Backcountry crucible


A few years back, I go to a nature writing retreat in the North Cascades. I think it’s a writing retreat set in nature, but it’s actually a writing retreat about nature. I grew up going camping with my family, and my hardcore backpacker dad was known to shake us out of our road trip malaise with a well-timed and hearty, “Look at that mountain! Isn’t it beautiful?!”, but I haven’t yet adopted his love and knowledge of nature for myself. So you can imagine my dismay when, with just a prompt and a pen, my fellow writers conjure up stunning essays about the animals and plants around us, calling each by its name and weaving in poignant personal revelations, while I stammer nervously about wood nymphs and cliché dusty shafts of sunlight filtering through the trees. Even though I wear a Patagonia fleece borrowed from my roommate, I can’t…

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