• authoraprilkelley1

Setting Matters

Let nature feed your this Summer

I live in a rural setting. Most of the time, more tractors drive down my road than cars. It’s no wonder considering my area of the world is called The Fruit Belt. My home is a big farmhouse. Two of the rooms were built in the 1870s. The rest of the house was built around it in the early 1900s.

My point is that my environment isn’t noisy. Our house sits back from the road, so traffic wouldn’t be too much of a problem even if we had any. My front yard is a solid acre, maybe a bit more. The expanse of it feeds the birds, frogs, and rabbits. Those are just the animals I can see regularly. I know there are some I can’t, and I’m probably glad for that-snakes scare me a little, but they eat the mice, so co-habitation is fine.

I have a charming front porch, which is my office during the warmer weather. During the pandemic and staying at home, it has been a godsend.

I know not everyone is so lucky, and maybe there are some of you out there that dislike nature. Some of it can be scary, and I get that. I wouldn’t want to come in contact with certain animals either. The natural environment not only helps you relieve stress, but it also gets the imagination going.

Nature boosts creativity. According to a Greater Good Magazine article by Jill Suttie, studies show that nature can increase creativity because it changes our brain and body function, allowing for a healthier, more balanced lifestyle.

Maybe it’s easier for me. I mean, I live in Michigan and in an area with a high level of tourism where everything centers around the outdoors. I’m a ten-minute drive from Lake Michigan. Five minutes from the nature preserve. If you want to pick whatever fruit or vegetables are in season, there’s a farm somewhere close that will let you. To get to a bigger city, I have to drive forty-five minutes, and most of the time, the traffic drives me crazy. At least it did before the pandemic. I haven’t gone anywhere since before March.

Even if you don’t live in my neck of the woods, you can still feel the grass against your bare feet or hike a trail through the forest. Even New York City has Central Park.

Nature’s serene qualities can be meditative.

You’ll be able to clear your mind without even trying. There’s something about listening to the birds sing and let the breeze blow across my face that gets my brain functioning at its full capacity, at least where writing is concerned.

Clearing the mind leaves room for new ideas to flow.

I meditate in some capacity every day, usually in the morning before I start my day. In the colder months, I do this in my living room, where most of my indoor plants are. During warmer times, I sit outside on my front porch. Meditation is a learned skill that anyone can acquire. It’s not always easy to stay still long enough to empty the mind, and being in the forest can just as cleansing. Maybe even more so.

A walk through the forest can do wonders for you.

There’s something about our natural world that makes humans curious. If it didn’t, we wouldn’t have all those television shows exploring it. Perhaps, nature puts us in our place a bit by making us realize we don’t know nearly as much as we thought. Humans are curious, and us writers own that a little bit more than most. After all, curiosity sparks a story more times than not.

A couple of days ago, I walked down my driveway to get the mail. Halfway there, I saw the biggest, prettiest dragonfly. I began thinking about what it would be like to ride an animal that flew. Because of one trip to get the mail, my current work in progress includes people who live in sky city and rider dragons.

Yeah, I know. My mind is a weird place. I’ve met a lot of writers over the years, and I can tell you I’m the rule when it comes to how I generate ideas, not the exception. And I’m not trying to justify my weirdness here. I’m merely pointing out what a pleasant walk amongst the trees, or in my case down my driveway with a hayfield on one side and my yard on the other, can do for you.

Finding a natural setting isn’t as easy everyone. After all, it’s not easy finding nature when you can’t leave your home for fear of getting covid-19. And I understand completely that not everyone has an open front porch with flowers, herbs, and vegetables growing everywhere like I do. But you can make your own piece of nature.

Maybe you live in a small apartment. If you have an outdoor space, grow a little garden. If you don’t have a green thumb, grow succulents, which need very little water or time and attention. It could be that you don’t have outdoor space at all. If you have a window, you can grow something inside a garden box. Your local garden store as them in all sizes. Even if you live in a basement with no natural light, you can buy grow lights, and they’re reasonably affordable.

I just got off the phone with my mother. During our conversation, she lectured me about the air quality and the fact that I should be growing a plant called a Mother-in-Law’s Tongue. According to her, it’ll improve the air I breathe. Whether she’s right or wrong, I’m sure she’ll buy me the plant, complete with full instructions on how to take care of it. I encourage you to look into this plant as well. After all, we could all use a little clean air.

In the winter, I pot some of my herbs and put them on my kitchen windowsill. I use them for cooking because cooking is sort of like taking a walk in the forest for me. Very serene, and it gets the creativity flowing. Anyway, cooking with fresh herbs gives me the sense that I’m bringing the outdoors inside. Much like eating fruits and vegetables do but growing my own is much more satisfying than buying them from a grocery store or local farmer.

Find your local park. Social distancing while outside is a heck of a lot easier than going to the grocery store or anywhere else for that matter. Bring a blanket and your notebook and pen ( or your computer) and park yourself in a grassy area.

Find out if your area has a nature preserve and take that walk.

However you do it, put yourself in a natural setting as much as possible. It will do wonders for your creativity. During this tumultuous time in our lives, we all need an outlet. Reading and writing are two of my favorite ways to feed my soul, and including nature helps relieve stress so I can do both of those favorite things.

April Kelley is an author of LGBTQ+ Romance. Her works include The Journey of Jimini Renn, which was a Rainbow Awards finalist, Whispers of Home, the Saint Lakes series, and over thirty more. She’s a main contributor at Once and Books. If you’d like to know more about her work, visit her website and sign up for her newsletter https://www.authoraprilkelley.com/.

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