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.