out where these items grow, what conditions they require. Look up interesting bits of food lore, or harvest festivals. Start thinking about what kind of nature you enjoy seeing. Think in terms of color and shapes, which plants invoke emotions in you and why. I love evergreens because of their smell. I have eight evergreen trees in my yard, and only two deciduous trees. However, I never miss the chance to take a drive to check out the fall colors. What will you see, taste, feel, or hear this week with your fresh perspective?

Creative Commons by Frank Vassen

Creative Commons by Frank Vassen

Try to get into a wild space, overnight if you can manage it:

Call it simple genetics, a holdover from our years as hunter/gatherers, but being outside changes your body chemistry, and hyper tunes your senses. Your heart rate and breathing changes, you can hear everything around you. The scratch of birds nesting, the trickle of water, and the steps of other hikers scream across your eardrums like foghorns after a day or two of total quiet. Your taste buds will change after a few days in the wild. Just a few sun warm berries will explode in your mouth, and you will feel an intense bite on your tongue from a sprig of ice-cold watercress. I’m lucky, I’m surrounded by protected wild spaces and the right weather to enjoy them year round, but wherever you live find a place to soak up some raw nature. Go to the beach and watch waves pound the tide pools, or park yourself by a pond and watch the bird migration through binoculars. Find your spot and just sit quietly for at least an hour. While I do this exercise, I can almost feel the trees growing. My youngest son says he can feel the earth turn in those rare idle moments in the wild. What do you feel in wild?

Get some training from a professional nature observer:

I recommend you let an expert show you around. Most preserves, even ones dead center inside a city have a nature guide who leads walks. They may even have some designed for those with limited mobility, so do some research and book a spot. Let the guide tell you about the geology of the site and the native plants and animals, the big picture of the area, while you also focus in on the details. Know what you’re walking on, get down and pick up rocks. Try to spot animal trails by the crumple of branches and leaves, look for paw tracks in the soft earth or piles of scat. Look at the plants. As long as you’re not in a protected space, pinch off some leaves and rub them between your fingers. Smell them, if the guide gives you permission, taste them. This week my family ate pickleweed for the first time, not a recommended form of nutrients, but wild foods are always memorable experiences and relatively safe when sampled under the supervision of a trained professional. What wild food will you eat this week?

Buy a field guide and hit the path. Before you know it these exercises will help you learn to see nature and give you all the skills you need to write simple nature settings with confidence.

Next week I’ll show you some tips for creating extreme nature settings.

Up Next from Robin… Into the Wild Part II

Permanent link to this article: http://writeonsisters.com/writing-craft/research/into-the-wild-creating-nature-settings/