A year of nature observation and reflection in Nova Scotia leads to Seeker at Matheson Brook, a book filled with love for the earth, rural life, and family.

Every writer has more than one project on the go. In my last post, I introduced readers to my debut novel, Braver Than You Know, written under my pen name, Katie Ardea. My next project is editing my non-fiction manuscript, Seeker at Matheson Brook, a journal recounting a year of observation and reflection here in northern Nova Scotia.

A door to freedom

In April of 1997, I was a harried, stay-at-home, homeschooling mother of two young sons. Trained as a biologist, I sometimes felt at the end of my rope. I yearned for time to discover and rediscover mysteries of nature and to write about them in the hope that in doing so I might rediscover myself. Then, one day, my husband, Vilis, offered to take a turn at teaching our sons one day each week. His offer opened a door to freedom, and I joyfully hastened through it.

Fallen red maple (Acer rubrum) leaves (©2019 Magi Nams)

Seeing nature with new eyes

So began a year of intense observation and reflection during which I saw things in nature I’d never seen before and reveled in sights I’d seen every day. My senses opened to the  world in a way they never had before, granting me a more vivid appreciation for God’s gift of this amazing world.

Through frustration, joy, and sorrow, I scribbled notes while I walked, and I memorized details and images while I ran. At home, I typed those observations and reflections into a rough manuscript that blended anecdotes of everyday life with explorations of the natural world on my doorstep.

A story of love for the earth, rural life, and family

My year of journal writing ended in April 1998, but my hectic life continued, with the result that the manuscript retained its rough form for twenty years. Last year, I dusted it off, revised, and deepened it. The result is Seeker at Matheson Brook, a story of love for the earth, rural life, and family.

I thought the manuscript was looking good, but a publisher I submitted it to said it still needs polishing. That will be my top priority for this coming winter.

Read an excerpt

Below, I’ve included an excerpt from Seeker at Matheson Brook, illustrated with photos I took recently while walking the rural Nova Scotia route featured in the excerpt.

(I read this excerpt to a group of writers in my home village of Tatamagouche. A photographer and writer commented afterward, “I want to take pictures of the forest.” A painter and writer said, “I want to go home and paint.” It seems they were inspired. Have a read and see what you think.)

Seeker at Matheson Brook © 2019 by Magi Nams

“October 22…My breath is white heat against cold air, the meadow grasses immobile under frost. In the woods, fallen leaves are crisp flakes of autumn beneath my feet. I seek them out, make them crackle, and then return to the middle of the road where footsteps fall more quietly. The Cathedral hemlocks rise tall around me, straightening my spine and pushing the crown of my head up into the sky. They’re as still as a breath held, as dark as midnight. Beyond them, in the thinned forest near Balmoral Road, leaves of maple, birch, ash, and aspen hang like autumn flames frozen in still air.

The Writing Life: Seeker at Matheson Brook, a year of observation and reflection
Autumn Glory on my Back Road (© 2019 Magi Nams)

My clothes and footsteps are too loud for this morning. On Balmoral Road, an oncoming car is a locomotive bearing down on me and then receding. An ATV’s roar is an explosion against the hillside. We’ve made our world so loud! What would I have heard had I walked here a hundred years ago? The rumble of nearby Balmoral Grist Mill and the jingle of horse bells? What about two hundred years ago? Bird song and light steps?

Balmoral Road after autumn storm (© 2019 Magi Nams)
Balmoral Grist Mill Museum (©2019 Magi Nams)

Beside Matheson Brook Road, shivering aspen leaves are brilliant tongues of golden fire, bright in the morning sun. A ruffed grouse missiles across the road. The dark band on its broad tail is one arcing curve, and the curl of its braking wing, another.

Leaves whose petioles clung to twigs throughout the night give up their hold and fall lightly to the forest floor. The neighbor’s dog barks. A school bus passes. The loud sounds are here, then gone, and again I hear the soft fall of dying leaves. Chickadees murmur. My breath is white heat against cold air, the roadside alders immobile under frost.

On the front road, fallen leaves crunch underfoot. Sunlight that doesn’t yet seek this dark, shaded slope hits sugar maples and largetooth aspens on the far side of the brook. They flame with golden fire while I walk in frost.

The Writng Life: Seeker at Matheson Brook, a year of observation and reflection: Bridge over Matheson Brook
Bridge over Matheson Brook (© 2019 Magi Nams)

The red maple by the pond stands naked, her dress in dull tatters on the ground, her grey arms reaching to the sky. Old grasses clutter the hill. On the porch, pumpkins and dry cornstalks are shades of orange and gold. In the house, I smell apples drying, eat stone-ground oatmeal, and paint my mind with pictures of orange and gold, of grouse and flames, of dying leaves and the white heat of breath against cold air.”

If you enjoyed the excerpt, please share it. And if you’d like to comment, jot your thoughts in the box below. I’d love to hear from you!

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