Inspiration comes from many sources. In these posts I explore inspiration in its broadest sense. To read the full post, click on the title link.
Every year a pair of herring gulls nest on the roof opposite my office. I watch the transformation of the chicks from grey balls of fluff to birds. I see the parents, posted at opposite ends of the roof, tirelessly watching over their babies.
This post is about the inspiration of flight and new wings.
Every time I have visited this forest I have climbed the path up the hill. It is clearly a path – russet and spongy with fallen pine needles – but it is a path that doesn’t make itself easily known.
This post is about the challenges of giving up smoking and the strength and inspiration the forest brings.
In the stillness of a half-lit house it is easy to believe that the world is at rest. There is no movement that I can perceive. No sound to crack the silence. But stillness is an illusion. My body is a commotion of movement. I breathe in and out, my heart beats, eyes blink, cells vibrate, synapses fire. When I am still, I am never motionless.
This post explores the way the earth is always in motion.
The cemetery is at its most luminous in late spring and autumn, the key hinges of the year. In autumn, the cemetery hums with the colours of turning leaves. But now, in late May, it brims with the lace of cow parsley and a tide of bluebells. Spring has not come quietly. It has burst, all of a sudden.
This post is about the bursting of spring.
The forest is an emerald, accented by blushes of pink. Trailing larches, tottering pines, glossy-leaved rhododendrons. Flowers of campion and herb Robert. Luscious rhododendron blooms now past their best. And spears of foxglove, like torches in the shade.
This post is about a visit to the forest and my first experience of badgers.
A tree lies broken on the path. The old poplar has been rent, a bough the size of a large tree torn away in the winds. The splintered heartwood is shredded and the tree nurses a jagged ivory stump. Its amputated limb blocks the path, causing passers-by to stop in wonder. It isn’t the only casualty.
This post is about the power of rock and earth to ground us.
The starlings are gathering again. They swoop over the park in a graceful curve and trickle into the branches of an old sycamore. Not content to rest, they tumble from branch to branch, calling and chattering. Something spooks them then, because they are off again, another arc of the park, back to the same tree.
This post is about the joy of starlings.
In the park, the wild cherry is the last tree of autumn. The others have already embraced winter, skeletal limbs clawing at the sky. But the cherry still shimmers with golden leaves that drift drowsily to the ground. A pool of saffron encircles its base. Where the other leaves in the park are crisp and shrivelled, those from the cherry are sleek and shiny as though they still live.
This post is about finding a portal between the worlds beneath a cherry tree.
When you frequent the green places and the edge-lands, you notice the things that people leave behind. I am fascinated by those leavings that jar the senses because they don’t seem to belong. Not the thoughtless litter that blights the landscape, but those objects that once had purpose but have now been forgotten.
This post is about the things we leave behind us as we move through the world.
On the day I say a final farewell to Manchester, I discover a little of its magic. There is a place I have a mind to visit before I leave for the last time, but I don’t quite know what I will find there. I cross the old swing bridge that curves over the canal. It is battered, busy with traffic and with only a stripe of path for pedestrians the journey feels precarious, but when I make it to the other side, I travel into a forgotten world.
This post considers the influence of place and finding inspiration in a neglected place.
This is a place of rowdy winds and gaping skies. There are few trees on these scoured hills so the wind howls and moans unfettered across the landscape. The sails of wind turbines peek over a nearby hill, spinning in the current. It is a place where footpaths appear to lead to the sky. A place of cloud-shadow, where giants throw their shades on the hills like cast off skins.
These posts are about finding your place in a new landscape.
August is a month of waiting. Not the desperate waiting of winter, when you can no longer stand the darkness, but the sweet longing for something anticipated to come. I look at the calendar and am always surprised that the month isn’t yet over.
This post explores the slow work of creativity.
I have neglected the sea. It whispers to me, always, from just beyond the piers, but I have ignored it, without consciously doing so. I have wandered in the dappling of trees, under opulent greenery. I have sauntered through parks and leafy lanes. In this ambivalent summer that has veered between intense heat and thrashing rain, I have felt the urge to be enfolded in all this greenery.
