Late to the shed today. I waited for the rain, a light drizzle to fall. It’s cozy inside when the horizon changes and the weather shifts.
I had a friend many years ago who experienced seasonal depression. When the weather changed and the day’s sun dimmed more quickly, he fell into a funk. He never thought it serious; it never threatened his world. But it was there and he knew it. I can understand. But this is not me.
I welcome the change. Not to say I am not saddened by the loss of a sunny summer day. I am. But sadness is part of the ups and downs of our days, our lives. These little instants of sadness are not interruptions or reasons to accept some melancholy malaise, but rather they are just threads in the larger fabric of a soul. You accept them. Cry a little. And get on with it.
Each little sadness is part of a larger experience. It’s about being aware of those moments, accommodating them, embracing them.
I’ve written before, and spoke at conferences and workshops, about how I do not believe in waiting or looking for stimuli for creative work. It is, in my estimation, is misguided to do so, even an excuse to put off the job at hand. I will not wait for a beautiful day in the park, seek a bench in a garden on a June day, or cloak myself in some melancholy moment, searching for some measure of inspiration. But can I be inspired? Absolutely.
So what inspires?
Good work. Beautiful prose. Poetry from Walt Whitman or Billy Collins. Music. Jason Isbell’s lyrics. Bob Dylan’s insight. The song of a morning bird. Early sun creating large, long shadows over grassy hills. Mountains. Big and bold. Great, lyrical journalism. Stories told by children. My dog’s cheerful greeting. The charcoal drawings my father created as a boy. (I still have them.) Rain. Sun. Clouds. Solitude. Quiet. But also big, joyous crowds. The power of the ocean or Lake Michigan. Firelight. Great coffee. My wife’s touch. My sons’ laughter.
Here in the shed, I am working on a new manuscript. It needs plenty of shaping. At the same time I am reading. I read a great deal. My wife thinks I buy a lot of books and worries that I am conveniently unaware of my habit. This is my extravagance, my indulgence. Those books, many of them, inspire me. But it’s not just the writing or my admiration for the writer, it comes from the mood the book offers. It is how it makes me feel. Even if it is just sitting there on the desk.
Lately, as I work on my latest project, I have three books nearby in the shed. They are not research; they are not there to influence my own work; they are not there to inform my approach. There Are Other Rivers by Alastair Humphreys, Gretel Ehrlich’s The Solitude of Open Spaces, and Wild Comfort by Kathleen Dean Moore each carry an ethereal air about them. It is something ghostly, as if they are hovering in the shadows to remind me of what I hope to accomplish. They are like guardian angels. Does that seem strange? It might. But those books are what inspire me today, right now. Not necessarily what has inspired me in the past. Kerouac’s On the Road has been one of the many. Every book here in the shed combined with the solace this place has offered me something magical to consider.
I do not look for inspiration. I do not seek it. I do not sit and wait for it, for it is like Godot. Instead, I allow it to find me. It is all around. In joy. In sadness. Everywhere.
The rain has stopped now and through the blinds on the shed’s door I see a tiny bit of blue in the western sky. What a lovely sight.