Sunday, 7 August 2016

There are two places that are home to me: A Guest Post by Dagny McKinley

There are two places that are home to me: my writing and nature. Writing has been with me since I can remember. My parents read stories to me growing up and from a young age I loved the imagination necessary to create. The first story I remember writing was How the Leprechauns Got Their Name. Today, creating stories fills me with peace inside. When I sit down to write I become absorbed in the worlds and images I’m trying to create and the rest of me disappears. I become the story.


My second home and the place I feel whole is in nature. When my family and I lived in Dogmersfield, Hants we went for family walks along the canal. I complained on every walk about how my feet hurt and how I wanted to go home but they kept making me go. When I was nine my sister and I were sent to camp in Canada on an island with no phones, no electricity and no hot water. We learned to bathe in the lake, how to make fires and pitch a tent, how to shoot a bow and arrow, how to canoe and more. Those months at camp taught me a love of nature and of being outdoors. I remember being woken up on the night of the full moon at camp. Our counselor walked us down a path to the end of the island where a large cauldron bubbled with hot chocolate. We were each given a cup to sip as we sang songs facing the full moon watching its reflection on the lake surrounding us. Later in life the wilderness became my home, a place of refuge, of growth and of healing for me. I spent three seasons as a volunteer backcountry ranger in Yosemite National Park where the world opened up to me. I learned to take care of myself and began photographing the places that meant so much to me.



Eleven years ago I worked for a dog sledding tour company. I fell in love with the sled dogs. I began to photograph them trying to capture their personalities, their unconditional love and their strength. Those photographs led to my first book Wild Hearts: Dog Sledding the Rockies. From that job I brought home an Alaskan Husky puppy, Alma Rose. She is my best friend and has accompanied me on more adventures than I can count. We hike together for several hours every day. She has taught me to appreciate the smallest moments in life. My adventures with her led me to write The Adventures of a Girl & Her Dog, a book series that celebrates the bond between a girl and her dog as they explore the natural world around them. Getting to know the wilderness as well as the town I live in was the inspiration for writing The Springs of Steamboat: healing waters, mysterious caves and sparkling soda. This book tells the history of the small town I live in. Writing the book gave me a much greater appreciation for the town I live in and the wonders it offers.


Today I have settled into the places that I call home. I wake up grateful for the life I live, for every sunrise and sunset and the wild animals I have had the privilege of encountering. When I come home, most days I write, looking for ways to express the inspirational world around me. 


Dear Dagny, thank you for sharing such a delightful post. I just know readers of this blog will enjoy it as much as I did. Barbara


Dagny McKinley has lived many places, but found a home in the expansive granite landscape of the Sierra Nevada mountain range. She is as comfortable in the city as she is in the wilderness, but prefers the challenges of big mountains and surviving outdoors. Dagny stays current on environmental issues, women’s issues and is an avid animal rights supporter. She believes all lives are interconnected and each person, landscape and insect has something to offer and teach. Writing has been a part of Dagny's life since she was a small child. She found healing through writing and nature and continues to immerse herself in those passions today.

44 comments:

  1. Such a lovely post and photos! I find tremendous comfort and joy in nature and in my blog posts. It seems that Dagny and I have this in common. :)

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    1. I agree with you Linda, both about the post and a love of nature. So now there are three of us, and I'm willing to bet there are hundreds more. Barbara

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    2. We definitely have this in common. I'm so glad to find other people that share the same loves that I do.

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  2. Hello Dagny, Barbara, What a delightful story, Dagny I envy your ability to write so well of your experiences of such beautiful places and then create such interesting reading. It is a gift you have as does Barbara too. Thank you. John

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    1. Oh my goodness John, if only that were true! I wish I had even a tiny fraction of the talent exhibited by Dagny. I’m so pleased you enjoyed the post, Barbara.

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    2. Thank you so much John. That means a lot to me!

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  3. Lovely post, Dagny. Thanks for sharing your experiences with nature, as well as the beautiful pictures of you and Alma Rose!

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  4. Hello Barbara my friend, and pleasant to meet you, Dagny! I know what you mean about that feeling when you write. I was an only child and had very few toys...the only thing I had an abundance of was brown paper bags that my mother would give me and pencils. Once Christmas in fact, she had no money, so I got a pencil for Christmas. That was my destiny. I loved however, being in my world where I'd imagine, draw, and write what I observe. I too made friends with the neighbor's dog and he was about the only friend I had for a while, living in the bad parts of Los Angeles!

