Going on Some Artist’s Dates

IMG_2641It’s Kate. It’s August. And I have to keep reminding myself that the Maine summer is short. I need to lift my eyes from the screen and my hands from the keyboard and go out and engage with the world. When my body remains firmly rooted to the seat, I remember what I learned when I read Julia Cameron’s The Artists Way Juliacameronlive.com–that sometimes we need to go out and refill the well. She describes The Artist Date as follows: The Artist Date is a once-weekly, festive, solo expedition to explore something that interests you. The Artist Date need not be overtly “artistic” — think mischief more than mastery. Artist Dates fire up the imagination. They spark whimsy. They encourage play. Since art is about the play of ideas, they feed our creative work by replenishing our inner well of images and inspiration. When choosing an Artist Date, it is good to ask yourself, “what sounds fun?” — and then allow yourself to try it. Since my new mantra is “have more fun” I’ve been trying to put Cameron’s words into play. This photo-79week, I left my desk and rejoined an old friend visiting from Texas for a few hours of writing talk, catching up, and fried seafood. To cap the afternoon, we crept through a breech in the fence and went swimming in a forbidden quarry. All alone with the crystal clear water, the arching blue sky, and the glorious sense that we can still break rules. Pay attention. Look up. Notice the world around you. These are things I’m constantly telling my students and forgetting to do myself. So now that it is August, and I’ve passed a significant birthday, I’m trying to take my own advice. Swimming in a summer pond with the friend I’ve been swimming in ponds with for sixty years. Having an ice cream cone on a hot summer afternoon instead of thinking I should abstain. Eating that bowl of glorious dark red cherries, staining my fingers red and spitting the pits out into the yard. Feeling the breathtaking tang of salt as I plunge into the still icy ocean, then floating on my back, watching the clouds take shapes, unform, and reform about me as passing seaweed tickles my neck. IMG_2659I take my camera along. There’s a pothole shaped like the State of Maine. An iconic building at the edge of the cove. And a succession of glorious Maine sunsets. And when I look down to photograph the streaky pink reflection of sunset on the water–there’s the ghostly glove floating in the seaweed that looks like a human hand. I push back my chair and go to the farmer’s market to gaze at the wondrous display of tomatoes, trying to find words for their array of colors and their strange, plump shapes. Striped tomatoes, orange ones, yellow ones, deep tomatoes the color of venous blood. Oh yes, the crime writer is never far away. Though I tend to be a prig about grammar and punctuation and correct usage, and my husband frequently quotes a Calvin and Hobbes observation that “verbing weirds language,” I watch with delight an animated column by Stephen Fry about grammar: http://www.newrepublic.com/article/115817/stephen-fry-responds-grammar-pedants and find myself inspired to take more chances and be more creative. Of course, my version of fun, and what fills the well, might not be yours. I’m likely to take a day off to go to a search and rescue dog training. Hiding in a tick-infested field to be found by a canine in training. Or following Nilla, Gilroy, and Gator the bedbug dogs as they search and clear a college dorm so arriving students won’t be living with bedbugs. When September comes, I’m betting I’ll be back at my desk, not seeing again. Or maybe, as I Gilroy, Nilla & Gatorskitter from library to bookstore to conference, promoting my new fall books, I’ll also be looking around. Going on some inspiring little dates. And coming home richer for the experience.


One thought on “Going on Some Artist’s Dates”

  1. So glad you’re out and about, Kate! Summer is so short. At a recent mini reunion with old friends I kept being asked: Are you working on a new book? And I had to reply: No, not really. Just filling the well with friends, family, nature, flowers, small children, and the occasional bubble-blowing contest. Oh, yes, and reading lots of books…

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