We’re all at different places and have different experiences and points of view. What inspires one falls flat with another. What is touching to me may be trite and foolish to you. Yet we still share with each other, casting a net of inspiration in hopes that it will ensnare someone else. We want to drink from the same cup (of pleasure, suffering, hope) and be friends. So, if you’re ready for a bit of a rambling chat, grab tea or coffee and sit with me while I share a few of the fibers of the net of inspiration (and an unusually poetic mood) that’s caught me.
In My Voice Will Go With You: The Teaching Tales of Milton H. Erickson by Sidney Rosen, I read about a case where Milton Erickson, the late hypnotherapist, advises his patient to stop being miserable in a city she hates and take a vacation because, while there, she would find “a splash of color.”
What did that even mean? The idea so enticed her, she took the vacation and, you know what? She found the splash of color in a woodpecker. This ordinary thing became an extraordinary, joyful, eye-opening experience.
After the experience, she spent her time traveling, looking for other splashes of color in the world. Everything she saw now held potential for that “splash of color” in life.
Unfortunately, we can’t all afford to take such a vacation, but it doesn’t mean we can’t become aware of the splashes in our day to day lives.
Art can be a part of the vacation to look for a splash. Whether you’re creating or taking in the creation, you’re lifting the mind to a new place. Art can train us to see things we wouldn’t normally see. Art begets art. The more we see, the more fuel we have to create. And as far as I’m concerned, nature (which includes life) falls into that category. It’s art.
Shortly after I first began painting a few years ago, I visited a friend’s home. Approaching their door, I stopped, somewhat startled. What a lovely, dark shade of blue! I was sure it had never been blue before. I entered the house and, feeling a little silly, asked if they had painted the door recently. No. It had always been blue, but it seemed that the new intimacy with color had stimulated my brain.
I began to notice color EVERYWHERE. The combinations, how they worked together, how they blended, what was attractive, what wasn’t, and even how the ugly could be beautiful. It made the world new.
When I took to writing in earnest, I observed a similar awakening. Sometimes what I create feeds how I perceive my experiences, sometimes life feeds how I create. It appears that the two are one. You can’t separate them.
Just a small but relevant detail in a story may require time with my eyes closed to think it through, to hear, see, feel, and taste it in order to become centered in the experience and better enable me to write or to fully absorb it. The next time I encounter it in the physical world, I appreciate it all the more. The next time I find a profound thing of life caught in the precise and skillful words of an author, I take note and savor it. It pays to point out that I relate to people a little differently now, too, with more compassion and consideration of motive and body language. I’ve acquired a new interest in how food feels, tastes, and smells. Why? Because of writing. Because of reading. Because of painting. Because of singing. Because of music. Because of… *rambles on*
A lovely book, Women Who Run With the Wolves: Myths and Stories of the Wild Woman Archetype by Clarissa Pinkola Estés, Ph.D. has been sitting beside my kitchen sink for some time now. I’ve been reading it as I take care of the dishes. It’s been an inspiring and nourishing experience, and I’d like to share a piece of it with you.
“…many times it is the things of nature that are the most healing, especially the very accessible and the very simple ones. The medicines of nature are powerful and straightforward: a ladybug on the green rind of a watermelon, a robin with a string of yarn, a weed in perfect flower, a shooting star, even a rainbow in a glass shard in the street can be the right medicine.”
Reading this for the first time, I recalled points in life when I’ve seen these kinds of things. The emotional swell in my chest as I imagined a robin with a string of yarn in its beak (a red string in my mind) really got me to thinking about this idea of little things and how they grab me, how they keep me in a story, how they inspire… How, without reading and writing, I may never gotten my brain to feel as keenly as it does. How glad I am that these kinds of experiences never end. I will never be perfected in it. It has ample room to grow, and life may offer a million and one opportunities to wrap my psyche in their warmth.
Dry, hot potatoes or the wrinkle in an old woman’s forehead, the way someone’s neck feels under a character’s lips, or the way their hand whispers when they smooth their dress. A blue door, a sleeping child’s rosy cheeks, or the contrast between dark soil and white snow.
It’s often the little things that stay with us and perform their work in our hearts and minds for good or for bad. To me, popcorn, Christmas lights, and feeding birds are some of the greatest details of time with my grandma. Those aren’t big events. When the crystal vase of my grandma’s life broke into pieces, these are some of the precious shards I swept up and maintained in my memories. The thought of them comforts and makes my heart ache.
When we read, when we write, when we live, a single moment of a silent mind may show us the way lightning splits the sky in two and uncover a balm for our souls during this very difficult thing called life.
We must never let writing or reading be an excuse to fit the writerly/bookworm stereotypes. We must never let writing and reading be a reason to stop really living. Let it be a complement to living. Let it be a tool that hones your senses and emotions. The salt that brings out the flavor. A scratching that creates a tender place of sensitivity to the strength of life’s fine details.
Keep it alive in yourself and preserve your art in doing so. To cast a net of inspiration, you must first make the net.
Above all, I’d like to see this become a conversation. What things inspire you? Tell me about any similar journeys you’ve had or are currently on. What are little things in life that have healed or helped you as an artist or a person?
Sarah Joy Green-Hart