No matter what I write--story, poem, novel--nature plays an important part in the setting. I may struggle with the plot or some relationship my characters are having, but I usually relax when I get to a place where I can interject a description of clouds, animals, water, trees, etc.
While my husband and I still had a cabin at Lake of the Woods, Oregon I was asked to write a chapter on the area's flora and fauna for a comprehensive history of the lake and its surroundings. The book was published in 1918 as Cabin Cruising, a Lakeside History. Below is one of the paragraphs I wrote for it.
The lake itself supports a variety of waterfowl. Some nest here. Others make it a stopping point during migration. From the campgrounds, resort, or lakeshore you can watch an osprey, similar in size yet whiter than an eagle, fold its wings, dive into the water feet first, and come up with a fish. Also seen on or near the water are great blue herons, Canada geese, grebes, buffleheads, and sandhill cranes. Occasionally a flock of American white pelicans will land on the lake. How delightful it is to experience these snowy birds with huge orange beaks use their nine-foot wing spans to soar through the air with the grace of birds half their size!
In 2011, I won a prize for a nature essay on tumbleweeds. Here is an excerpt.
Upwind from the road, a lone tumbleweed about the size of a bear cub bounded across the scant vegetation and over the crest of a gentle rise where it paused for a few seconds before leaping into the air and bouncing across the road. Strong-limbed, and with a few seeds left to sow, the tumbleweed rolled up the ditch bank into the waiting arms of a cluster of weeds with similar heritage, weeds stacked three feet deep against a barbed wire fence that shadowed the road as far as the eye could see. The thick pile of weeds made for a soft landing, but the thorny arms therein refused to let go, and the hapless tumbleweed’s gypsy days were over.
The story in my novel Brute Heart takes place in several natural settings. Most are in eastern Oregon. The one below describes a forest west of the Cascades.
The thick tangle of evergreen and deciduous trees embraced every imaginable shade of green, from the green-black undersides of the fir boughs to the chartreuse velvet moss that wrapped around the tree trunks and clung to the tops of rocks in the streambed. Vine maples, with sleeves of new green foliage, stretched across the rapidly moving water, their arms so long they sometimes entwined with limbs from the opposite side of the stream to form a leafy canopy.
I included more nature writing in my novel, Never Done, published in 2017 by the Wild Rose Press, a turn-of-the-century story that takes place in western Colorado.
The plip, plip, plip of melting icicles signaled the beginning of what amounted to spring in Ophir Loop. A misty rain, hard to distinguish from low clouds, hovered over the gorge once or twice a week. Snow was still being measured in feet above the timberline, but bursts of wild green dusted the slopes. The creeks had begun gurgling again, and the pussy willows growing along their banks were silver with catkins.
Every once in a while something on Facebook resonates with me, and I save it for future use. How appropriate this one is for a post on nature writing!