How important is place to a story? Do you skip all description or do you want to be swept into the jungle, the dessert, the city street, the cottage by the sea? For the writer, creating a place that comes alive as a character rather than detail to be skipped over is a challenge, but for me place is critical to both character and action.
For Northwesterners, the beauty of the surrounding wilderness, where HAWKINS LANE is set, is central to life, as it is to the characters of HAWKINS LANE. They meet in the woods above a small mountain town, and their love of the woods and mountains triggers their love for each other …
“The rhythm of their stroking carried them to a stream-carved gorge, and [Ned]e led [Erica] along its edge … until he came to a tree-roofed lane. It was silent as a church. Together they stroked its length, then stood in the quiet, looking out across the untrammeled expanse of snow, then down the mountain at the glitter of sun off distant ponds. She laughed and gave a push that sent her out into the untouched blanket then turned down the slope.”
They become mountain rangers, and the wilderness shapes their lives as surely as it does the eagles, bear, and deer.
“As March neared its end, the stream behind the Romero house rushed with melting snow, the crowds of skiers and snowshoers on the streets of McKenzie Crossing began to thin, and eagles passed over the house on their way to the river. Erica recounted every change in her journal, every new bare patch of lawn, every bird, and every change pushed her harder …”
But existence in the heart of the Cascades keep them forever aware of the power nature wields.
“[Ned]’s horse halted without warning, tossing his head, his ears twitching. Ned froze, signaling to Bonnie as he strained his ears. A far off rumble made his spine tingle, but he couldn’t place a direction.
‘I hear it!’ Bonnie whispered.
He reached over and took her hand, but could not judge which was they should go. So they remained frozen, watching their horses’ ears and straining to match them.
A sheen of white glimmered ahead. A moment later they were staring without breath at the vast expanse of snow where the trail had been. He reached for Bonnie’s hand but it was gripping the pommel of her saddle. … tears running down her cheeks.
‘He’s in there, isn’t he? Archie.’”
They are forever reminded that the wilderness dominates.
“A deer appeared in the meadow beyond the barn. … Had some deer stood in the shadows watching them when they made love in this meadow that first summer? She shifted her gaze to the spot she’d marked with a bed of marigolds, and when she looked back, the doe had vanished. Gone with the whiff of morning breeze.”
And reminds them of their vulnerability.
“Over and over, he radioed her. Her line was open, but she didn’t answer. He was overwhelmed by the enormity of the woods, of the lunacy of their illusion that this mountain was their friend. The night belonged to the mountains, the wind, and the rain.”
And of the brief, transient span of their lives.
“… he stood looking down its tree-roofed length. It was stripped and naked, but nature would re-clothe it. In a month, the alders and evergreens would take up everything that had happened and fold it into their branches.”
So I invite you to spend a few hours in the Cascade wilderness and to feel its power over the lives in this story.