Inspired Ideas

Painted a still life of a few things that inspire ideas.

Painted a still life of a few things that inspire ideas.

The Canandaigua Writers Group met recently, and a common theme among the group was that we get easily side-tracked and don’t finish things we start.  A novel becomes a project we work on over years, while other ideas appear in our brain that we have to get written down before they disappear.  A word or two, a visual prompt, or a dream can be the seed of the best poem or book ever written! It’s as if a character has taken up a space in our brain that has to tell us what he, she or it is up to. And who doesn’t think of something, an idea or a mental picture, maybe a memory, and think “I’ll remember that when I get home and start writing about it.”  Sadly, if I don’t pull the notebook out of my purse and write down at least a morsel of information about the concept, I almost always forget what it was later.

There’s also the problem with creativity of how to know when something is finished.  One can always keep going over something and editing and re-editing. Does the poem need one more line?  At some point, we have to allow ourselves to say  “It’s done.  It’s not perfect, but it’s really good.”  Own it.

I’ve started, and hopefully I’ll actually finish, a sort of card catalog.  I’m looking at each of my story and novel document files on the computer, and writing down what the title is, what the computer file name is, and where I am in the process. For example, I’m pencilling in “draft” or “edit” or “Illustrate.”  I’ve discovered snippets of concepts, essays I’ve done, poems I’ve forgotten, and stories who have characters taking up forgotten spaces in my mind. The process has inspired me to start working on at least one of the children’s stories I started some time ago.

I can’t say how successful I’ll be at completing my catalog, but hopefully some of these characters who have taken up residence in my head will tell me what they are up to next.  Good or evil?  Saving or destroying mankind as we know it?  Fairies flitting about a garden making flowers bloom?  Who knows?  You don’t know unless you try, right?

I’d better make a note of that fairy idea, before I forget it…


An urn in Sonnenberg Gardens smiles across the Italian garden on a summer day.

An urn in Sonnenberg Gardens smiles across the Italian garden on a summer day.

What makes you smile? What makes your blood circulate a bit faster? Is it the sight of your grandson’s toes? The scent of that first cup of coffee in the morning? Something that gives you an idea?

If we had a “sparkle meter” in our brains that rose and fell with things that uplift us, I think mine would rise with the smallest things. Seeing a hummingbird flitting among the bee balm lifts me more than buying a fancy purse at the mall. Seeing a child’s coloring of a rainbow lifts my spirit, more than watching another sitcom rerun on TV. Fog rolling in around my house can even inspire a spooky story in my brain that I have to get written while the spark is there.

I realize that the world is far from perfect but gives us so much. I think about the influences I’ve received from so many directions. It’s hard to explain, but when I start reaching outside myself, I’m influenced by the tiniest snail or the artwork of Botticelli, or the wonderful art being made by people like Pat Rini Rohrer. Seeing a flower blooming or an antique dress at Sonnenberg Gardens and Mansion can give me inspiration. It’s like nutrition for the soul. Watching the eagles fly over Montezuma seeps into me and teaches me to pay attention. The community of thinkers, artists and writers I know adds imagination and flavor to my world.

Today I watched the deer in the woods, looking for morsels to nibble on, so beautiful as the snow fell upon them. The moved slowly, and I smiled.


Painted this view of the lighthouse buildings on the top of the hill on Mohegan island, Maine.

Painted this view of the lighthouse buildings on the top of the hill on Mohegan island, Maine.

I think we all strive to do something, whatever we are doing whether it’s writing, painting, learning something new.  We think we’re supposed to do it, work on it, no matter how we feel. Recently, I was talking to a fellow artist (who is a fantastic and talented painter). He admitted sometimes he doesn’t feel up to the task of creating.  I told him that was okay to give yourself permission not to paint at times.  We have to realize that we aren’t always in “creativity mode” and that’s when we give ourselves permission to step back and breathe a little bit.  Creating can come later when we’ve recharged, our brain and body are back into the process.  We also have to give ourselves permission to  get rid of our creations if we aren’t satisfied with them.  Start over from scratch.

I met an artist a few years ago on Monhegan Island, Maine, in his studio.  He has decades of painting behind him, and he gets a lot of money from his wonderful paintings.  But he also had a pile of paintings that he was going to destroy.  Although he didn’t elaborate, when asked what he found wrong with a particular painting, he answered, “Because the paint got too close to the canvas.”  We laughed, but we knew what he meant.  All artwork is not a work of art.  Sometimes the exercise of creating something is just a lesson for what better work is to come.  I call them “studies” when I’m not painting what I want to paint but it doesn’t mean I can’t start again and get what I’m looking for in my work.

