Tuesday, September 30, 2014

At the Cabin: A Tranquil Writer's Retreat Produces Creativity with Gayle Irwin

by Gayle M. Irwin

Solace reverberates, stillness the prevailing sound. No traffic noise, no construction racket, not even the ring of the telephone. Although only a 20-minute drive from my house in town, my woodland hideaway seems hours from the barrage of droning disruptions. This peaceful parcel of timberland has become my writing retreat.

Lodgepole pines stretch their gray trunks heavenward like necks of giraffes. The trees tower above the 12x40 foot wood-sided cabin, offering shade from the searing sun, its warm rays rife at the 8,000-foot elevation. Thoreau had his Walden's Pond; I have my Peaceable Kingdom, three+ acres of Rocky Mountain forest at the top of Casper Mountain. Although other cabins are visible through the lacy lodgepole branches, rarely is my solace disturbed, for other cabin owners don't frequent their private paradises as I do mine – that truth adds to the quaking quiet.

For more than five years, I've spent weekends and weekday evenings surrounded by nature's splendor: green-suited hummingbirds darting through the still sky; tawny-eared mule deer sauntering on dry-needled, sparsely-grassed ground; auburn-shirted pine squirrels chattering from overhead tree branches, and heavy-headed yellow daisies yawning in the early-morning light.

It is during that tranquil dawn that I create stories, sitting at my laptop that's powered by either its own battery or the solar panels connected by a cluster of marine-celled batteries. The collection also lights the paneled cabin. Each form of energy helps me produce chapters of books or develop feature articles for magazines and newspapers. Although I can write at my home office in town, the visits to the cabin rejuvenate and revive my creativity, priming, prompting, and pumping the flow of words. Amidst the solitude, I've written two full books and partially-written two others, as well as countless magazine articles, newspaper stories, and blog posts. Sometimes my musings are generated in the cabin itself, other times sitting under the shade of those giant lodgepoles, or while basking in the embrace of the screened porch. The twittering of birds, winging of butterflies, and wafting of a breeze in the tree tops tug at the tendrils of my brain and sing softly amid the crevices of my heart, culminating in a creativity that soars from my soul.

Each visit, each overnight, renders words on the page that spill forth like warm water fountains in Yellowstone, frothing and steaming to be freed from their confines. The words, whether paragraphs on a computer screen or sentences in a lined composition notebook, produce a satisfactory, albeit edit-able piece; like an appetite satiated, I come away from my cabin experience appeased. What bursts forth may not be my most profound work, but it is palatable, and I later trim the fat or add more flavoring.

I am inspired by my my mountain property, much as Laura Ingalls Wilder was by her surroundings, whether it was Rocky Ridge Farm in Missouri or the great plains of the Dakotas. That inspired location encourages writings that will, I hope, uplift readers of my words. Whether the product is a book about my dog that helps children overcome an adversity in their lives, a story that teaches an environmental lesson about the forest or the creatures living on the plains, or an article with appropriate verbiage to encourage people who are down on themselves, the excitement I feel when I sit across from my laptop in the tranquility of my mountain acreage cascades through my mind and spirit. For me, tranquility equals creativity and productivity.

Laura had her Little House on the Prairie and Little House in the Big Woods. I have a combination – my Little Cabin in the Tall Woods of the Great Plains. With woodstove billowing even in mid-summer and lantern or solar light producing a soft glow amid snoring dogs and creaking crickets, a new paragraph is birthed and a new idea illuminated like the light surrounding me. At the cabin in the forest atop the mountain my senses are awakened from their dull sleepiness and my writings spring forth from their hibernation, taking flight like woodland songbirds then perching in the place they are meant to inhabit.

Susan chimes in...
What a beautiful place to write, and what a connection Gayle clearly has to her cabin. Something about getting out in nature can really free us to write. I know when I took a weekend in Esterbrook it jarred a lot of words loose. If you don't have your own cabin, make a date with the outdoors. Treat yourself to a weekend away someplace beautiful. Your notebooks will thank you.


Gayle M. Irwin, Casper, is a freelance writer and the author of five inspirational dog books. These include three books for children and two devotional-style books for families. She's written short stories that are part of five different Chicken Soup for the Soul books, including the latest dog book, The Dog Did What? She writes regularly for Our Town Casper magazine, a monthly publication, and for the weekly Casper Journal newspaper. Her stories and columns also appear in the Douglas Budget and River Press newspapers, and she has contributed writings to Creation Illustrated, WREN, and Crossroads magazines.


  1. Wow, Gayle, your cabin sounds like the perfect place for your writing, and the dogs look pretty happy there too! Thanks for sharing your haven with us, via your words.

    1. Hi, Lynn -- I'm happy to share my writing space with you, Susan, and your readers; I truly am inspired when I go to the property!

  2. Gayle,
    What a gift and blessing you have that you share with the world. Outdoors and nature are the balm for body and soul. May many more wonderful gifts come from you 'Cabin in the Woods' Doris

  3. Gayle, your beautiful post about your cabin was like poetry. I felt like I was there with you! Now I have to find myself a cabin in the mountains and start writing...
    Thank you for sharing!


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