Finding Inspiration in Nature – Part 1


This post by Gayle M. Irwin

“Thousands of tired, nerve-shaken, over-civilized people are beginning to find out that going to the mountains is going home; that wildness is a necessity; and that mountain parks and reservations are useful not only as fountains of timber and irrigating rivers, but as fountains of life.” – John Muir


My husband and I own more than three acres of forest land 20 minutes from our home in Casper, Wyoming. At this location, I’ve composed short stories and books inside our cabin and under the towering lodgepole pines surrounding it. I’ve walked the wooded trails and listened to numerous songbirds. I’ve seen the landscape filled with snow, heard the crashes of thunder above, and touched pine needles kissed by rainfall. Wild turkeys, mule deer, red fox, butterflies, and hummingbirds call the area home, and many have visited our cabin site. Each experience makes my heart leap for joy, including my recent 30-minute encounter with a red fox just beyond the cabin porch door.

Red fox visiting my mountain property in early June.

Nature inspires many and has for eons, including the writings of John Muir and Henry David Thoreau and the paintings and photographs of Thomas Moran and William Henry Jackson. Moran and Jackson were part of the famous 1871 expedition to the Yellowstone region, painting and photographing scenes that became instrumental in educating those back East, including the U.S. Congress, which led to the creation of Yellowstone National Park, the world’s first national park. Muir, too, helped tout the majesty of landscapes; his was a significant voice for creating many U.S. national parks, including Yosemite, Sequoia and the Grand Canyon, among others. These, and many others, were visionaries, and their dreams and desires benefit us today. If you’ve not seen the Ken Burns/PBS documentary on America’s national parks, I highly recommend watching! (my husband and I own a copy of the series — the shows are WONDERFUL!).

Yellowstone Sign_Gayle Mary_smaller

The National Park Service, which turns 100 years old this year, administers more than 400 different sites across the country, from national parks and monuments to historical battlefields, trails, and other historic sites. Whether mountains, deserts, forests, valleys, or seashores, these special places provide respite, amazement, and reflection.

I love nature! Since I was a child growing up in Iowa, I’ve found tranquility, inspiration, and fascination in natural areas. My parents are particularly responsible for my affinity for wild places – we took family vacations out west to Yellowstone, made camping expeditions to state parks, and took fishing trips to Minnesota and Canada. Dad created habitat areas for song birds and small game, and I helped him create and install wood duck boxes for nesting sites along the shore of the Mississippi River as well as at the pond on our 14 midwestern acres. I found solace under cedar trees alongside my dog, Bridgette where I wrote stories and poems in those peace-filled woods. I dreamed of becoming a lady park ranger in Yellowstone; instead, I became a journalist living at the park’s west entrance, yet I was still able to interact with the area’s wild spaces and wild creatures.

bison bull_Yellowstone

I still interact with and am inspired by nature. Whether at my forest cabin, or traveling through my current home state, which is the site not only of the world’s first national park, but also the first national forest (Shoshone) and first national monument (Devil’s Tower/Bear’s Lodge), or visiting special sites in other states, like Rocky Mountain Park in Colorado, Glacier Park in Montana, or Mount Rushmore in South Dakota, each place whispers its own alluring grandeur.

Running Eagle Falls with 2 Med River
Running Eagle Falls and Two Medicine River – Glacier National Park

Whether you’re a writer, painter, photographer, or other artistic type, nature can speak to you and get those creative juices flowing. My husband is a videographer, and he uses the outdoors to create beautiful DVDs set to instrumental music that many find relaxing, for themselves or loved ones with Alzheimer’s disease. This has become a growing business, helping him help others relax and appreciate places they may not get to enjoy in person as he/we have.

Spirit of America bookAs this post goes live, I’m wrapping up a visit to Yellowstone and Grand Teton National Parks. I’ll be conducting a program about national parks this evening at the National Bighorn Sheep Interpretive Center as well as having a booksigning, all based on my story “National Parks – America’s Best Idea,” published in the recently-released Chicken Soup for the Soul: The Spirit of America. My reflective composition concludes, “Many generations have benefited from the visions and visionaries of 1872 and 1916…. The spirit of America reigns in our national parks, for they remain America at its natural best.”

Grand Teton National Park, Teton Mountains, and Jackson Lake – Wyoming

National parks are glorious, national seashores stupendous, national monuments magnificent, and national historic sites enriching. However,  a person doesn’t have to visit a national park, forest, or monument to find inspiration in nature. You don’t even have to live in a rural area. Cities have parks, botanical gardens, and green spaces. I encourage you to find your own special natural place and be inspired!

June is Great Outdoors Month, and 2016 is the 100th anniversary of the National Park Service. I hope that you’ll take the time to get outdoors, to be refreshed, be inspired, and be peaceful in an outdoor setting this month, or at least sometime this summer. Stop and smell the flowers, watch a sunset, or listen to birds sing. When you do, you’ll not only find refreshment and replenishment, but you may also find inspiration for that next novel, poem, painting, or video, by which you can inspire others.

