I recently learned about place-based education as I interviewed and then wrote a story about a new program called Teachers on Public Lands, developed and administered by the Bureau of Land Management. The article, about a Casper, Wyo. teacher who is participating in the program, appears in the Casper Journal.
I recently traveled to some places and was blessed to spend time in areas new or fairly new to me, including Albuquerque, NM and Colorado Springs, CO. My friend Stacy and I visited a nature center near the Rio Grande River in Albuquerque, filled with flowers, trees, birds and bees. I was also fortunate to share time with fellow Writing Wranglers and Warriors blogger Doris McGraw who uses setting and place beautifully in her writings, both poetry and prose. She took me to Garden of the Gods near Colorado Springs and provided me with snippets of area history. I felt awed and inspired!
Places are important – whether that’s home, a forest, a river, an ocean, a garden or a wilderness. We can write about places and we can find inspired writing time in different spaces. Place triggers the senses: pine or rose, rain or dirt, cascading waters or buzzing bees. One fond early memory for me is sitting beneath a burgeoning red cedar tree in Iowa, listening to an owl hoot, and inhaling the sweet fragrance of fresh rain, more aromatic due to the scent of cedar. I grew up on a small farm in southeastern Iowa and the smells, sights, and sounds still occasionally flood my memory banks like the Mississippi River itself. So do recollections of times spent in Yellowstone Park and hiking mountain trails in Montana with my parents. My special place and unique writing space now is our cabin in the mountains above Casper where pine squirrels race among fallen logs, deer graze on lanky grasses, and chickadees twitter from lodgepole branches.
I will soon embark upon an excursion with my dad, visiting national parks in southern Utah as well as the Grand Canyon. Red sandstone, Native cliff dwellings, and prickly pear and saguaro cacti await us as well as crimson sunsets and speeding lizards. I look forward to soaking up sunshine and experiencing sights, sounds and smells foreign to my space in Wyoming.
Setting – an important component to one’s writing. Whether a novel, short story, or essay, the setting or sense of place and space can be integral to a writer’s muse. Perhaps that place is part of the story or the inspiration thereof. Perhaps the place is the writer’s space, where one feels most comfortable composing the stories which readers will read. Just as place-based education can and often does enhance student learning, so place-based writing impacts the author … and often the reader.
This year I’ve been blessed to write a few essays for WREN (Wyoming Rural Electric Network) magazine, each with a heightened sense of place: “Setting Aside for Solace” speaks to the need of the human soul for quiet, whether that be a ranch along a river, a mountain stream in a wilderness, or a flower garden in the city; “Making Memories” recalls many childhood outdoor experiences shared with my parents, including camping, fishing, and hiking; and “Joy of Discovery” showcases the numerous outdoor treasures found at my current forest haven/cabin – all three articles embrace a strong sense of space.
Do you bring a sense of place into your writing? Is setting a strong component of your stories and books? Do you have a favorite place, an amazing space, that touches your heart? Do you have a special writing space? I’d like to hear your thoughts on the sense of place in your life and your writing.
Happy Trails to you! I’m looking forward to my next trail with the amazing places I’ll share with my dad later this month! More space- and place- posts to come!
Gayle M. Irwin is writer, author and speaker. She is the author of several inspiring dog books for children and adults, including Sage’s Big Adventure, Walking in Trust: Lessons Learned with My Blind Dog, and Devotions for Dog Lovers: Paws-ing for Time with God. She is also a contributing writer to editions of Chicken Soup for the Soul, including the latest dog book The Dog Did What?, released August 19, 2014. She also writes for WREN (Wyoming Rural Electric Network), Crossroads, and Our Town Casper magazines, as well as for the Casper Journal and River Press newspapers, and she’s had articles published in Creation Illustrated magazine. She’s also authored a guidebook for owners of blind dogs, available on Kindle. Learn more at www.gaylemirwin.com.