Where do you find inspiration?

photo of red throated diver with young

Start with a bird.
It might be a red throated diver.
Call it a rain goose.
Call it a loon.
Call it star diver, Sterntaucher.
Call it what you will.

You must know by now:
a bird will call.
Calling back or not
is up to you.

I don’t knit, but I follow the blog of Kate Davies, who designs knitting patterns. I mostly subscribe to her blog because it’s a visual feast, and that’s thanks both to Davies’ designs and equally to the ethereal photos of her modelling those designs in the Scottish landscape, taken by her ootlier husband, Tom Barr.

Photo by Tom Barr

I don’t remember how I first heard about Kate Davies. It must have been a review of her book, Handywoman, which tells the story of her recovery from a paralyzing stroke at age 36.

book cover: Kate Davies, Handywoman

What fascinates me most about Davies’ story is not her insights into the human brain acquired as she relearned how to do the simple tasks she had always taken for granted. Don’t get me wrong—her account is compelling! But what interested me more was how a brain injury led Kate Davies off the path of literary academia into a new creative life.

As she explains in her Ted Talk, “having a stroke draws a line across the stand of your identity: ‘That’s who you were yesterday,’ your damaged brain says. ‘Who are you now?'”

It isn’t always a stroke or other brain injury that leads a person to drastically change course. And sometimes it isn’t even a drastic change but a years-long journey of listening to the siren song of a creative life. It’s about learning to fall like the leaves, in the words of New Zealand poet Ana Lisa de Jong, or learning “to move like grass to the flow of the wind.”

Or, as Rilke wrote, it’s going to the limits of one’s longing.

To create the sweater pictured above, Kate Davies started with a bird. She envisaged. Played with colour. Put together a starry chart.

Where do you find inspiration?

Thanks to Ana Lisa de Jong for the Rilke poem this morning, and for her own.

Photo of red throated diver by David Karnå / Wikimedia Commons, CC BY 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=27003078

8 Responses to “Where do you find inspiration?”

  1. Ana Lisa de Jong

    Thank you Leslie, firstly for reaching out to me, for sharing my words, and for directing me to the gift of your post and wonderful website. I so look forward to delving into it further.

    • commatologist

      It’s wonderful to make your acquaintance, Ana Lisa. I’ve been reading your poems for some time, and they move me deeply. Bright blessings to you.

  2. Liezel Graham

    Beautifully written.

    I am a knitter, a writer, a friend of Lisa, a lover of exceptional writing craft and I make Scotland my home.

    Your post was a lovely, warm hug.

    Following for more.

  3. commatologist

    Liezel, thank you. I visited your blog – also following for more! It’s lovely to be in conversation with you.

  4. Laurie Doctor

    First, I love your writing. The poem at the beginning is yours, isn’t it? Reading it is like being under a spell. Or shaking me out of one. I return to it, it calls me! And thank you for introducing me to Kate Davies.

    • commatologist

      Thank you, Laurie! Yes, it’s mine, but it’s more accurately a collaboration between me and Kate Davies. Or, her post yesterday called, and I called back. 🙂 I’m glad I could introduce you to her. Her work – designing, writing, all manner of making – is extraordinary.


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