Tag: Artist’s Date

An Artist's Date through the Secret Gardens of Provincetown

 When the well runs dry and the words won’t come, it’s time to get up out of your chair or wherever you perch while you write and go for a walk. I’m a big fan of what Julia Cameron calls an Artist’s Date, a little expedition aimed at refilling the creative well. I go on Artists Dates regularly and want to take you with me on my most recent one.             The annual Secret Garden Tour in Provincetown, Massachusetts is a testament to the bodies and souls of those who battle sandy soil, wild wind, and salty air. But beyond admiring the stamina and artistic abilities of these hardy gardeners, I accept their invitations into their secret gardens as an opportunity to reawaken my imagination.            Who lives in a house with a shrine to David?             Why does the person who lives here walk the beach and collect these stones? Is she heartbroken? Is she a hoarder? Does she know she’s breaking the law?             Who lives behind this purple door? Who paints a door purple? Is it to keep people off guard or to attract attention?             Who are the people who sit outdoors in this garden? Do they have wild parties slamming down margaritas while they talk politics and art? Or is it the garden of a lonely man who listens to the hum from his bee hives in the background while he waits, hoping someone will join him?             What about these wild flowers? Does the woman who is trying to contain them within her garden want to control the people in her life?             Take a look at these photos and see if they are whispering stories to you. Then get up from your chair, talk a walk, and refill your dry empty well.  

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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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A Writer's Field Trip

Let me take you on an Artist’s Date. What? You don’t know what an Artist’s Date is? It’s what I call a field trip for creative souls. Everyone is a creative soul. Some people just haven’t discovered it yet.              Julia Cameron, the author of The Artist’s Way and forty other books, is the Great Creativity Nurturer in my view. The Artist’s Date is designed as an excursion to fill the creative well. It can be an outing to an art gallery, a library, a yarn shop – any place that speaks to your creative spirit. Often color, scent, texture, and other sensual appeals are part of the destination. One of my favorite Artists Dates is to Jules Besch Stationers in Truro, Massachusetts, which is on Outer Cape Cod.            Meet Proprietor, Michael Tuck, a man with a passion for all things paper. He lovingly tends to the desires and needs of his devoted clientele and has created an environment perfect for an artist’s date            For a writer, there is eye candy everywhere. In addition to exquisite stationery, notecards, greeting cards for all occasions, there are displays throughout the shop nestled within nooks and crannies. Antique letter openers, ink wells, pens, and bookends so gorgeous, you might actually miss the array of gorgeous antique desks where Michael has tenderly arranged artifacts.              In the rear of the first floor, you will find notebooks and journals. There is at least one for every writer, whether you prefer lined or blank paper, leather bound, or the plebeian spiral like I do. I’m partial to a spiral bound notebook that has paper made of stone. It is so smooth, I’ve been heard asking other writers to “Feel my journal, please.” There are few circles where I can implore others to indulge in the love of paper and all things writing but here I browse with other members of my tribe.             Another room is filled with notecards for those of us who understand email has not replaced a handwritten expression of congratulations or sympathy. The selection ranges from tasteful and convention to humorous and a little outrageous. I recently sent a thank you note on a notecard with a tiny hydrangea on the front by Crane and got a thank you for my thank you.            Upstairs, you can roam through and touch sheets of elegant and joyful paper just waiting for you to find a purpose for. You may decide to wrap a gift, cover a book, or just display it above your desk to occasionally marvel at. There are party invitations and cocktail napkins with vintage photos. “My idea of a balanced diet is a drink in each hand,” boasts one woman from the fifties.            By the time you head to the cash register with your loot, your creative well will be overflowing. But the best is yet to come. The inevitable conversation with Michael tops it all, filled with folklore about Cape Cod and his adventures with paper and antiques. On a lucky day, you may find his beloved black lab there. You’ll probably not have noticed the quiet music playing in the background, but it’s there. Michael wraps your goods in lovely tissue, places them in a decorative bag, and then attaches a sprig of whatever is in season. I got a fragrant lily of the valley last week.              As you exit through a sun porch filled with African violets, antique photos, cloches, and sunshine, you feel your shoulders lighter and find a smile of your face. You’re ready to go back to work, even looking forward to it. Your Artist Date is a success.                 Where do you fill your creative well?(Jules Besch is located at 3 Great Hollow Road, Turo, Massachusetts.) 

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