Like all your Writer Unboxed columnists this week, I’m writing this in advance of the inauguration, a time of stress and worry and hopefulness and joy. We don’t know what will happen. And not knowing, not having control, is terrifying. In these days, it’s hard to concentrate. It’s hard to breathe. It’s hard to write.
In yoga, there’s an expression: “Root to rise.” It means, essentially, to start from a solid foundation, but whenever I hear it I think of trees: Dark green pines forming a cathedral against a winter-white background, leafy oak branches framed against a summer-blue sky, slender birches standing like columns along a lake. And somewhere, deep below the earth, a tangle of roots holding fast.
Root to rise.
In times of turmoil, the outdoors has always been a sanctuary for me. And during this past year, I’ve watched as more people have joined me. There’s a comfort to be had from fresh air and sunshine, from wind and rain, even from cold and snow. The weather may be different from day to day, but the environment, the trees and the rocks and lakes and the sky, the bones of our world, change so slowly as to be almost constant to our eyes. That constancy is reassuring. It tells us subconsciously that no matter what is happening, tomorrow is another day. The sun will come up in the morning and go down in the night and the world will keep on spinning.
Root to rise.
So in days of darkness or despair, when the words will not come, get yourself outside, into the natural world. Hike a trail. Walk the beach. Set out a blanket in a park or your backyard. Look up at the trees. Notice the shade of green, the veins that run through each leaf, the crisp, sharp scent of the evergreen needles. Watch how the wind blows through them, how the boughs whisper and sigh together. Close your eyes and listen to the earth’s lullaby.
Root to rise.
Take a notebook with you, on those days when you cannot write. Use it to describe the texture of the bark beneath your fingers — rough, hard, dry for the maple. Smooth for the birch. Sticky for the spruce. Capture how the long strands of weeping cherry dance in the wind, the way its blossoms shiver and shake, twirl in the sky like pink confetti. Draw a word picture of the twisted branches of the Harry Lauder’s Walking Stick, the slick straightness of the American beech.
Bring those words home with you. And when you are ready, give them to your characters. In times of crisis, when all goes wrong, let them feel the solidness of the earth below them. Give them the refuge of the woods and sky. Of the unchanging sun and stars. Give them the phases of the moon for hope. But don’t forget to keep some for yourself.
Now it’s your turn, my friends. What aspects of nature bring you comfort? Are there specific places that you turn to, and do you use those places in your work?