Welcome to guest blogger Patrice Vecchione, whose new book Step into Nature: Nurturing Imagination and Spirit in Everyday Life, is, says David Rothenberg, "a true workbook for the senses." As poet Jane Hirshfield writes, this book "...illumines the intimate connection between inner and outer, contemplative and wild, and shows the reasons these connections matter." Continue reading to find out how to get a free signed copy!
Monterey Pine, Jacks Peak Park, California.
That a connection exists between nature and imagination is something I knew from way back, even as a city kid at a remove from unfettered natural enclaves and expanses. Most all children have an innate love of snow on the tongue and wind through their hair. Young spirits are fed by the natural world peeking through, even in small ways. Kids have fewer filters to separate them from that first, true human home.
My parents graced my young life with art--taking me to museums, concerts, and the ballet. A direct infusion into nature herself was not their métier and was limited to brief forays at various parks and trips to the Bronx Zoo.
As a kid, nature actually frightened me, its unpredictability did. Summer storms replete with thunder and lightning rumbled that point home. Through art, however, I began a sustained a relationship with the earth, liked how the denseness of a sketched forest removed me from the museum floor and into its haven. Images of earth’s places wholly drew me in way before I began to recognize and frequently experience the pull of firsthand nature enlarging imagination.
"Winged Man" by Patrice Vecchione
Some years back, having been a long distance bike rider who, due to arthritis, had to give up even short rides, I took to the woods, for the banal desire to get exercise outdoors, not in a gym. It began innocently enough—I’d walk for an hour or so, get hot and sweaty and return home happily tuckered out.
The place I chose to walk was Jacks Peak Park, a 500 + acre densely wooded park ten minutes from home. What I’d ignorantly assumed was a park with few trails I quickly discovered possessed over 10 miles of interconnecting paths and more if one includes those that go off onto private property.
At first I went walking with little more than car keys and a full water bottle but, after a few weeks, I needed more. Words started coming at me that I felt compelled to write down—a back pocket pen and no paper meant my right hand and inner arm became my canvas, got filled with ink. Once home, I transferred those words to paper.
With a back-of-the-junk-drawer notebook added to my pocket I began walking not only for exercise but in order to listen and respond. The forest had begun talking to me—the wind whispered, the trees insisted I pay attention. Pay attention to what? To them and to the play between the whole of that natural place and her individual parts and my own imagination. It was just that I’d walk and hear things and be curious about what I was hearing and thinking and have to stop to listen, record, respond.
What I heard and saw and smelled and touched turned into poems, essays, and collages. There I’d be mid-step watching and waiting—two mice chatting in the bushed, a squirrel leading my way down a path, the frightening loudness of a tree falling nearby. A small yellow flower with red spots at its center made me bend into the brush for a photograph. In late summer all the foliage at the end of life became newly beautiful to my eyes. Having previously preferred high heels to hiking boots and being anything but a nature aficionado, I became a changed woman, an artist anew.
This link between nature and imagination was something I had to explore, to write about. I felt a book coming on. Luckily, my literary agent saw the value in it too, as did Simon & Schuster/Beyond Words/Atria Books. My book was bought on proposal and I received six months to write the book. Six months? As the ink on my signature dried I doubted that possibility. However, those six months were the happiest of my 58 years.
The wind wrote my book and the Great Northern flickers did. The rolling rocks gave their unrestrained input. The mountain lions I knew were somewhere lurking added elements of surprise to the words I found. I wrote it in the way nature revealed herself to me—one step at a time.
After about another six months Step into Nature: Nurturing Imagination and Spirit in Everyday Life became a book to hold with pages to turn. It explores the unique identities of places, the link between imagination, inspiration and intuition, how engaging our many senses can expand our creative abilities and revive our spirits, the value of solitude in artistic practice, and more.
Gotta go—nature calls. Who knows what next words may call!
Now that you've heard from Patrice, you're likely enticed to hear more. And you can. Patrice is offering one signed copy for free. If you want it, here's what you do:
1. Comment on this blogpost between now and October 15.
2. Raffle-style, I'll pick one name to get a book.
3. Check back after October 15, or sign up to "follow" this blog and you'll get an email when the winner is posted.
4. If you're the lucky winner, email me your address, and you'll get your free, signed copy of Step into Nature.
5. If you're not the lucky winner, never fear, you can buy the book here or here.
Patrice Vecchione is the author of Writing and the Spiritual Life and two books of poetry, and is the editor of numerous anthologies. She offers creative writing and collage workshops at universities, libraries, parks, and community center, including Esalen Institute.
She lives in Monterey, California, with her best beloveds--her husband, two cats, and her garden. Connect with Patrice on Twitter @VecchioneAuthor and Facebook
PatriceVecchioneAuthor and www.patricevecchione.com.