Human interest, empathy, imagination–these are the tools of inspiration. A muse serves them up; a poet embellishes them; a novelist employs them; a photographer dances with them. Inspiration can be a cruel beast without them.
Like many of you, I sometimes find myself staring at a blank computer screen, the cursor impatiently blinking as if to say, “Well? What are you waiting for?” Good question.
I recently landed a job at the local International Airport as a Systems Analyst. As I was walking in to work this morning (it’s about a quarter-mile stroll from the employee parking lot to the main terminal building), I noticed something that I hadn’t really seen before-a family hugging goodbye. Sure, I’ve seen people hugging at airports, but like many events in life, observations don’t usually penetrate to my thoughts. I didn’t know their story, but this scene must be repeated a thousand times a day at any large airport terminal.
Talk about human interest. There’s nothing comfortable or passé about flying these days. Heightened security, barebones discomfort and tragic news reports of planes falling out of the sky all contribute to apprehension and dread that can fill travelers’ families with emotion, not to mention the passengers themselves.
I looked at this quick goodbye at the passenger drop-off curb in front of the terminal and realized that they didn’t really want their goodbye to be quick. Traffic and airport security patrols forced the shortened farewell, and they parted company grudgingly-who knew for how long.
Empathy was not difficult to muster, especially in a shared experience like flying. Every departure is part of a saga; a person embarks, and someone is left behind-for every hundred passengers, a hundred acts are being played, and a thousand feelings are being grappled. Is this a business trip? Will all go well? Will a child become ill while a parent is away? Will a marriage survive this excursion? Will vacation bring stress relief or cause even more? Whom will they meet?
When I left Washington State on my way to Buffalo, New York, I was flying one way-a new life was beckoning.
Each possibility is intriguing and can excite the imagination. I am at times at an advantage and other times at a disadvantage as an ekphrastic poet. Ekphrastic poets derive inspiration for their poetry from a visual art…in my case, from my photography. The bad news: I must first have inspiration in taking my photos then again in developing my poetry. The advantage is that they need not be close in proximate time. When I want to write poetry, my photographs are waiting.
However, you need not be ekphrastic to use the tools of inspiration-you can simply open your eyes and walk outside. The world is there for all to perceive, if you will just pay attention.