This post is about my love for the sea.
It’s almost midnight. Sky and sea are faded to indigo, as though there is nothing beyond. A moon just past full wallows in the sky. The church is the highest point on the coast. It’s spire is a beacon on the landscape, visible from sea or land from miles distant. A violet blush illuminates its windows from within, hinting at something taking place inside.
This post is about the launch of a book of ghost stories, in which my story appears.
Outside the library, a drama is unfolding. A crow perches on an aerial, complaining loudly. Two jackdaws watch from the roof and a herring gull peers down from a chimney. At intervals, the crow flies towards the building and back again, still calling; a posse of more jackdaws and gulls appear. The sky churns with black and white bodies, circling the top of the building.
This post is about the little dramas of nature.
A story begins with a glimpse. A glimpse into another world, a glimpse of a character, a glimpse of a narrative. Sometimes that is all it remains: a half-caught moment that will never become anything more. A scrawled fragment in a notebook destined never to become a tale. The trace of a fiction that won’t be fulfilled.
This post is about the inspiration that just a glimpse of something special can bring.
I’ve never appreciated still life paintings. I can applaud a good likeness of a bowl of fruit, appreciate the depiction of light falling on a group of objects or marvel at the way an artist has captured the transparency of glass or the lustre of metal. But they rarely move me in the way that a landscape or a portrait can.
This post explores a new way of looking at still life paintings and how that helps us appreciate our own surroundings.
November is a month of darkness and dreams. Relentless storms with the hint of winter in them make the days darker, the skies greyer. The air freezes, riming the roofs and crisping the grass. Horizons are misted by rain and fog. And when the rain pauses, the wind stills, and the sun peeks above the horizon, the world is flushed with gold.
This post explores dreams and their impact on creativity.
The blackbird has a song that is made for rain. Perhaps it is the mournful tone of its tune, or the way it pierces the stillness before a storm. Perhaps it is the way the song haunts me, so sadly beautiful it makes my heart ache.
This post is about blackbirds, rain and the inspiration it brings.
Autumn was slow to begin, but now it rushes ahead of me, leaves crackling on the ground when I’ve barely witnessed them fall. The continuing warmth of the days is sandwiched between morning and evening chills. The harvest is done and we will soon head into the darkness that births new dreams, but before that happens, there is still time to gather in some autumn inspiration to feed the dreams ahead.
This post explores the inspiration to be found in art, cities, writing events and even football songs.
In spring I dream of gardens. I yearn for something more than this patch of walled concrete, its plants caged in pots. Something like the hidden garden on the edge of the forest that unfurls behind the beech hedge. Something like the magical, midnight garden that appears as the clock chimes thirteen.
This post explores the magical inspiration of secret gardens.
There are places we meet briefly and with which we have short, passionate affairs. For a period of hours, days, maybe weeks, we love them intensely. We become so enamoured that we wish we could give up our normal lives and stay there forever. They have the potential to develop into longer love affairs, but ultimately, we have to leave them behind.
This post is about those places that touch our souls.
The moan, rush, roar of the wind through trees. The creak of branches and rattle of sticks. The howl and whistle of wind round the house and down the chimneys. The patter and gurgle of rain on leaves or windows. The bone-vibrating boom of thunder.
This post is about a love of sound after a history of deafness as a child.
The storms that blew out the old year abate as the year turns and the new year creeps in through a veil of gloom. The day is sunk in a quagmire of mizzle. Cormorants line the breakwater like mourning sentinels and the lighthouse beacon struggles to breach the murk. On the beaches at the mouth of the river, a broken forest has rooted.
This post explores re-kindling a love of writing.
Old stone and vicious drops, cossetted by mist-clad hills. A robin’s song vibrating the trees and the moon peeking over the hill. Watching. Scarred wood and cosy crannies, walls seeping words. Blowsy blooms, secret doorways and the drift of seeds on the wind. This is Lumb Bank, an 18th Century mill owner’s house that once belonged to Ted Hughes. I’m here for a ‘work in progress’ Arvon writing course.
