Inspiration is an elusive sensation with the power to move our minds and our emotions. It may be captured in a sunset or a child’s smile or a rainbow. We may be inspired by a famous person or a person doing an heroic act or a close friend or a family member. Inspiration may touch our creative talent or our hearts or our self-image. It has the ability to come as a jolt or make the hair stand up on the backs of our necks or sweep over us and fill our souls. Yes, it’s out there.
Sometimes inspiration is a short burst, born from a quotation or a saying or a sentence we’ve read. “Thought bites” we file in our memories or tack on our bulletin boards or write on post-its and stick on our computers. Some of mine:
Don’t tell me the moon is shining; show me the glint of light on broken glass. – Anton Chekov
Let each become all he is capable of being. (My undergraduate school motto.)
You is kind. You is smart. You is important. From The Help by Kathryn Stockett.
As writers, we may experience inspiration in another way. It occurs when something triggers an idea and makes us want to start a story, develop a character, write a scene, or find words to a poem. The trigger could be anything. A person, an event, a landscape, an object, a natural wonder, a place, a work of art, a picture, a conversation, a headline. A thought. Whatever it is, it strikes or nudges and … won’t leave.
I found this to be true with Monet’s water lily paintings and Sylvia Shaw Judson’s statue Bird Girl. They brought my words to paper:
on a gallery wall
mint echoes emerald
mauve begets pink
water sings light
little Bird Girl
bronze patina mellowed
in the cemetery garden
a sip of fresh water
small creatures venture
The picture Nighthawks by Edward Hopper has always attracted me. There’s a story here. But whose story is it, from whose point-of-view? The man sitting alone at the coffee shop counter with his back to the world? The man who works behind the counter? The other man? The woman? Where is this place? If I choose the solitary man, why is he there? Where has he been? Where is he going? What does he want? What obstacles stand in his way? I am curious to discover the story. To explore “What if …. ”
Other times something just moves us. For example, a piece of art. However, describing what I see in a piece of art and how it makes me feel or how it inspires me is a subjective venture. Chances are it’s not what someone else sees or feels. And there in lies the joy of art. Each piece “speaks” to a person differently.
The original lithograph below is by Navajo artist R. C. Gorman. It hangs in our living room. Every time I look at it, I feel the remoteness of the setting, the harshness of the land, and the strength, patience, and courage of the women. And, strangely, a peacefulness.
The women appear to be resting or waiting. Perhaps they are reflecting on the day’s events. The sky seems filled with a hopeful light, even though life may be hard, the terrain demanding. The lone pottery piece speaks of purpose, of a way of life, and traditions. Their lives are built on the past and carry on to the future.
An interesting aside. The lithograph is framed in koa wood, native to Hawaii. The word koa in Hawaiian means brave or warrior. Chinle is the Navajo word for “flowing out.”
In today’s terms, I find the picture encouraging. We continue to survive, discover, and create. Despite the difficulties of the times, we find our patience, strength, and endurance. We learn and grow by reflecting on our lives or our goals or our situation. We build on gifts of past generations and our contributions become gifts to share with the future.
Gorman works with little form but captures much content. This work of art generates a feeling of peaceful reflection, of hope. It inspires me to seek and keep discovering the better part of me.
Does a higher power put us in inspiration’s path? I think so. All we have to do is listen. And allow ourselves to feel.