Tuesday, April 17, 2018

Writing at the Ranch

Guest post by Gayle M. Irwin

The amber sun rises above the shadowy hillside. Standing on the wooden porch of the white-framed home, cup of steaming Costa Rican coffee in hand, I hear mourning doves greet the early spring morning. I’m about to start the first day of my self-imposed writing retreat – witnessing this tranquil sunrise is an inspiring way to start, and one reason I keep returning to this place.

Wyoming’s majestic landscapes spark my creativity, and at the JKL Ranch along the Powder River near Kaycee I find that inspirational ignition. Therefore, I take self-imposed writing retreats here each winter and spring. My friends, Judy and Kevin Lund, graciously open their guest house to me, and from this location I compose short stories, magazine articles, and pet-oriented books, including last year’s children’s work A Town Dog Named Mary Visits a Ranch.

Tranquility abounds at this semi-remote location. Daylight street noise and nighttime light pollution don’t exist. Cell service is limited, and internet isn’t an option here. Therefore, interruption from vehicles, door-to-door sales people, telephone, text, email, and social media are absent. I’m able to set aside hours for idea generation, writing manuscripts, and editing my works without noise or other disruptions.

Solace also comes from the land itself. The acreage sits amid bluffs above the river to the east; the Bighorn Mountains rise in the distance toward the west. These surroundings revive, restore, and reveal. Writing at my friends’ Wyoming ranch opens the windows of my senses and stirs my creativity.

Spring is especially vivid. Ripples of snow-melt water flow over the rocky river bed and splash along dirt-filled banks. Geese honk as they float the current, encouraging feathery friends to join the party. Tree leaves flutter with the breeze, while meadowlarks trill from fence posts. Sandhill cranes arrive to raise their young in the shelter of Russian olive hedges. These tall, gangly birds dance in the fields and trumpet their air travel over the acreage. Blooming wild iris and developing barley fields create fragrances as delicious as that of full-bodied wine. Red-tailed hawks and golden eagles soar through the azure sky. Woodpeckers drill their bills in large cottonwoods, and the occasional hen turkey with youngsters strut along the dirt driveway, pecking for bugs and seeds. White-tail and mule deer drink from the same river and often forage the guest house lawn as well as the nearby grain fields. Other animals, such as raccoons, bobcat, and coyote, live on or pass through the property, although usually only tracks and scat speak of their presence.

I observed my first owlets on the Lund’s property last spring. Three downy birds first confined to a large cottonwood cavity became fledglings perched on a nearby branch, their great-horned mother overseeing them a tree away.

Livestock also reside here, their scent often wrinkling my nose. Cattle roam the ranch, including a pasture abreast of the guest house. They trade grazing grounds with two llamas and two yaks. Various breeds of sheep also forage for food and drop their offspring every March. A donkey named Humphrey keeps vigil over the lambs and their parents.

While many writers find their muse at coffee shops or libraries, mine is enriched by nature and solitude. Each visit to the ranch refreshes my body and spirit and fuels my creativity. Writing ideas sprout, bloom, and flourish, including essays for WREN (Wyoming Rural Electric News) and books for children and adults. This year, I plan to complete my first novel, new chapters generated while visiting the ranch.

Nature’s beauty inspires me, and as spring approaches renewing the vast Wyoming landscape, I look forward to my next trip – writing at the ranch!


Gayle M. Irwin writes inspirational pet books and stories for children and adults as well as serves as a freelance writer. Her work has appeared in seven Chicken Soup for the Soulbooks, including last year’s “The Dog Really Did That?” Last year she authored a children’s book based on being at the JKL Ranch titled A Town Dog Named Mary Visits a Ranch, which she’ll share with young audiences during Children’s Book Week in May. Gayle is a member of Wyoming Writers, Inc. Learn more about this Casper, Wyoming, writer at www.gaylemirwin.com.