The Gift


Frost on a leaf,
once green
Faded to softest red
Crunches underfoot
Winter comes

Artists aren’t necessarily just people who know how to wield a paintbrush or a pencil, chisel or clay, words, camera or an instrument.  I think artists are people who have an extra “eye” within their soul, an eye that gives them a gift.  The gift shows itself when an artist encounters something that others might overlook.  It might be a cloud, a rusty truck, a stranger’s smile, ice at water’s edge, or moss on a tree’s bark.

The artist sees something in these things that inspires them to create, to hold onto something from that otherwise ignored moment in time.  I remember being in Italy in an old Tuscan mountain town with a group of painters.  We walked by a door, faded, worn, surrounded by old stone wall.  Several of us were drawn to that door, and the inhabitants of the town probably thought we were at least a bit off.  But that door spoke to us as a beautiful thing.  I once saw a woman photographing the base of a fire hydrant.  Most would ask why, but I think she saw something there that intrigued and inspired her.  I was recently in a meditation at the end of a yoga class, and soft music played. By the time the meditation ended, I had an entire short story and the illustrations poured into my mind. A photographer posted photos he took of ice in a stream, with rocks and dead leaves, in patterns only nature could create.  I relished these images as gifts that the photographer gave those who chose to see the marvelous there.

Tuscan mountain village door

Tuscan mountain village door

Of course, the downside is that artists often are distracted, driven by their gift of marveling in the ordinary and the need to make something from that inspiration.  Sometimes these distractions give them the desire to create things that others cannot understand, fantastic and otherworldly, unique stuff of dreams.

Whatever your gift gives you, I hope for this new year to allow you to receive the moments and experiences that become wonderful creations to share with the world.

Yoga – Body and Soul


I’ve recently been getting to some of Grounded By Yoga’s classes in their Canandaigua, NY location; they are based in Bloomfield.  I’ve practiced yoga off and on over a few decades, but always feel better when I come back to it as part of my life practice.  There is a wellness within body and soul that I receive with every practice session.  Different teachers have different styles, some more active, some more gentle, but I’ve enjoyed all that I’ve taken classes with.  Something about turning inward in a calm, centering way, connecting with our breathing and attempting to clear the fuzz out of our brains that buzzes and irritates us is always a good thing.  And one yoga teacher I had said that it wasn’t whether you can touch your toes or not, but that you’re not thinking about other things while trying to touch your toes.  It’s okay if you can’t twist yourself into a pretzel, or if you fall over every time you try to stand on one foot with your eyes closed, but the focus and peace one can receive is like a gift.  Some people get the same thing from other practices like running or rock climbing, painting, or playing piano. I’ve been “given” ideas for artwork and writings while in a yoga practice. The benefits of yoga practice are wonderful for what’s inside us, and that shows on the outside.

Fresh Air and Sunshine

View from the White Clover Sheep Farm

View from the White Clover Sheep Farm

A good smile and a wild hairdo?

A good smile and a wild hairdo?

With an abundance of events this time of year, I can’t help but think about how fortunate I am to live in such a beautiful place.  The Finger Lakes region of New York has so much to offer.  We get busy and forget how special not only the place is but how special the people are.  This weekend I’ve made it to just a couple of the places people have been going to where they’ve been enjoying Autumn’s bounty and some smiles.

Yesterday I went to White Clover Sheep Farm near Rushville and found a gathering to watch a sheep herding competition.  It was neat to watch a woman working a herd with her highly-trained German Shepherd.  Spectators were of all ages and could not only watch the competition but visit and have food including a really good-looking apple crisp.  Views into the distance over the hills were gorgeous.  Driving south to Naples, I stopped at Grimes Glen.  Pretty back in there, and it brought back memories from childhood of family outings there.  I remember my sister not wanting me to follow her on the trail on the other side of the creek, and she told me there were bears over there to scare me off.  Have to say I was looking over my shoulder for bears as I was photographing along the glen.  The drive north to Canandaigua was beautiful when sun shone over the hills.