Wildflowers_Idaho Meadow_with log
Wildflower meadow – Idaho side of Yellowstone Park

Gayle at EstesGayle M. Irwin is an award-winning Wyoming writer and author. She writes inspirational pet stories for children and adults with seven books, including Sage’s Big Adventure, Sage Finds Friends, Cody’s Cabin: Life in a Pine Forest, and Walking in Trust: Lessons Learned with My Blind Dog, as well as a Kindle e-book called Help! My Dog is Going Blind – Now What Do I Do? to help owners of blind dogs. She is also a contributing writer to six Chicken Soup for the Soul books, including the June release The Spirit of America, featuring her story about America’s national parks. Gayle speaks in schools, at libraries, and for various organizations. She enjoys sharing about the pet-human bond and the majesty of nature, hoping to inspire and educate children and adults about the beauty of creation and the creatures that share our planet. Learn more about her writing and speaking endeavors at

SageBigAdventureFront-small   Sage Finds Friends_front cover  Cody Cabin_New Book CoverImage   Walking_FrontCover_small   Dog Devotion Book_Cover_Final   Dog Devotions 2 Book Cover Sage Advice Cover   Blind Dog Ebook Cover_updatedMay2014   Chicken Soup_DogDidWhat_Cover   Spirit of America book


28 thoughts on “Finding Inspiration in Nature – Part 1

    1. Thank you for your comments, Stephen. I was blessed to share several days in Yellowstone and Teton national parks with my aging parents — we shared memories of the years we traveled, camped, hiked … they truly provided the foundation for my appreciation for nature, and I continue to be inspired by the natural beauty that is part of our country. I appreciate you reading my post and sharing your thoughts! (and walking the dog is not a bad way to get out in nature, especially when plants are blooming and the sun is shining!!)


    1. Yes, Abbie, one does not always have to travel away from home to experience nature, and using the various senses can stimulate the creativity that we’ve been blessed with. May you continue enjoying nature right around you!

      Liked by 1 person

  1. Thank you for that beautiful reminder! My sister has a farm on the outskirts of the county where I live and it’s the most peaceful place in the world. Sometimes we wonder why she doesn’t come into town very often, but every time we visit, it’s clear. There’s no hurry there and you never know what you’re going to see wandering across a field or standing at the edge of the woods.


    1. Joe, your story about your sister’s farm reminds me of our small farm in Iowa, where I really caught “the nature bug!” Tranquil is how I remember that place, too. Thank you for sharing that story, Joe, and for commenting on my post!


  2. Beautiful post Gayle! Makes me want to leave right now and visit Glacier again. Haven’t been there since 1988. Love the writing and pictures. Have fun. Glad we are going to your mountain retreat again too.


    1. Glacier is one of the most breath-taking places I’ve been — yes, Neva, GO!! 🙂 I had a WONDERFUL time in Yellowstone and Teton and am already making plans for next summer. 🙂 And yes, mountain retreat time this summer will be delightful, I’m sure — you and the other ladies in our writers’ group add to that delight!!


  3. Fabulous photos and great reminders of the benefits of the outdoors, Gayle. I’ve read before about Muir and Thoreau but I don’t think I’ve heard of the photographer/artists- though maybe i have seen their work before in a ‘wild west/ exploratory’ context. It’s wonderful that you are so close to your land and cabin and can reach it so easily and quickly. (though maybe not when it’s snowbound!)


    1. Thank you, Nancy, for your kind comments. Yes, I love our mountain property and am very thankful for it! I do hope to visit your country one day — I am sure there are many place to stimulate creativity and find inspiration, whether in nature or not.


  4. Your words ring so true. I’ve always enjoyed being outdoors, taking photos or just walking and letting the place become a part of me. Thank you for sharing your love of the outdoors. Doris


    1. Thank you for your encouraging comments, Doris. I know the outdoors is one of the things we have in common — I still delight in thinking of when you took me to Garden of the Gods. I hope we can do that again sometime soon! 🙂


  5. Great post, Doris. I’ve not gotten out much so far beyond walks in the neighborhood and the nearby urban trail. You’ve probably seen my latest FB post — darn it’s hot in Vegas. Anyone venturing for some hiking in Red Rock National Park better have lots of water… or they could end up dead.


  6. Growing up, I didn’t have to go far to enjoy nature–a couple of miles from our house to my dad’s farm to swim in the river and have picnics and camp. It felt, and still feels, isolated, even though it’s not. Go a little farther and there were pastures filled with so much mesquite you could get lost in them. Now that part of the world is being populated–and paved–so fast, with a toll road only two miles above my tiny hometown and plans for subdivisions. Inevitable, but I’m heartsick over what’s being lost, not only the farm and pasture land, but a way of life.


    1. I totally understand, Kathy. Growing up in small communities and a small farm certainly felt like isolation at times during my youth, but that period also laid an important foundation for the love of nature I still carry. When I visited Montana last week and spent time in communities I once lived, so much had changed in 20 years that I was unable to find one of the homes I had lived in — the development all around snatched it away, and it is sad. Thankfully, the memory banks remain fairly clear and I can enjoy those. Thanks for sharing your story.


