Take it Outside! by Nevada McPherson
Let’s welcome back monthly columnist Nevada McPherson as she shares with us “Take it Outside!” Enjoy!
“I believe that there is a subtle magnetism in nature, which, if we unconsciously yield to it, will direct us aright.” —Henry David Thoreau
I came across this quote on a bookmark the other day and was mindful of it the next time I went outside to sit on my back steps. There is a positive and grounding force in connecting with nature and I believe it feeds and nurtures our creativity. Even here in the Deep South where the temperature frequently rises into the triple digits in the summer, there’s something about surrendering to the heat that demolishes all defenses and, yes, melts all reason and one is left with the elemental aspects of what it means to be a human being. Outside the zone of air-conditioned comfort one cultivates a profound appreciation for the shade of a tree and the joy of a cool breeze.
I recently learned that one of the things that inspired author Flannery O’Connor was the play of sunlight and shadow among the trees near her home at Andalusia Farm here on the outskirts of Milledgeville. Descriptions of sunlight and sunsets in her stories helped to inspire a series of evening open mic readings and performances at Andalusia every third Thursday of the coming months called “Thursdalusia.” There’s something very relaxing and welcoming about this particular location and visitors are encouraged to walk the grounds, enjoy sitting in chairs out in the yard and to engage in “porch sitting” anytime the place is open. The welcoming feeling of this setting struck me the first time I went there to visit and it’s that way every time I go. Perhaps you can find your own personal Andalusia in some outdoor space near you, even if it’s your favorite corner of your very own yard, or your favorite corner of a nearby park.
To connect with nature means one necessarily has to slow down and be receptive to it, just like in order to be a true artist, writer or performer one must connect with a stillness within. The stillness without helps to enable that connection and if you tune it to it you can find the answer to questions you may be dealing with in your own work, with plotting, characters and the shape and direction of your story. Similarly, I’ve been inspired to write several of my stories just through the act of going for walks in places that I’ve visited over the years. You can’t get to know a place (nor yourself, in a way) by staying indoors. It’s through getting out into the world and into nature that you learn more about yourself and others and the self-reflection that you do and chance encounters that you experience will make their way into stories, inform your characters and reinforce important lessons that you can remember always.
Once when I was sitting outside the student union at the L.S.U.-Baton Rouge campus I saw a squirrel hanging onto the concrete ledge outside the upper floor window of the bookstore, which was about twenty-five feet up. A storm was approaching and the squirrel clearly wanted more than anything to jump from the concrete ledge to a thin oak tree limb at least three feet away. He paused, about to leap, paused again, sizing up the situation, gathering himself. I couldn’t take my eyes away and wanted so much for him to succeed! After a tense few seconds he finally summoned the nerve to make the leap. He grasped the very end of the tree limb, hanging there, a few leaves falling, then he was up on the branch and on his way again. I loved seeing him make that jump, willing to take a chance to get where he wanted to go, and I think about that squirrel when I have to gather my nerves to go after something I want.
There’s so much in nature to inspire us on so many levels. This summer, and always, let’s yield to its magnetism and allow it to “direct us aright”!
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Originally from Georgia, Nevada McPherson lived in New Orleans for many years and now lives with her husband Bill and rescue Chihuahua, Mitzi in Milledgeville, Georgia, where she is a professor of Humanities at Georgia Military College. Nevada received a BA in English/ Creative Writing and an MFA in Screenwriting from L.S.U. She’s written over a dozen feature-length screenplays, one short screenplay, a short play, short stories and two graphic novels, Uptowners and Piano Lessons. She’s currently at work on her third graphic novel, Queensgate.
For more information about Nevada and her projects, visit www.nevada-mcpherson.com.