Creative Spirit Restored: Hello, Grand Canyon

Grand Canyon

The Author, taking in view of the Grand Canyon, South Rim

I love hiking.To wander deep into the woods, to scrabble through boulder piles, to slog my way up switchbacks for a view that takes my breath away…there’s nothing quite like it. Perfect fuel for the creative spirit!

As Dane, one of my characters in HOPEFULLY EVER AFTER, puts it,

“Natural beauty sings to many like an untamed melody, sinking deep into your bones through a magic all its own.”

Dane’s a poetic guy when he wants to be (within reason, of course). And he’s right; Nature is this grand melody that I never seem to get enough of. Thankfully, I married a man who has this same hankering, so we’re both perfectly happy crammed in a tent together somewhere where we have only the likes of squirrels, birds and bears for company. Well, preferably not bears.

I hate bears.

Oh, don’t give me that look. You try waking up in the middle of the Tetons by yourself, only to find a fresh muddy paw print on your bear vault–aka ‘food container’. Don’t tell me you wouldn’t have a little “lions and tigers and bears, OH MY!” moment as you hike/run 4 miles down the trail before you have breakfast.

Where was I going with this? Creative spirit! Right. (Bears can be inspirational, mind you. Just not when you want breakfast uninterrupted.)

My creative spirit had been sorely flagging as of the New Year, which meant I was flailing about in my writing efforts, trying to decide what I was going to write next, trying to work on a short story I said I’d write for a writer’s forum I participate in, and trying to critique some friends’ manuscripts. Only, my head and heart weren’t in it. Not fun times.

The cause? Any number of things, I suppose. Work is always a good challenge which taps into my creative juices…but it’s a challenge that taps into my creative juices, which means I sometimes let it overwhelm my personal creativity. I’d also had three new plot bunnies come knocking on my door, demanding that I write them. And they were all novel length. No pressure! It wasn’t like I already had 2 dozen other novel ideas floating around in my head (a moment wherein the writer goes “EEP!”).

Then there was the weather. If you’ve ever lived in Minnesota, you know what I mean. It’s cold. It’s dreary. And there are days where you’re looking at the calendar, wondering if spring will come in March…or May.Top that off with the fact I was in the midst of an editing and critique round on my second novel, and I was itching for a change.

Thus, when my husband had an impromptu week off and asked if I wanted to head somewhere warm and sunny…well. Can’t say I had to ponder, weak and weary, over forgotten lore like my work calendar for very long.

Grand Canyon

Overlooking the Grand Canyon, South Rim

And that’s how I ended up at the Grand Canyon for the first time.

Vast. Rocks old beyond comprehension. Stunning color striations depending on the time of day, lighting, and location…well worth the trip.  Now, I may not have been as awe-struck as some upon seeing it for the first time; bear in mind that I’ve done a fair amount of back-packing and road-tripping throughout the western United States, including much of Southern Utah’s rugged landscape.

Yet, as I stood upon various ledges, looking out into the vast distance, I felt settled. Peaceful, as sunshine warmed my cheeks. And my inner balance had returned. (I think my creative spirit heaved a big happy sigh at one point.)

Sometimes, that’s all I need–time to recharge in the midst of nature, to experience life and beauty around me without the trappings and stressors of normal life. There’s a simplicity to Nature’s melody that I adore. It’s that simplicity that I seek every time I head out on the trail.

[Side note: speaking of melodies, for any music buffs out there, there’s a lovely Grand Canyon Suite, composed by Ferde Grofe circa 1929-1931. I remember hearing bits of it for the first time in my high school music class and thinking that, some day, I’d visit this natural wonder which inspired such art.]

So, you might ask, which feeds my creative spirit the most: hiking, or writing?

I would be hard-pressed to answer that. It’s not really a matter of ‘or’ for me. Both hiking and writing strike such a poignant inner chord. And hiking often informs my writing. It adds to my ability to describe a place so gorgeous it takes your breath away or to transport my readers into a land beyond their imagining. Sometimes, my writing gives me an excuse to hit the trails, too, when I want to pull from an experience in the mountains, or describe the perfect jewel tones of a glacier-fed lake.

That’s what I tell myself, anyway. Besides, there’s nothing that says I can’t do a little writing while on the trail, right?

So, if you are somewhere on the trail and you see a woman scribbling in a tiny journal while nibbling trail-mix on a rock…that might be me. And, if you have a hankering for feeding your creative spirit, the Grand Canyon’s not a bad place to start.

The best part? No bears in the Grand Canyon.

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