Nature Inspires My Writing
by Gayle M. Irwin
Recently I spent a long weekend at one of my favorite writing spaces: a ranch owned by two of my best friends. Nature abounds here, as the Powder River cuts through the acreage, and various species of plants and trees take root, providing habitat for a variety of songbirds and four-legged creatures. Livestock, including horses, cattle, and sheep, also live on the ranch, many freely grazing alongside white-tailed deer and the occasional sandhill crane.
I sit inside the guest house, gazing at the fields and forests surrounding the home. Occasionally, a stray cat wanders on the porch, eating the food my friends and I leave out for the abandoned felines that frequent the ranch. Years ago, my rancher friends took pity on the numerous “dumped” cats and began providing nourishment for them, half-way taming many, and completely taming another who is now their house cat. Her name is Fancy, and she is regal with her long golden hair and her delightful personality.
It’s spaces and places like this that inspire much of my writing.
Living in Wyoming, open spaces and special animal welfare places are found throughout the state. Yellowstone National Park is a six-hour drive from my home. Custer State Park in South Dakota lies within a four-drive. I spent time there a few weeks ago where I observed baby bison frolicking in greening meadows; petted and fed donkeys as they came to the car looking for handouts; and encountered eight bighorn sheep near the roadway.
A favorite place for me in my state is Kindness Ranch; this unique animal sanctuary takes in dogs, cats, horses, and other animals that have undergone various types of research, from food trials to veterinary school surgeries. Hundreds of acres provide reprieve for these animals as they are socialized and trained, and some are later adopted by loving, compassionate families.
This month, which has a special week known as Be Kind to Animals Week, marks the first anniversary of the release of a sweet, contemporary second-chance romance novel I wrote titled Finding Love at Compassion Ranch. The setting is based on Kindness Ranch. In the book, I introduce animal characters awaiting adoption and ones living at the ranch – all in need of a second chance. My human characters also find a second chance at love. I enjoy weaving pet rescue and adoption into my human love stories, and thus I have created the Pet Rescue Romance series. Finding Love at Compassion Ranch is the second book I completed in the series; I chose the setting based on a real animal rescue organization in order to bring this issue into greater light – and to remind readers both human and animal often need a second chance.
I’m thankful to live in a place where I’m surrounded by natural beauty – and endless story possibilities.
What is your special place for writing – or reading – inspiration?
Finding Love at Compassion Ranch
By Gayle M. Irwin
A ranch like no other …
Erin Christiansen is still adjusting to life as a widow. She seeks additional healing by volunteering at Compassion Ranch, a sanctuary for former research animals. Upon arrival at the majestic and unique northwestern Wyoming ranch, she meets Mike, a man she knew in high school, whose compassion for animals and people might be the balm Erin needs. Retired veterinarian Mike Jacobs is no stranger to loss. Five years after the accidental death of his wife, he now serves as ranch manager of Compassion Ranch. He not only fixes fence and provides tours, but he applies his veterinary skills and his heart for animals to his work. Upon recognizing Erin from high school, he can barely believe his first love will spend a few weeks at the sanctuary. Can Erin and Mike span the years since they have seen each other or do they, like many of the rescued animals, have wounds that run too deep to trust and love again?
Mike spent time with the new horses in the corral he’d constructed. He groomed each animal with the livestock brush and currycomb. He spoke in a calm tone, helping them accustom themselves to his voice and hand. Although the animals were not skittish, neither were they exceedingly happy with his presence. He still marveled at the tri-colored paint’s reaction to Erin last night. He and Cisco shared the same bond and established that at first meeting, so he knew what he was talking about when he whispered to Erin last night.
He startled when he heard her voice from the gate. “How’s that horse of mine?”
Mike turned around to find her smiling. He returned the facial expression.
“Come find out for yourself.”
He watched her open the gate, walk into the corral, and then close the access. At that moment, the horse they talked about broke from the group and trotted to her new human friend. Erin, just inside the enclosure, stood still. The mare slowed her pace and walked to her. She again pressed her cheek to Erin’s face. Mike observed the woman stroke the horse’s chin and then behind her ears. Erin then ran her hand down the mare’s neck. The horse shuddered, not in fear but with gladness, and nuzzled Erin’s neck. She wrapped her arms around the creature. Mike heard Erin’s soft cries. He turned back to the other horses and let Erin and the paint have their moment. He knew the therapy that animals provided, and the way the horse had sensed Erin’s need for comfort caused him to choke up. He concentrated brushing the appaloosa’s shoulders and didn’t hear Erin walk up behind him. However, he felt her gentle touch upon his shoulder.
“Thank you,” she whispered. He turned. Startled to see his misty eyes, she stepped back. “I’m sorry. I didn’t mean …”
He smiled and shook his head. “Nothing to be sorry for.” He slipped a hand into hers while the currycomb remained in his other hand. “I know how connected one can get to an animal. I’ve seen it, I’ve experienced it. Dogs, horses, cats, even rabbits. People and animals bond, there is no doubt.”
He kissed the top of Erin’s hand. “I’m glad for you … and for her.” Mike nodded at the paint who stood just behind Erin.
“My spaniel Winston and I had the same connection when he came into my sister’s rescue,” Erin said in a low voice. She wrapped an arm around the horse’s neck as her hand remained tucked into Mike’s. “There was no doubt I’d take him to Florida with me, but what am I going to do with a horse? She’s not even trained to ride, and I don’t have a place to keep her down there.”
Mike smiled. “She can stay here. I’ll work with her, train her, and when you come back for a visit, she’ll be all ready for you to ride.”
Erin looked at him. “I haven’t said I was coming back.”
His smile didn’t fade. “Perhaps you have a reason to … or maybe a couple of reasons.”
She returned his smile. “Perhaps.”
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Gayle M. Irwin is an award-winning author and freelance writer, being recognized by Wyoming Writers, Inc., and the Wyoming Press Association for several of her works. She is the author of The Pet Rescue Series, a collection of romance books that weave pet rescue and adoption into the love story. She is also a contributor to seven Chicken Soup for the Soul books and the author of many pet books and stories for children in which she subtly weaves important life lessons, including friendship, courage, self-confidence, and the importance of pet rescue and adoption. An animal advocate, Gayle volunteers for various dog rescue and humane society organizations, and she donates a percentage of all book sales to such groups. Learn more about the author, her writing endeavors, and her pets, and receive free stories and resources by visiting her website: www.gaylemirwinauthor.com.