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.
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!).
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.
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.
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.
As 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.”
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.
Gayle 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 www.gaylemirwin.com.