An Artist’s Date: Vallarta Botanical Garden

 Let me take you on what Julia Cameron, queen of creative inspiration, calls an Artist’s Date. The last time I took you for one, we twirled around Italy, the ultimate artist’s date. Today, we’ll visit the Vallarta Botanical Garden in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico, where I am spending eight glorious weeks writing, reading, and eating and drinking. More on the eating and drinking another day, but let’s leave it for now that I am never hungry here.              Just to remind you, an Artist’s Date is an excursion, preferably solo, to a destination intended to expand your creative resources. They are intentional and sometimes self-indulgent, but never to be suffered with guilt. You might meander through a yarn shop, even if you have never picked up a knitting needle in your life, just to absorb the colors and textures around you. The goal is to fill the creative well within you.My well has been running a little dry lately. I have been writing a book for over a year. It’s a stand-alone mystery that I have struggled with, even though I love the story and my protagonist.  I may be guilty of overthinking this book and exaggerating the onerous duty I feel toward Olivia Rose, whose story I am telling. I arrived in Puerto Vallarta committed to finishing this book, but not quite sure how I would do it.          The day I chose to go to the botanical garden, I chided myself for doing something frivolous when I had serious writing to do. I’d planned to visit the Vallarta Botanical Garden even before I arrived, but thought it would be a reward for hard work done when writing goals were accomplished. But my traveling companions had other ideas, so off I went within days of arriving in Vallarta.           We rode a city bus for forty-five minutes up hillsides past a wild Pacific Ocean that seemed to be having a temper tantrum. I listened to passengers converse in Spanish, French, and English. The hillside was green and lush, the roadsides sprinkled with trash. Mexico, like most countries including my own, is filled with contradictions.          Nothing I had read prepared me for the exotic beauty I found inside the garden, which I quickly gave myself permission to enjoy. Trails leading down to a river, an orchid house spilling with tropical colors and shapes, a small chapel for solitude. More trails up a hillside, one named “Vanilla.” Fountains and bridges leading from one garden room to another. Bees having a party inside a blossom, while birds sang joyfully everywhere.           My ears were filled with birdsong. My eyes weren’t sure if the superabundance of beauty they were seeing could be real. The smell of green was everywhere, while a pleasant warm but not hot sun warmed my shoulders.            This is a generous garden I was surprised to learn was created only recently. Benches are placed throughout the acreage, often in shade, inviting strollers to sit for a moment and simply ingest the beauty surrounding them. There are statues and art throughout. I was drawn to the huge conservatory because I have a fascination for conservatories and because I have given Olivia Rose one in her story. This one had more plants than I’d ever imagined could fit in one. The light was magical. I wished Olivia Rose could see it.           Even the inevitable gift shop and restaurant were thoughtfully designed. Hummingbird feeders perched on railings surrounding the porch where diners sit within inches of the tiny birds dancing around them. The gift shop has a separate area with cushioned chairs looking out through open windows at bird feeders. Brilliantly colored birds took turns performing.            The day ended on a comical note when a large bulldog, owned by the garden ticket-taker, chased an empty water container larger than him rolling down a hill until he conquered and captured it. It was an inspiration for tenacity.            By the end of the afternoon my senses were so full, I was exhausted. But I was also exhilarated in a way that happens only when I get out of my head and into nature. I was tired, grateful that I had gone on an artist’s date, and ready to write.

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