by Andrew Fowler

I am a stranger entrenched in a familiar land. Familiar at a distance – until now. From afar, I’ve always seen the mountains around me here in Northern Utah, pinched up in their enormous forms. To travel a mile seems so simple sometimes. It’s about 12 cents to travel one in my car. The form of the mountains or even the entire world can seem so reduced in these terms. But now I have traversed the inclines I’ve always seen, beset on all sides by pine trees and ethereal breeze, and the truth of the natural scale became apparent in my young writer’s mind.

The ways one can experience the natural setting are as expansive as evening shadows. I have taken part before in ways such as hiking, though now I am in much deeper. Last fall I was invited by my closest friend to attend his hunting trips with him, and I was enamored with the opportunity to be guided through the surrounding peaks and canyons by a seasoned outdoorsman, and to at last be a part of the mountains I grew up around.

After some rigorous training, there I was, clutching a rifle, and scanning my way through the evergreens. My friend and I reached a peak, where below us the sheer bases of mountains rolled together. We set down our guns and picked up binoculars to scan down over the grey landscape of late fall. As we munched on crackers from a MRE meal, we watched as the silent mountainside before us crawled with life. We observed the does scampering the steep sides, and breezes creaking bleak trees. We saw a bulky moose and her young cow drink from a pond before ambling off through the bending canyons, and grouse beat their way between the dry lower shrubs.

Such an experience is uncontested, and serves as a wealthy moment for a writer. It allows you a wider sense of perception. You can fall back on your memories, the minuscule pebble and the majestic profile of a sunset all become part of your vocabulary. If you can encapsulate just a molecule of nature in your writing, you can introduce some of that arresting sense of wonder you feel into what you are writing. Do not devalue this gift of being a mountain-dweller. I can confirm as a newly ratified outdoorsman that finally becoming ingrained in the mountains that have always been the backdrop of my home has enhanced my writing. Even as a student, aging only seventeen, I hope to advocate for this pristine place, and share it with others through words informed by the mountains themselves.

[Ed. Note: Andrew lives in Providence, Utah, and recently joined RMOWP.]