Marinate the Senses

   The first several months that I embarked on this endeavor of writing a weekly blog, my head was swimming with ideas. After about six months, it took me several minutes of sitting and staring at the blank computer screen before I could write something inspirational. Lately, I’ve taken to keeping a list. I carry a spiral with me and have begun to jot down not only topics for my blogs (I have three), but also ideas for poems and those conversations and action scenes that bubble up whenever I take a peek at what’s behind the door of my imagination.

   In most of my posts, I give several suggestions for finding inspiration or scratching your creativity itch. Where I’ve been finding interesting sensations recently is in the mundane rather than the unusual. Because I live in Phoenix (and my immediate environment is mostly concrete and steel), I board my horses a little further north in Cave Creek. It’s not so much that the town has grown, as it is Phoenix has personified Urban Sprawl (and this is a post for another day). Though the barn is somewhat still surrounded by desert, it is far enough away from the asphalt that the temperatures tend to be about five degrees cooler and the breeze isn’t blocked by buildings. It doesn’t take but a few minutes of sitting quietly for the quail and cottontails to poke out from under sage brush and creosote and go about their day. Their movements, how they compare to their surroundings, and how I feel just observing (or the questions that arise from watching) them are ideas for poems and details to include in the description of a setting in one of my novels or short stories. Everything that touches a sense, what I see, hear, smell, taste, touch, and even feel elicit words and images that may or may not find their way into a project.

   I’m grateful for my eclectic taste in music. I can switch from Kirtan (call and response chanting in yoga) to Papa Roach, without my focus changing. What is different are the pictures that are conjured by the music and the lyrics. To me, neither is more distracting than the other, but it allows me the opportunity to pay attention to the details of the beat and the tone of the singer’s voice. And it is the details, heard through my ears, filtered through my life’s perspective that make the experience unique.

   In a few posts at the beginning, I mentioned that I often write while at a bar or restaurant or coffeehouse. While some places are more colorful than others, all of them offer a feast for the senses. The music from a jukebox or satellite radio station adds to the atmosphere of the establishment. It is interesting to covertly observe someone as they stand at a jukebox and flip through the choices. Listening to the next several songs gives the artist an insight as to the age, preferences, and even lifestyle of the person who chose the music. The odors from the kitchen can be tantalizing, or revolting. Same with the restrooms. Pleasant air freshener or fresh flowers creates a far different bathroom experience than one that reeks of vomit. By all means, do check this one out for yourself! The decor and clientele are ripe for picking if one has an observant eye and is willing to be patient and interested and wait for the details to emerge from the boring background. The temperature of the room, the type of flooring, and even the height of the bar or table adds to the sense of touch. For example, most bars are made of wood. I was recently at one in Jerome where the top was marble, and about six inches shorter than most. It definitely felt different.

   The invitation is to tap into the pieces of your surroundings that heighten your sense of detail. Go out to your car. Squat down next to the front driver’s side tire. Look. Really look. The numbers and letters on the rubber, the lug nuts, the dirt, the brakes behind the tire, the design of the hub cap or rim. Take a deep breath in. What do you smell? Rubber? Dirt? Did it just rain and can you smell the wet asphalt? Gas or exhaust? Can you hear the pinging of the engine as it cools? Another car as it drives past the garage and continues down the road? What would the tire taste like if you touched your tongue to it? Would it taste like dirt? (And when was the last time that you ‘ate dirt’?) Would the rubber taste fill your mouth? Are your tires new enough that the little nobbies are still on it? What do they feel like? What does the chrome of the rims or the tread feel like under the soft caress of your fingertips? What sense do you get being this close to your vehicle? I tend to feel a little intimidated, but then I drive a truck. If you drive a sports car, what does that make you feel? What about an older station wagon? A motorcycle?

   Take the above paragraph and its questions and apply it to anything, any place. The grocery store, a dumpster, a gas pump, a bus stop, the family dinner table, a trailhead, a laundromat, home plate in a baseball diamond, or the bottom drawer in your refrigerator are all places where an artist can marinate their senses. It is from these sometimes quiet, sometimes intense, or even accidental, observations that give rise to words or songs or dance moves or a mixture of color on a canvas. Only your senses can pick up the nuances of certain objects, and your interpretations are unique. I believe that everyone has the ability to be an artist. Those that allow their creative side to show itself are the ones who are a bit more curious, more observant. Our senses are continuously bringing information into the brain. Most people ignore the details. Those on a creative path snag the interesting ones that float past. The fact is that we each ‘see’ a difference in ‘interesting’. What some more examples? Visit my web site where I have poems and short stories and chapters of my novels (and you don’t even have to ‘opt in’). www. Leave a comment if you have a suggestion on where else, or how else, one can marinate their senses in order to derive details that will fuel creativity.