Special Spaces, Unique Places
by Gayle M. Irwin
I relish open spaces. I may enjoy a trip to a big city now and then, but my heart belongs to the plains, mountains, and woodlands. Childhood was spent in Iowa’s forests and fields, and early adulthood found me on Wyoming’s plains and Montana’s mountains. I’m called to be a writer and a woodswoman, much like the late freelance writer and conservationist, Anne LaBastille.
Decades ago, I read her first memoir, Woodswoman. This tale of her life in New York’s Adirondack Mountains opened my eyes and touched my heart; I discovered a kindred spirit. Inspired by Thoreau, Anne lived in a log cabin without modern conveniences, relying on a boat for transportation and neighbors to help with things she couldn’t do herself. However, she accomplished much alone. I admired Anne’s fortitude and independent spirit, the way she sustained herself through freelance writing and conservation work and cared for her property and friends. Alas, my life differed from Anne’s, but we have two things in common: a love for writing and for the outdoors.
Anne had a special space, environmentally and emotionally. Each of us holds dear a special “somewhere” – maybe more than one. For Anne LaBastille, that was the Adirondack Mountains, but she also traveled and embraced other unique places. I, too, have a few special and unique areas that bring joy and creativity. Here are a few of those:
1. National Parks – America is blessed by the foresight and fortitude of people like Stephen Mather, John Muir, Presidents Ulysses Grant and Teddy Roosevelt, and others who deemed places throughout our country worthy of protection. From Yellowstone to the Grand Canyon, Yosemite to Kenai Fjords, America’s national parks are treasures that not only Americans enjoy, but unique places that beckon people around the world. I wrote a story about U.S. national parks and the treasure those places are; the piece was published in Chicken Soup for the Soul: The Spirit of America. I’ve visited several parks and hope to experience more – they inspire me, both as a writer and a human being.
2. Ranch near Kaycee, Wyoming – I’m fortunate to have friends who own a ranch about 70 miles northeast of Casper where I live; every few months I travel and stay there. The sage and grass-covered hills, rolling Powder River, and distant Bighorn Mountains provide solace, and the livestock and wildlife bring smiles. Crimson sunrises greet me, and golden sunsets beckon sleep. The quiet relaxes me, and my friends’ generosity brings me joy. The guesthouse at which I stay possesses large windows from which I gaze upon the fields and woods nearby, watching white-tailed deer, fanned-out turkeys, and dancing sandhill cranes. From this place, I’ve composed many short stories, chapters of books, and developed children’s stories.
3. Mountain Property and Cabin – This is my INCREDIBLY special space and unique place, for my husband and I own it. At 8,000 feet in elevation, the mountain property is a bit difficult to get to during the winter, but from May to October, I spend weekends and weeknights at this six-acre property, located only 20 minutes from our home in Casper. We purchased the acreage nearly two decades ago and found a Park Model mobile cabin to set on the land a few years later (we had a tiny house before tiny houses became popular!). We’ve cut trees for fire mitigation, added solar panels for electricity, constructed a wooden half-acre enclosure for our dogs to roam, and built a free-standing deck on which to dine … or read … or write. A lot of that occurs at the property, Songbirds of all sorts are our neighbors, and mule deer, red fox, and the occasional wild turkey grace the landscape. Our acreage brings us great peace, and, for me, much creativity.
Nature inspires me. From children’s stories including A Town Dog Named Mary Visits a Ranch and Cody’s Cabin: Life in a Pine Forest to contemporary romance novels Rescue Road and Finding Love at Compassion Ranch, I weave the outdoors into my book writing. Each story highlights a special space and unique place, from a Wyoming ranch to Yellowstone Lake in the world’s first national park.
Although I’m not Anne LaBastille, we share commonalities. She influenced me for I, too, find peace and creativity in nature. Like Anne, I’m a woodswoman.
Humans need their special spaces and unique places, locations that stir our hearts and speak to our souls. If you haven’t found yours yet, I encourage you to keep looking – find that special spot, that unique place, that brings you joy.
Gayle M. Irwin is an award-winning Wyoming author and freelance writer and a contributor to seven Chicken Soup for the Soul books. Her inspirational stories for children and adults teach valuable life lessons, such as courage, perseverance, friendship, and pet rescue and adoption. She recently released the second book in her clean, contemporary romance series called Pet Rescue Romance. Finding Love at Compassion Ranch, set near Cody, Wyoming, is a tale of second chances, not only for the people but also for the rescued animals. Learn more about the book and about Gayle and her other writing at www.gaylemirwinauthor.com.
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