Each natural place has its own form of magic. When we lived in the countryside as some still do, we had a direct connection to wind, rain, stones, fir needles… and whatever was plentiful around us. We believed in the old gods and goddesses which were natural and animalistic spirits. When humanity started to settle down and grow crops, our religions mutated. Man became the crown of creation. He ruled, and the wild beasts obeyed. We still retained some old forms of magical thought like the exchange of gifts with a deity. Devotion could save the crops and a ritualistic offering would please God.
Take a moment to reflect on your own beliefs. The nature of feeling close to God depends on the person and his/her religion.
- What do you believe nature is?
- How do you want to cast her in your books?
If you live in Utah, you know how the desert wind feels on your skin. You know what a clear night out there looks like. If you live in Canada, you can understand my example story because you can assimilate.
Never mind the setting. I’ll approach the subject through literary excerpts. I have my own experience of the wild Finnish nature in winter, and my fellow Write Practice Story Cartel member Nia Ellis has written a poem about the natural elements.
When you can, venture out. Smell, touch, and look around. Then write down how the weather makes you feel: blessed or annoyed? Your own immediate experience is a great muse. The research will help you to describe things that are long gone, or far away.
But nothing beats first-hand experience.
My own view on the subject
I drive with my team of eight husky dogs somewhere in Northern Finland. It’s a night ride. A fresh layer of snow rained during a windy day which molded the effortless stuff into sleek dunes. The night is staggering bright with a full moon.
My dogs are panting. The light birch wood race sled runs smoothly. It weighs only twenty-two pounds and I produce one-hundred and ten more. We move incredibly fast.
The silvery moonlight reflects from the tiny crystals of the powder snow. I put out my headlamp when I reach the curve which leads into the snow-covered heart of the pine and fir tree forest. I slow down into a standstill with the soft mat brake and order the dogs to wait. I push the anchor into the deep bank with my heavy boot. The dogs jump up and down when they understand that we are going nowhere.
I yell the order “stop!” repeatedly but half of my team consists of young dogs still in training. They yank their harnesses in agitation. The white bitch, Omen, keeps bouncing up and down with all her paws in the air.
“Why are we stopping?” She seems to ask with her light blue eyes as she gazes back at me.
But I don’t give in. They must learn to wait to earn rank.
My breath puffs up in clouds. I remove my Canada Goose Expedition parka hood. I gaze up.
The Aurora Borealis lights up the sky with elusive neon green. Each inch of the black velvet is filled with stars. I take off my down stuffed mitten and my hand becomes numb in seconds. It’s freezing: minus twenty-five degrees Fahrenheit. I track the outlines of the Milky Way with my index finger…
I feel the touch of God on my face.
I’m pulled out of it as Ferro, the young male, releases a sorrowful wail which can be heard for miles. Standing put is against his eager nature. His father reprimands him by standing steadfast with spread legs while the youngster yanks the ropes again. A disapproving look from the older husky’s amber eyes stops him from moving.
I pray that the harnesses can hold their strength. My huskies are lean but muscular. Each one seems to have a built-in nuclear power plant. They are molded for the race. I smile in admiration and release the anchor.
(We say drive in Finland, not “Mush!”)
They move faster than my thoughts and I’m in heaven.
The Poem of Nia Ellis
Annual Seasons sang a medley of diversity.
Warm summer nights kiss softly.
A blanket of greenery dress the ground.
A chorus takes over. Soft white treasures fall from the sky.
Arctic cold wintry benumbed the innocent.
You can find out more about Nia on her web-page: niaellis.com
The Personification of Nature and Animals
What follows, is an excerpt from my book The Unholy Warrior. The two heroines dismember their enemies and feed their bodies to the wolves. This wolf pack is dangerous because the radiation has made the canines more aggressive.
“The wolves smelled blood from miles away. Rebane didn’t want them tasting human flesh near the cabin. At dusk- when they set out to hunt- it was perilous to be here. The women finished unloading the second body when Rebane saw the blazing lower half of the sun gluing to the horizon. The upper half obscured behind some serious storm clouds. The strengthening fog among the trees gave her chills. The wolf pack was cunning. They knew that the rifle on her back meant death. They would encircle her and Liva before the attack.
The dusk transformed into darkness as they unloaded the last body. The first pair of yellow eyes stalked them among the gathering mist. The wolf stood between the trees. Lush fir branches hid the queen’s body but exposed her fluffy dog-like face. Her white mask became clear as she trod softly forward. No sound preceded the animal. She floated above the ground. The scenery bathed in dim green and black. Rebane felt something soft brushing against her arm. It was fur.
“Liva, don’t move. Be silent.”
Rebane saw the outlines of the third predator moving behind Liva’s slender back. The wolf’s neck hair seemed spiky against the milky mist. The low growl wasn’t more than a whispered warning. The shadows gathered from different directions.
The queen reached the corpses. She exposed her fangs when her mate approached the kill. The saliva-dripping grimace transformed the beautiful canine face into a mask of the Devil. The alpha female’s ears pressed flat against her head and her eyes glowed with hot Sulphur. Her back arched as she grabbed Grigori’s foot from the pile. She sent his head rolling on the soft ground.
Rebane took Liva by her arm. The women retreated but kept their faces towards the crunching, ripping and swallowing crowd. The animals snapped at each other. Their powerful jaws broke bones to get to the nutritious marrow.”
Rebecka Jäger, The Unholy Warrior.
I love wolves, and I’ve never seen any of them as aggressive. However, I chose to add suspense to my chapter and made these wolves a bit unnatural. They are depicted as ferocious- which is entirely against their sociable nature.
Although I often use mother nature as a counterweight in my book, to balance the cruelty of humans, I wanted to depict her as a cruel mistress. That’s why I distorted the image of the wolves. The food chain is cruel.
Studies show that Chernobyl wolves thrive without human presence but they have become vicious among themselves because of nuclear radiation. The scientific fact suited my purpose because my book is post-apocalyptic.
Finally, as Jack London said it:
“The Wild still lingered in him and the wolf in him merely slept.”
Jack London (White Fang, 1906)
The wild still sleeps in us all. We know what to do when we are forced to survive on our own. Our instincts can be counted on. Listen to your inner cave man or woman.