This post is about my experience of an Arvon residential course at Lumb Bank.
Every town has its abandoned places. Weed-choked, pigeon-haunted, windows toothed with shards of glass. These are the crumbling, forgotten parts of town, where graffiti blooms in shells of rooms, trees cleave foundations and girders grasp the sky.
This post is about abandoned buildings and how they can inspire.
I live in a land of ruins. A land where the shades of ancient monks, warriors and queens still walk among the remnants of their former homes. Coasts littered with fragments of castles; valleys and cliffs strewn with the wreckage of abbeys. Where crenelated towers and skeletal arches rise out of the earth.
This post explores the power that ruins have over our imagination.
The ash tree is a tall tangle of feathery limbs at the edge of the park. At some point, unnoticed, shoes began to stipple its branches, like peculiar fruits.
The post is about the way we use trees as a place for wishes and offerings.
Spring has daubed the landscape with splashes of yellow. Daffodils slowly blooming; a smattering of coltsfoot; the first marsh marigolds squatting in the mud and a handful of cowslips emerging from papery shells. But the blackthorn has been my true herald of spring.
This post is about the folklore and meaning of the blackthorn tree.
There’s a sense of comfort about the familiar walks that I take. I know where each path will lead and what I can expect to see on the journey. I know where I’m likely to find particular plants and animals and there is satisfaction in being able to mark their progress. But the adventure of the path not yet taken is altogether different.
This post shares some of the secrets I found when I visited Tocil wood.
I arrive in a summer storm. The landscape is blurred with rain; rain that is like a Flamenco, drumming away the sticky heat. I came here a year ago for a work event and never expected to return. A year ago, I found secrets here, in the shade of Tocil Wood.
This post is about my return to Tocil Wood.
‘She offered me distant cities, food that I had never tasted and the echo of words in alien tongues, but I chose terraced streets, white satin and packed lunches. I see her still, shivering in a print dress, the lake reflected in her eyes. ‘I could be your muse,’ she said, as I snapped the sketch book shut, capturing forever the hope and challenge in her face.’
This post is about remembering the child you were and using her for inspiration.
‘When I was young, I had time to write, time to draw, time to create. The hours passed slowly, bending to fit the things I wanted to do. There was no urgency or purpose – no deadlines, no pursuit of success. Creativity was a pastime, not a goal.’
This post explores the impact of time on creativity to coincide with the publication of my short story Reckoning in Popshot magazine.
‘I was delighted to be asked to become one of Britt Skrabanek’s posse of life enthusiasts over at ‘A physical perspective’. Britt is life enthusiasm personified so it’s an honour to be featured on her blog as part of this series. So, if you’d like to know my secret to staying enthusiastic about life, head over to Britt’s place and take a look at her wonderful writing while you’re there.’
This is a link to a guest post on Britt Skrabanek’s ‘A Physical Perspective’ blog, which talks about curiosity as the key to enthusiasm for life.
‘On this still, windless night the forest is silent. The trees watch, like inscrutable sentries. Moths flutter past silently, gossamer scraps pale against the darkness. Bats swoop soundlessly, dusky shadows whose voices are beyond our hearing. It seems that the creatures that stalk the night woods are mostly unseen and unheard.’
This post is about the magic of things heard and glimpsed in the night.
When I was a child, I was given a book about becoming a nature detective. By today’s standards for children’s books it was uninspiring: filled with dense text and black and white photos. Still, it captured my imagination and I longed to be able to track and investigate the natural world in the way the book described. But I was an urban child and I thought the experiences the book presented were out of my reach. I’ve always lived in towns and cities, while longing to inhabit the wilder places. I wish I could look out of my window and see open spaces instead of my neighbours’ houses. The sea has always been my local untamed place, while I believed that the town had little to offer in the way of nature. But years after I dreamed of being a nature detective, I’ve learned that even among brick and concrete, it’s possible to live the change of the seasons and to find the wild in the everyday.
