Changing Places

I haven’t posted much recently because I’ve been buried in boxes and stuck in circles of wrapping tape. Today is the end of all that, thankfully. I’ll finish super-cleaning the old house and leave the keys for its returning owners. We’re fairly well settled in our new rental, and life can get back to normal now. Hear that, life? Please get back to normal!

You may be wondering what this has to do with producing “words for wildlife.” The answer is all about the house I’m leaving, and what it meant to my writing. When I moved out of Phoenix in June 2010, I couldn’t have found a better place to live, or to write about wildlife, than the house in the forest outside Flagstaff, the one I am leaving today.

I had been writing about wildlife for five years by that point. I liked my work well enough to want to continue. But I didn’t discover a passion for this career until I escaped the city and made a home in the trees.

Thinking back, I would say there were two aspects to the way this house transformed my work. The rental house, or as I called it in a photo essay, my “not quite” home, had a spacious office on the second floor. I set my computer monitor against the window, where I could look out at a stand of ponderosa pines as I worked.

The room was quiet, a haven of peace. Through that window I watched flickers and nuthatches, deer and woodpeckers, sunlight and snowstorm and all the specific moments of each day in the forest. To glance out that window as my fingers danced on the keys deepened my appreciation for this work in ways that can’t be measured.

In addition to an inspiring view from the office, the “not quite” home also gave me lunch hours on the trail. There was a loop hike up through a meadow and along a ridgeline, then back down a wide ravine to the house. I could do the loop in half an hour if I marched, but often I was slowed by flocks of birds to watch, or tracks to follow, or photos to take. Once I startled a solitary deer from its noontime bed. Another time, I came on a herd of elk that didn’t know a human was watching them.

That combination of natural space right outside my door and window, and a quiet office from which to watch nature happen, turned me from a person who writes about wildlife as a job, to a person who writes about wildlife as a career fueled by a passion for the natural world. It gave me space within which I could write stories I’m proud of, quiet time for editing a book of wildlife history, and even the energy that sparked this blog.

To live and work in a place that inspires you … it matters.

Photos from the Not Quite Home essay on Flickr

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