I do most of my writing outside. This is nothing new. We used to have a house on a lake. I think I was 8 or 9 when my parents first built it. We went up to the late the day after school was out and my mother and I stayed all summer, returning to the regular house only a day or two before school was to resume. That marked the beginning of my serious barefooting as well because for three whole months, it was allowed! The only “shopping I did was at the snack=bar in front of the swimming beach. There was an amphitheater outside where we attended musicals and weekly church services so really, for me, at least, it was a barefoot village.
It was also a full-time writer’s retreat for me. Great big shade trees on top of a hill my mother called “the Indian mound” and just beyond that, a sunken meditation garden, the end of our pier where gentle waves slapped against the poles giving rhythm to my words, these were certainly favorite writing places for me. I also wrote in the little fishing boat my parents let me pain bright yellow and orange (probably so they could keep an eye on me when I went out on the lake by myself, which was often). When I was a teenager, I ventured further from home and found more secluded writing places. There was a great big fallen tree in the woods that served as a perch over the mossy ground. I’d straddle the trunk with my scrawny lets, open my spiral notebook, and lean over it, supported by the solid security of the prince of the forest who I believed, had bowed just for me. There I poured out musing of my adolescent encounters in the world. There I discovered that the trees have ears, that voices whisper in the branches, that the air can embrace and hold; there I discovered that because I am alive, I must write.
There was another favorite tree at the bank of one of the back water canals. Erosion had exposed its roots on the water side and by the time I discovered it, it leaned at a 45 degree angle over the water. I could walk up its trunk and nestle myself into a fork amid its full foliage and be transformed from a solitary girl under the scrutiny of adult eyes into a unified part of the whole universe. There I discovered my voice, that I had a voice, that I could hear and be heard: I happened onto Holiness, the Holy in me and Thee, and the lines that separate have ever since been blurred.
That little girl grew up in earth life terms, but the impulse to write is as instinctive as the breath and blood that makes living in the body possible. Likewise, the impulse to write outside cannot be forced to stop. No matter where I live or visit, I find parks and cemeteries, fields and wide open skies where my soul seeps out of the body and ventures into depths where human words do not exist, and returns to the pages where it helps me make sense of the stuff in the human experience.
I can write just about anywhere, of that I am sure. But I must write outside where all the elements of the Great Spirit kiss my soul and give me great blessings. The carpet of dew-damp morning grass against my feet; the greens and browns of earth, dotted with the colors of early summer blossoms pouring into my eyes; the sky above that smiles into the horizon; these are the things that open my ears and move my pen across the page.
When I am called, I follow. So here I am, a grown woman, sitting barefoot with my back against a great big tree, scribbling wildly into my spiral notebook.