Monday, April 16, 2007

More on Inspiration: Where do you find it?

It's been a difficult two weeks. Just that long ago I was wearing sandals...SANDALS! And today I was bundled up in my February clothes.

My mild resentment about this cold, wet spring makes me feel a little guilty. Somehow, I picked up the belief that I "should" find inspiration everywhere, on every day. And I guess I could, if I really got the whole acceptance thing down.

But it's been wet and cold and gray for what feels like forever. Which is more than a bit painful after a lovely stretch of early spring warmth at the end of March. So, instead of looking around me today, I thought I'd look to the past for some relief and vicarious, photograph-induced Vitamin D...

This is the view from the porch at the Albert Stevens Inn, in Cape May, NJ.

Have you noticed that I return to Cape May frequently in my writing/blogging? That's because it's one of the coziest, most relaxing, unstressful , romantic, beautiful, and accessible places I know. We can get there easily: Drive up through Delaware and catch the Cape May-Lewes Ferry for a fun ride across the mouth of the bay (some day I'll tell you about our hurricane crossings!). When we disembark in NJ, our favorite room and a big warm welcome are guaranteed to be waiting for us at the Albert Stevens.The inn embraces us, filling us with that wonderful "coming home" feeling.

This is the high bed in our room, or rather "Bessie's Room."

According to legend, Bessie has been known to let a guest or two know if she prefers they sleep elsewhere. Chris and I respect the Stevens' house and the memories of their family. We're both aware that we're guests in their home. And we've never had any unpleasant awakenings. I believe it's possible, but really, I am quite happy not encountering the stern presence of the mistress of the house late in the night.

The Stevens are all gone now, and the new owners have revived the house to its turn-of-the-century glory. (I imagine this makes Dr. and Mrs. Stevens, and Vesta, their daughter, quite happy.) I know it makes US happy! Jim andLenanne are the best of hosts. He always has the latest scoop on Cape May happenings (theater, concerts, great early-bird specials at pricey restaurants). And she cooks up THE most delicious (and filling!) breakfasts.

In the late afternoon, as guests trickle back from long walks along the shore or a day's worth of exploring the town's many tourist shops and fancier boutiques, tea is served, complete with crackers and cheese, home made cookies, sherry, and (in colder months) hot apple cider.

This is our cozy little bathroom.

OK, I know this reads like a travelogue. But that's not my primary intention.

My point is that, when the days get dreary and damp, making me feel like every thing I do requires a major effort, I can close my eyes and go back to Cape May...all the while anticipating our next visit. I can see the patterns of the clouds on the steel-blue Atlantic the honey-colored sun streaming through the breakfast-room windows; the brilliant hues of leaves and flowers; and the crisp red and white of the Cape May Lighthouse.

The pastel and jewel hues of Cape May's Victorians, the quality of the sea-side light, the scent of salt and fireplaces, the patterns and textures of sand dunes and shingles and roof tiles...These are among my treasures. When my world is drab or frightening, I can take them out, hold them, polish them, press them to my cheek and feel their sleek perfection and comforting shapes, sounds, sights, smells, and tastes.

Inspiring, yes. And encouraging. And hopeful. Do these reflections find their way into my art? I think so...I know so.

For me, inspiration IS everywhere. But that doesn't mean the best inspiration is always in my immediate surroundings. It can be in our memories. In our histories--cultural and personal. Inspiration can be found in a dream, a conversation, a photograph, or a good book.

Well, that's probably enough about me.

I would love to know what places inspire you. Do you find elusive creative encouragement close to home? Or do you need to travel the world to collect your treasures? What role does "Setting" play in your creative process?


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