  7. Even though my mom wouldn’t ever consider camping, my family did a lot of traveling and spent lots of time in nature. I continued that as an adult. One of the great advantages to living in California is all its wonderful parks, such as Yosemite, Sequoia, Redwoods, to name a few, plus its spectacular seashores. In the spring, I head to the hills to see the wild flowers; summer it’s the beaches; fall the mountains for the color; and winter the mountains again for the snow.
    Of course my horses took me almost daily into nature. I’d have a hard time living in a big city. I really need the outdoors. That’s why we fell in love with our current home. It has open space woods on two sides and a view of SF bay on the third. Now that the weather has turned nice, I’m spending a lot of time on the deck.
    Fun post.


    1. Thank you, Kate, for sharing your joy of the outdoors and the special places you’ve been to. I hope to make it to Northern California one day and see many of those places you mentioned. I’m glad you’ve found contentment living near the big city — having those open spaces and the view of the ocean must be quite refreshing! Continued enjoyment and inspiration to you!


  8. Love the post, Gayle. There is such beauty in the nature around us. It’s summer and I’m sitting her on the deck watching the birds at the feeders and a silly chipmunk try to get a corn cob out of the feeder. Just saw a big garter snake that I could have done without seeing, but as they keep down mice, I guess he’ll be welcome. Stopping to enjoy your surroundings and the beauty all around you is the best de-stressor there is.


    1. Thank you, Linda, for providing a bit of insight to the natural wonders around you — I miss birds at my feeder; the first house I lived in after moving to Casper had lots of open space behind as well as a creek, so the variety of songbirds to the backyard was AMAZING! Now that we live “farther into town” even with a bird feeder there is not the variety of birds; even at our cabin, there aren’t many species, but the ones that are there are wonderful to watch, especially the hummingbirds! I hope you enjoy a fabulous nature-inspiring summer!


  9. I was not aware that our Yellowstone National Park here in Wyoming was the very first National Park. Thanks for sharing that information. So much beauty in the world, it is good to have it in our very backyard as well.
    Great post Gayle!


    1. Thank you, Darrah, for your kind comments and encouraging thoughts. Not only is Yellowstone the first national park in the world, but Devil’s Tower/The Bear Lodge is the first national monument, and the Shoshone National Forest not far from you is the first national forest –we have a lot of natural firsts here in Wyoming! I hope you enjoy a fun nature-filled summer! 🙂


  10. Like Darrah, I didn’t realize Yellowstone was our first national park. I used to go on road trips with my mom and dad every summer when I was little. My dad loves being out in nature so we’d go to Sequoia, Yosemite, Yellowstone, and all the way up to Banff too. I love driving up the coast, like to Monterey, Morro Bay, and Big Sur. Thanks for a lovely post, Gayle.


    1. I’m glad I could be a bit of a teacher with this post — sometimes I take for granted everyone knows about Yellowstone just because it’s so popular. Since I like to inspire and educate, I’m happy my post can do that. Yosemite, Sequoia, and the Redwoods are on my “bucket list” of “must see before I die” so I’m hoping sometime in the near future I’ll be able to make that trip. I haven’t spent much time at the ocean, either, so that’s also on the “to-do” list! I’m glad you have the memories of traveling to various national parks and lovely natural places, Sarah — my parents laid that foundation for me as well and I cherish it! Thanks for reading and commenting!


  11. As you know I share your love of nature. I acquired my love of nature slowly. As children we played outside in a well manicured yard with few visits from wildlife. We didn’t camp, or visit many parks. However as I grew my love of nature also grew. As an adult I introduced my mother to the natural world. We took drives in the country, visited parks, hung bird feeders, and sat on her back porch listening for the whip or wills.


    1. Yes, S.J., I thought you’d enjoy this post! 🙂 I’m glad you and your mother created those special moments and shared them together — what wonderful memories! Thanks for sharing your thoughts and your experiences!!


  12. I’m a country girl. I grew up in a house that had forests all around it, the front side had a road that cut through it, and a large tomato field and then more trees. My playtime was filled with wild animals and making our make believe houses under the canopy of large pine trees. We had many different animals as I grew up, cows, pigs, chickens, rabbits, a horse, dogs, cats, and birds. I was raised on wild meat and fish. We went across WY twice last week. Once on 90 and the second time on 80. I still get a thrill every time I spot a herd of Prong Horns among the cattle. I love cows too. Last year, we went with my daughter on a train ride to see the Bald Eagles. That was fun. I love nature and animals. I will miss our home in WV, but it will be replaced by beautiful beaches and early mornings on my lanai, not to mention seeing the pelicans, crabs, dolphins, sharks, and manatee. There was a fox in our back yard last year too. Cher’ley


    1. How wonderful you grew up with so many animals and with the rural landscape around you, Cher’ley! I have fond memories of our Iowa farm and the woods around it when I was young, and I am so thankful to live in the west and be able to experience national parks and other public lands, as well as my own mountain cabin. Every area has its own beauty. I’m not experienced with beaches and the ocean, but I enjoy visiting — although it’s not often. I believe Florida has a lot of birdlife so I hope you’re able to enjoy many species when you’re there! Thanks for stopping by to read and comment!


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