This morning, my husband and I took to the woods.
It was a
perfect hiking day: cool, dry, with a hint of breeze. The leaves are
just starting to turn, a few bright accents of scarlet and yellow among
the greenery. It refreshed me, the way it always does.
I've noticed that my fictional characters often run to nature when they need to regroup: Colt in The Secret Year heads for the river; Ryan in Try Not to Breathe explores the woods and the waterfall around his home; Maggie in Until It Hurts to Stop
climbs mountains. This echoes my own fondness for the natural world,
and my regular forays into it. My characters' experiences reflect my own
childhood seeking out any scrap of woods, any "unimproved" lot I could
find. Those lots have become fewer and fewer, and I worry about children
who don't have some tree or rock to climb, some bed of moss or sand to
rest on, some trickle of water to explore. It doesn't have to be deep
wilderness--mine certainly wasn't, and a child's imagination can turn a
quarter-acre lot into a vast tract of frontier land. I have found
pockets of nature even in the most urban neighborhoods I've lived in, in
places as built up as Atlanta and Philadelphia.
I do realize
that not everyone finds, or needs to find, solace in the outdoors. But I
only understand that in theory. In practice, it seems, all my characters
seek out that very solace. I only vary the ecological niche, the
environment in which they seek it out.
Some parts of ourselves make it into our characters whether we consciously plan it or not.