    Nature, creativity and our willingness to change are marvelous ways to live. I wish you continued joy in your journey!

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    1. Thank you so much! I think there are people in this world that relate more to animals than other people. I know I do. My dog will always be my best friend.

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  5. Lovely post. I love husky's. I only wish I had time enough to take dog for walks. That's why I stick with cats; they do everything for themselves.

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    1. I've had cats most of my life and they are such loving, amazing animals and as you say, so independent!

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  6. Dear Barbara and Dagny,

    Lovely to read your post and thanks for sharing your beautiful photos of nature and your gorgeous Alma Rose.
    Happy new week
    Hugs
    Carolyn

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    1. Thank you Carolyn, hugs back to you. Barbara

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  7. How wonderful to hear from Dagny! I went to sleep away camp in New Hampshire, USA for most of my life (I stopped going when I was going when I was 17 I loved it so much). I learned so much about nature there too. Some of my favorite memories are from camp and the canoe trips, hikes, and other activities we would do. Loved hearing about Dagny's experience.

    I love that you got to be a ranger at Yellowstone. It is one of my favorite places on earth and I think it is fantastic you got to spend so much time there. I have been there for visits on two separate occasions and it is just out of this world.

    Wishing Dagny all the best with her writing. :)

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    1. Thank you so much. Yosemite is a magical place! I'm glad you had such a great experience with camp. I know my experiences have shaped me in ways I can't give enough thanks for.

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  8. Hi Barbara! You do have lovely, fascinating friends.
    Dagny -this is an inspiring post.Your photos are fabulous. What can be better than reading surrounded by nature (maybe with a cup of tea/some chocolate....)?

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    1. Hi Colleen, how lucky am I? Dagny is an inspiration. Thanks for coming over. Barbara

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    2. Thank you. I do think chocolate makes everything better!

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  9. Finding your place and your passion is what makes for a happy and fulfilled life. You've done that, and I love your dog images. They are beautiful.

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  10. What a great post Dagny. We just got a dog ourselves so I understand your love for Alma Rose. I love that you consider writing your home! That is so great. Thanks Barbara for featuring Dagny.

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    1. I hope you enjoy the time you have with your dog as much as I do!

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  11. What a wonderful post, it filled me with such joy.

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    1. I agree Tracy, it is wonderful indeed!

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    2. Yay! I'm so happy to hear that!

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  12. A lovely, lovely post, what an interesting and clever lady

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  13. How cool that she worked for a dog sledding tour company! Nature isn't really my thing, unless I'm watching it through a window in a temperature-controlled building! But I live in Tennessee, where it's 90 degrees-plus from April to October!

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    1. I understand Stephanie and might not be so keen in those temperatures! England is much kinder to us – unless it is in the depths of winter when it can get pretty chilly. We all complain about the rain, but it does ensure a green and pleasant land.

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    2. There's nothing wrong with enjoying nature through a window! My dog won't move in 90 degree weather.

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  14. Very nice getting to know you, Dagny! Your camp in Canada sounds wonderful. An island with a bubbling cauldron of hot chocolate=Yum. Reading about your experience working and living with dogs makes me wistful. Where there is Nature and your dogs is definitely where home is for you.

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    1. Thank you Claudine! Canada was amazing and I can't believe I get to wake up to the happy face of my dog every day.

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  15. As I read this post, I kept getting distracted by that lovely dog! Wow. Dagny, I'm sure you know that Alma Rose is stunning.

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    1. Thank you. I used to tell Alma Rose how beautiful she is, but I think it may have gone to her heard, so instead I tell her how perfect she is!

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  16. Hi Barbara and Dagny,

    Dagny, your passion for writing and your passion for nature are intertwined with the magic of it all.

    You understand the wisdom of dogs. For yes, dogs teach us lessons about unconditional, non-judgemental love.

    Your story is therapy for me and no doubt, a positive tonic for you.

    Thank you for this. Thank you for having Dagny guest on your site, Barbara.

    Gary

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  17. Thank you for the comment, Gary. Do you have a dog? I am still learning so much from Alma Rose.

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    1. Hi Dagny,

      You are most welcome for the comment. Indeed, I have a dog named Penny, who kindly allows me to live with her. Penny is actually a modest internet superstar! Our animal friends do indeed have much to teach us. Alma Rose will continue to inspire you.

      Gary

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I really appreciate your comment. Thank you!
Barbara xx

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