Today I went to Lazy Acre Alpacas Farm near West Bloomfield.  Their annual open house had tours of the farm and information about the alpacas, pony and horse rides, spinning and weaving demos, refreshments and more.  Seeing kids out there, learning about farming and raising animals, getting some fresh air, was excellent.  I wonder how many kids these days really know what a farm is like and about creatures such as these. Not sure what the alpacas think of us.

I took some photos that I’m sure will inspire some artwork and stories.  And getting out and about is good for the soul and the muscles in our face that make a smile.

Statues and Fairies

Fawn statue at Glenveagh Castle being visited by a "fairy."

Fawn statue at Glenveagh Castle being visited by a “fairy.”

I’ve been toying with this photo collage for a while.  I had taken photos at Glenveagh National Park in Ireland, and this deer statue was on the grounds of the castle.  I decided to assemble a “fairy” using my photos including a morpho butterfly I saw in Rochester, NY’s Strong museum butterfly garden to be the wings.  I’m planning to get back to Ireland in 2015, and return to Glenveagh.  I’m sure I’ll find more inspiration there, and possibly an Irish fairy or two.

My current college Graphic Design class is challenging me, and practicing using the Wacom graphic tablet at home for different creative ideas is fun.  If I’d had this kind of tool as a kid, wow!!  But I guess it’s good to be a bit of a kid now, too.  My “inner child” has to be nurtured with some of the same things I did as a child, with a glass of wine thrown in occasionally.

Just Drawing

Kimono and Koi

Checking out at the grocery store recently, the young cashier liked my tote bags with my artwork on them.  She said she is an artist, too.  I asked her what she uses and she said she’s “just drawing.” I suggested that drawing is excellent and admirable.  After taking college drawing classes for a few semesters and admiring the drawing skills of many artists, I hold the practice of drawing in high regard.  Drawing can be a scribble or doodle, getting down a concept in a few lines, or a painstaking effort of hours with pencil in hand over a pad of paper.  I’ve spent moments getting an idea out or hours completing a colored pencil piece.  I’ve looked a Da Vinci and Rembrandt drawings with wonder, or a niece’s simple crayon drawing that she gifted to me with the same wonder.  I’ve met a young man who lost the ability to use his right hand to draw, so he taught himself to do beautiful renderings with his left hand.  It’s all good.

Joy and Sadness

Honey painting resized

My family has recently had a sick kitty and sadly had to let her go.  Honey had kidney issues, is about 14 1/2 years old, I think, and was a feisty 6.3 pounder.  She started acting out of sorts, and I took her to the vet.  A kidney panel blood workup showed a lot very out of whack and she obviously wasn’t feeling well.  So she was in the “hospital” and being treated, and my husband and I hoped they could figure out how to keep her with us a while longer.  As a pet owner and steward of this kitty’s welfare, it isn’t easy to know when the pet is going to be better or when the pet is suffering.  When it became clear that her kidneys were no longer functioning well enough to remove the toxins building in her body, it was time to do the kind thing, with the Vet’s recommendation.

My husband and I were with Honey when the time came to euthanize her.  How heartbroken we are, so sad to live without this special cat in our lives.  When time heals us a bit, I hope to give another good cat who needs a forever home a place with us.  I can’t thank Happy Tails shelter and the Canandaigua Veterinary Hospital enough for helping us have and take care of Honey for over eight years.  She was special. So, while I’m very sad, I’m glad that we could take care of Honey and she could give us so much in return in the time we had her.

A Gem in My Own Backyard


Yesterday I walked in Sonnenberg Gardens and Mansion here in Canandaigua, New York.  Always delightful and such a treasure to have right here so close to my home.  We often think we have to go to some exotic place to visit something wonderful — when wonderful can be right where you are.  

What can make me smile can be a flower being visited by a butterfly or an old-fashioned dress hanging on a hanger in the mansion as though it was waiting to be worn again. Frogs were calling each other from a pool in the Japanese Garden.  Dahlias are bursting forth with gorgeous colors. I can only dream of mixing my oil paints to get those hues. Tiny creatures flew and fed within the gardens’ blossoms.

abelia frog

I tried to photograph a spider – but was having a hard time getting a good focus on the tiny thing on its web.  Reminds me sometimes we’re so busy looking at the “big picture” that we forget to notice the little things in life – the now, the moment we’re in right now.  How often we find ourselves distracted. Sometimes coming back to the natural world and truly observing the life we find can be the best cure for whatever occupies too much space in our minds.