I just finished watching Shetland, a show set in the Shetland Islands of Scotland. Just hearing that Scottish burr, watching the incomparable rugged coastline, and the impossible green (impossible by the dry Colorado summer standards) made my heart beat faster. I know that this is a yearning, as I already missed my trip to Scotland, last month, due to the pandemic, but I hold out hope that I will still be able to travel by the end of next year. However, I did not set out to write this about my cancelled trip or my future travel plans. Because, what the TV show made me think about, most of all, is inspiration.
As a writer, I understand the importance of inspiration, but I neither trust it nor expect it. When I lived in Iowa, I was not inspired. While living in Iowa, writing was drudgery, even if I did manage to publish a couple of articles in a local magazine. It was on a brief trip to visit New Mexico that I felt truly enveloped and inspired by the beauty all around me. I wrote rubbish poetry in New Mexico, but I wrote a great deal of it, during that visit. Visiting New Mexico made me realize why Native Americans would consider the land sacred — red clay mountains against the azure blue sky, cream and terracotta-colored adobe houses dotting the landscape, sage brush and pinyon pine trees perfuming the air. The land is ancient, even if the State is young. Standing in line at a pharmacy in Santa Fe, a man started speaking to me about the weather, and it actually startled me. I had forgotten that outside of the upper Midwest people, were friendly and outgoing. The five-day visit was way too short, I dreaded going back to the tedious fields, flatlands, non-descript and non-inspiring landscape of Iowa.
As a writer, I am well aware that I should never wait for inspiration. The idea is that writers can write anywhere, the surroundings aren’t really as important as discipline, the work ethic that makes writers write. But man, oh man, does being surrounded by beauty help! In New Mexico, I was a stranger in a strange land, a land of enchantment (that’s the motto of the state of New Mexico, by the way). The problem is that when I went back, I was still a stranger in Iowa, as well. Iowa was never going to be my home — I could have lived there for decades and still not fit in.
When we moved back to Colorado, writing became easier and more fun. I was back in the place I grew up. Albeit, Denver, Colorado had more traffic and huge expansions into new and carbon-copy suburb developments. Seriously, there were neighborhoods were only a few short years ago, there were just open fields with occasional cows and horses. But this was home, the rugged beauty and fun of the mountains, the dry air with no mosquitos, the joggers and bikers, the abundance of restaurants, the microbreweries, and where my parents had lived for over twenty years.
I watched a TV show once, Saving Grace, where the main character climbed up a tree, and surveying the land around her, breathed out, “Beautiful.” And she was talking about Oklahoma. To be honest, the Oklahoma landscape around her was gorgeous, with green, gnarled trees giving way to a lovely meadow — not exactly the boring, flat, dirty state of Oklahoma I think of (when I think of it at all). But Oklahoma is large state — not all parts of it can be ugly, as is true of most places. But I digress. What I meant to say was perhaps we are creatures of our environment to a great degree. What if the place you had a happy childhood in, does not happen to be exotic or lush with beauty? In your eyes, it still may be the most beautiful place on this planet.
Now, where was I? Oh, sure! Inspiration. Maybe my entire point is, the place where you find beauty (and the place you consider beautiful) is probably a place where you would find creativity easier to come by. Perhaps “inspiration” comes from being in a place where your heart sings and your soul can breathe — even if that is just a particular room in your house, your back yard, or in a flat, green field in the upper Midwest.