Terry Nichols is a world traveler who has published over 100 blogs about her experiences abroad. Her thirty-year career as a National Park Service ranger transplanted her from her childhood home in Cincinnati, Ohio to parks in the high desert and canyon country of the Southwest. As a former park ranger, she has written hundreds of trail guides, interpretive brochures, articles, professional papers, teacher guides, and exhibit materials to assist visitors to connect with the diverse human history and plant and animal life of the region. Inspired by a stowaway packrat who hitched a ride in her ’79 Volkswagen van on a camping trip, she wrote her debut middle grade novel, The Dreaded Cliff. Mother of two grown sons, Terry lives in Aztec, New Mexico, where she continues to write and talk to packrats and lizards every chance she gets.
That’s the short version. Here’s more:
I’m a wanderer. To physical places. To imaginary places. I play with how my thoughts find experiences in the physical world. Like the time I found perfection one early morning before the bullock cart races in India, amidst the teams of wiry men, lean bullocks, two-wheeled carts, fans and garbage on the streets, stray dogs, buzzing motor cycles, and a tea stall with customers trampling the colored powder mandala freshly laid at its dirt entrance. For a moment I was there, and I was everything and everything was perfect in that village in India. I like to write about those wanderings.
I like to think about stuff. Like the tarantula den near my house. She’s holed up in a perfect round tunnel, dipping into the earth, into the underworld. Sometimes the den entrance is woven over with white silk and then I know she’s home, resting, perhaps waiting for a future suitor. Other times there’s no silk and I worry. Did something get in there and do her in, like a tarantula hawk? Or is she out on a stroll, hunting for a suitable bug to chew before she returns home to wait and wait and wait? But later her woven shield appears and I know she’s safe. Does she ever think about the giant creature who peers into her hole every day and wonder with every thud thud thud of her approach whether that alien will do her harm? I hope not. I tell her I’m glad she’s there and I hope she stays safe.
I’ll take on big projects. Like building my strawbale studio. Three years, yessir, that’s how long it took. Longer, if I count the two years of planning. No experience in construction, but I convinced myself I could do it. I’ll never repeat that one. But then I wrote a novel—The Dreaded Cliff—about a packrat who loses her nest but discovers the true meaning of home and family. Fifteen years, yessir, from my first scribblings to acceptance by a publisher. The story is not long or complex. But it took me a long time to get it out of my head on to paper the way I wanted it. It was a big project.
Creating is important. Doesn’t matter whether it’s a sandwich, an idea, a doodle, garden, tune, a relationship with a person or a rock—creating is what it’s all about. Expanding, growing, traveling, seeking, exploring, rejoicing. The process—not the product—is where I thrive, where I find my joy.