A Menagerie Of Memories And Musty Inspiration

Today I feel acidic, like cheap coffee. I feel like a tired, crying gull. I feel like I’ve forgotten something very important.

Photo by Janko Ferlič on Unsplash

Photo by Janko Ferlič on Unsplash


I have been sitting at my writing desk with my writing candle burning for thirty minutes, but I haven’t started my timer. Instead, I’ve been browsing through old photos on my phone, searching desperately for a tiny spark of inspiration. No luck.

So instead of writing something inspired, I am going to write about things that inspire me, and I ask you to reflect on what it is that makes you overflow with new words or colors or patterns.

To start with (and to inform you of what to expect in the rest of this post), I love beautiful descriptions - granular lists of the intricacies in a scene. The description of Miss Honey’s cottage in Matilda always got me for some reason - the boxes she sat on, the humble tea she had to serve. The margarine instead of real butter. I find lists like that enchanting and in themselves deserving of a second read through.

Moments + Miniatures That Inspire Me In My Home

I love my new navy blue sheets. They’re the first blurry thing I see when I wake up before I put my glasses on, and the color is more soothing than I could have anticipated. I love seeing my bed unmade now, the rich blue-black sheets inviting me to curl up and enjoy a few moments of stillness.

The tile in my bathroom looks almost like a magic eye puzzle - it looks like it softly bulges and ripples under my feet and every time I see it I love it a little more. The light in my bathroom also makes me melt, and it’s beautiful enough to let me forget about cleaning the bathroom for long swaths of time.

My sequin butterfly shirt, that I found many years ago during a mimosa-fueled shopping spree at a thrift store. I also bought a beaded formal dress then too, but I only ever wore it for a Halloween costume. But my butterfly shirt - a wardrobe staple that will never leave my closet - shines during the holidays and makes me feel like a disco ball on New Year’s Eve. I should wear it more.

My beauty routine - fast and haphazard - makes me feel the smallest bit like I have a ritual. I adore patting my acne’d face down with sweet smelling oils and cooling off with soft witch hazel after a hot yoga class. I love rubbing coconut oil all through my hair and molding my long pixie cut into an Ace Ventura-inspired ‘do.

My curated coffee mug collection motivates me and helps capture any mood I’m in. My thick-lipped, two-hands-needed mugs for cozying up and doing nothing much, small lovely floral mugs for conversations, classic mugs for getting down to business, thin-lipped mugs for cool Los Angeles mornings.

There’s a llama that sits as a permanent fixture on my nightstand alongside a tiny ceramic rabbit and a rock shaped like a heart. The llama came from my dearest friend on the day of my wedding shower - and it still has the delicate pink ribbon tied in a bow around its neck in celebration. The ceramic rabbit came to me from Colorado, where an old coworker had vacationed and brought a little souvenir back for each member of the team. I didn’t know her well, but I admired her spirit and of course, love the tiny, goofy handcrafted rabbit. The rock is from a lakeshore in Michigan, where my husband and I got engaged, brought to us from the man who officiated our wedding and his wife. They gifted it to us alongside some of our sweetest coffee mugs and it feels like such a powerful talisman to keep near my bed.

The World And All Its Inspiration

I’ve been thinking fondly about Bloomington, Indiana recently. I miss the falling leaves, the smell of the rain and the chill of late fall. I miss the downtown square, the early mornings in the library where I’d watch the sun come up while doing homework for my 8AM classes, the basement coffee shop that served terrible coffee but made up for it with the most artistic energy you’ll ever know. I miss the drunken nights even, though I’d probably do it all a bit differently a second time around.

I miss days when I set up camp in a coffee shop or in a cozy corner of the student union on campus, where friends came and went, and I dove into my work like it was the only thing that mattered. The inspiration came from the smell of my textbooks, the coffee beside me, the faint chemical smell of the highlighters I rarely used, but always kept open and at the ready. The dark wood of the old building, the dusty couches that had supported hundreds of thousands of butts, the dim ochre light of the metal desk lamps.

When I was in college and I lived on the fifth floor of a dorm with arguably one of the best views on campus, I would open the window on rainy days and just let the smell of the rain take over the room. I would watch the cars splash in and out of the parking garage, slowly dissipating after a full day’s work. I would brew a tiny pot of coffee and poke around in my secondhand books, writing splotchy poetry about how I was becoming myself.

I miss Traverse City Michigan in the summer, during the film festival. I miss the tree cover of the campground, the failed attempts at putting up tents, the magic of downtown once the sun went down. I remember feeling so inspired during those summer road trips, and the creative energy that came from leaving the comforts of our home for a handful of days.

I’m inspired by the stories I give to baristas that I do not know, but that I’ve decided I love. In fact, I’ve realized that all my life I’ve made stories up about people that I have never even met. Sometimes while looking at them through a window. My apologies, dear strangers.

It's Time To Notice More

I am still working on discovering inspiration in Los Angeles on a regular basis. I know it’s there, I just haven’t had the proper eyes to see it with. Today I saw a man peeing into the busy street while I drove by, I helped my neighbor check all her faucets before she left home and carried her soup to the cab, and I saw a glowing marquis announcing the arrival of a band called Moon Taxi. See, it's there. I just need to see it.

I suppose, then, that it is truly my job to notice everything. Even the stuff that bores me and the stuff that makes me ache. There’s a Rilke quote that I have a different response to depending on which season of life (or season of writing) that I am in:

“If your daily life seems poor, do not blame it; blame yourself, tell yourself that you are not poet enough to call forth its riches; for to the creator there is no poverty and no poor indifferent place.”

It terrifies me on bad days, because I feel like I’ve disappointed this long-dead man whenever I whine about being bored or feeling stuck. His words are a great inspiration to me, and his black-and-white approach to who is a poet and who is not, who is a writer and who is not, is simultaneously motivating and stalling for a mild person like myself.

Just tonight, I revisited the first incarnation of my personal blog, and it’s full of that splotchy college poetry. But I think it’s worth saying: I felt a teensy bit inspired by my old clumsy writing. There are some small strings of words that spark my soul, and it’s an odd, satisfying feeling that maybe there’s something to this writing challenge.

It's exciting to believe that maybe I can get all that musty old inspiration back again.