I was outside a lot as a kid; my dad took me to the woods, my grandma took me to the swamp, and I took up the habit of reading outside, beneath the adolescent peach trees we planted before moving from South Carolina. Not only did being outdoors afford me a wicked tan, but my contact with nature throughout my childhood has given me a foundation of ideas to spout from in my writing.
Emotionally, nature has a lot to offer in writing. As a general example, weather can impact a scene’s tone as strongly as making a character explicitly weep. The sun brings happiness. The heat brings stagnancy. The storm brings violence. The rain brings rejuvenation. But, to step even deeper, it helps me to draw from personal experience with nature in order to create a stronger emotional output within my writing.
Nature, for me, tends to be a communicative setting that my characters or poetic speakers interact with in a way that brings up certain childhood memories. I have written many times about one place called Kingsley Lake; if you live in North Florida, you may have heard of it, but otherwise, it’s a body unknown to most. This lake is where I have spent a week from each of my summers since I was nine. It’s a place where I feel safe, detached from the world, and uninterrupted. In other words, it’s pretty zen there, aside from the sunburns.
But what can I write about this place when it feels entirely positive? There is always some meat to an experience if you ponder it long enough. In my poem “Kingsley Lake Escape” (which you can read in Élan: Fall 2016 Online Edition at https://elanlitmag.org/issues/archives/), I had to dig for the reality of being at Kingsley Lake, and in doing so, I discovered how scared I am of leaving that place every year to return to reality. To communicate this idea, the natural aspects of the setting can be manipulated and interpreted in order to portray the appropriate emotions to match the intention. The main aspect of the lake that I focused on in the poem was the water, in its bathwater-like serenity that I wanted to communicate the calm of chilling in the lake. But there are a lot of other aspects of nature at the lake that I didn’t mention in the poem: the tree whose leaves spill over the lake house during bad storms, the sand that stains your feet beige by the end of the second day, and the heat lightning that silently lights up the sky when night rolls around and the air cools accordingly. In settings, nature can be used to make the reader feel almost any emotion; you just have to be willing to make the sensation personal, and in doing so, allow yourself to write from your own experiences with storms, forests, and other natural occurrences that hold emotional potential to draw from.
–Logan Monds, Co-Social Media Editor