This post is about finding nature, even in the most unexpected places.
As we approach Valentine’s Day, many of us will be thinking about and celebrating the people we love. It’s often our loved ones that are our greatest inspiration: inspiring us to be better, to work harder, to become the best person we can be. But usually, we need other things in our lives to love, so that we can be the person who is capable of loving another human being. So this year, as a Valentine’s gift to yourself, why not also remember the other things you love: the things you love to do the things that inspire you and the things that make you feel most alive.
This post is about remembering and celebrating the things we love to do.
The full moon tide reveals the hidden places of the island. Earth, moon and sun are in alignment, creating a ‘spring tide’, which is much lower than usual. But this isn’t spring. We are at the end of summer and this feels like the first autumn day of the year. Rocks loom out of the sea where there are usually none, forming lagoons from the reefs. The kelp forests, habitually invisible below the waves, peep above the surface like glossy ringlets.
This post is about how inspiration often comes when the hidden is revealed.
What will happen to the things you have created when you’re no longer on this earth? Perhaps your artworks will still be displayed in galleries, sold as prints or exchanged as greetings cards. Your books may still be sold in book stores, loaned from libraries, quoted by readers. Maybe your works will be kept simply as tokens, treasured by your children or grandchildren as a memory of you. Or they may be destroyed, turned to dust or landfill or recycled into something else.
This post explores what happens to the art that is created and forgotten.
A spider’s web is a mammoth effort of construction that begins with an act of faith. The spider starts by throwing out a delicate line of silk into nothing but air, in the hope that it will find an anchor. Once her hope is rewarded, her hard work begins.
This post is about the act of faith, followed by hope and hard work needed to bring a story or piece of art to fruition
I’m waiting for the moment when dusk tips into night. At dusk, clarity comes to the woods. Trees are sharply silhouetted against a luminous, milk-blue sky. Just after sunset, I can still distinguish the deep greens and grey-browns of the larger trees. The smaller, leafless trees appear black against the sky. There is still an ochre glow in the distance as the sun dies, but the moon has risen, waxing a vivid sliver towards the west.
This post explores the inspiration of the forest.
I recently celebrated a birthday and it prompted me to consider how creativity changes as we age. Many witches use the idea of the triple goddess to represent the phases of the moon and the different stages in women’s lives. The ‘maiden’ aspect is youth, independence, freedom, adventure, wildness and new beginnings. The ‘crone’ is old age, wisdom, knowledge, experience and compassion.
This post is about how our creativity changes as we age.
At the end of the north pier, where the river transforms into the sea, the fog horn dwells. Housed in a squat, brown lighthouse on the pier that took more than fifty years to build because the waves kept breaking it down, beyond the Black Midden rocks where so many ships saw their end; there the fog horn dwells.
This post is an exploration of fog as inspiration.
In the movie ‘It’s a wonderful life’, George Bailey says that the three most exciting sounds in the world are ‘anchor chains, plane motors and train whistles’. I agree completely with George’s sentiments and, although ultimately it’s an uplifting movie about being grateful for the life you have, I’m always struck by the tragedy that George is destined never to leave Bedford Falls.
This post is about how a journey and a story begins with an idea and how the reality changes on the way.
She is often viewed as a goddess of death, witchcraft and the underworld, but to me, Hecate is also a goddess of choice, courage and transformation. Hecate is with us for the most important moments of our lives: she is the midwife that brings us into life, the Crone who guides us into death and the protectress watching over every crucial choice we make. She is a triple goddess, representing the phases of the moon and the major stages in women’s lives. And she is a goddess of the in-between: of crossroads, gates, borders and boundaries. She holds torches to illuminate the unconscious, protects us on journeys and from the chaos we sense outside.
This post is about taking the first steps in blogging, my writing journey and having the courage to put yourself out there as a writer.