In my former house I had a large home office, with a wall of book shelves, a long counter to lay out manuscript pages, and computer desk in front of the window. The window looked out over the back yard, a place of seasonal changes and wonder. Beyond the boundaries of our yard was a wooded area with mature trees, an ideal place for birds to rest.
While I was writing I would see cardinals, junkos, sparrows, blue jays, and other birds. I would check the weather—sun breaking through clouds after rain, a storm blowing in from the Dakotas. Deer passed through the yard, often stopping to eat our roses. I saw several female deer with their fawns, and herds of deer meandering together. Wild turkeys walked by and one winter day I saw a flock of wild pheasants.
Two years ago we moved from the home we had lived in for more than 20 years to a small townhome. It was a forced move. My husband’s aorta dissected and he had three emergency operations. During the third operation he suffered a spinal stroke that paralyzed his legs. Although I visited many assisted living communities, none of them had apartments that met our needs, so I built a wheelchair accessible townhome for us.
We’ve lived here for two years. No home office. No long counter. No window overlooking the back yard. Today, my office is a notch cut from the laundry room. The notch is barely wide enough to hold my computer desk and a small filing cabinet. Instead of looking at nature I look at a wall. Although I’ve hung family photos on the wall, looking at them isn’t the same as looking at nature.
Spring finally came to Minnesota, a time when residents rush out to buy bedding plants and seed backyard gardens. Gardening is difficult for me, due to two arthritic hips and knees, so I asked a horticulturalist to plant petunias by our front walk. When the door is open and I’m working, I see the petunias, the large pot of geraniums, and bench I bought. Across the street, I see a lush, green hillside, inhabited by a variety of birds, and deer that traverse secret paths.
Before I sit down to write, I open the door and look at this scene, the bright pink of the petunias, darker pink of the geraniums, and brilliant green shrubs. I am grateful for this connection with nature. Richard Louv, author of Last Child in the Woods: Saving Our Children from Nature-Deficit Disorder, devotes an entire chapter of his book to the idea of nature nurturing creativity.
Louv describes nature as imperfectly perfect and thinks connecting with it inspires children and adults alike. “Nature—the sublime, the harsh, and the beautiful—offers something that the street or gated community or computer game cannot,” he writes. Connecting with nature connects us with the basics of life, he continues, “earth, water, air, and other living kin, large and small.”
The last few days I’ve been writing like crazy: letters, social media posts, book marketing pieces, and articles for three websites. I think my increased creativity comes from the view outside my door. Yesterday, torrential rain flattened the petunias and I wondered if they would survive. But today, the flowers are upright and thriving. Thank you, pink petunias, for your happy faces, glorious color, and strength. You inspire me.