Refilling the Well

“When’s the last time you refilled the well?” she says to me. A friend. We’re talking about writing, creativity, energy.

Paris facade“When’s the last time I set foot in Paris?” I think to myself, an immediate response, though I don’t allow the words to slip out.

When I consider filling up, emotionally or creatively, Paris is almost always my most visceral reaction, whether I speak of it or not.

Unlike many who turn to nature, choosing the quiet of the mountains or the sound of the waves, my preference for a place to renew and replenish is an urban center, the urban center – for me.


Our Sources of Creativity

When I consider the sources of my creativity, my enthusiasm, my sense of place and perspective, I think of people. My sons come to mind, of course, as do children in general. They are exceptionally effective levelers as well as humanizing, laughter-inducing, and awe-inspiring sources of light, tenderness, stories and certainly, our better angels.

But my truest north seems to be crowded streets with their hum and hustle, with their infinite possibilities for encounters and tales, the music of voices in hurried passage and pointed conversation, the colors of clothing that fleck a churning landscape, the aromas of sweat and perfume and if I find myself in the right neighborhood, the scent of crèpes on a griddle or the heady fragrance of lilies at the marché in Spring.

“You always come back better,” one of my sons used to say to me, when I would talk about Paris and he would encourage me to find a way to go – even for a few days – hardly the stuff of the single mother’s budget. He was still a teenager then, and occasionally, I did find a way – in order to walk, to observe, to inhale, to exhale, to soak it all in – and then to write.

Renew, Replenish, Restore

Book Image_Macréau_Margaron p 9As I think about whatever it is that’s ailing me lately, I come to clarity and it is this.

I have not refilled the well in years – not in the way that is most quietly effective, most creative – by wandering the tiny streets that I love, stopping as I please to enter a gallery and possibly, to sit or stand for hours, viewing artworks, undisturbed.

In doing this, I feel as I imagine some do when they enter a cathedral or other place of worship; when they sense plenitude, mystery, peacefulness.

I am inspired by the visual, by the mastery born of specific periods and artists; my preferences for line and abstraction have seemed both a progression and a most natural fit from the beginning, and in particular, from the age of 20 when I was studying in Paris.

I was immediately drawn to modern and contemporary art, and I would occasionally meander along the curving ruelles of the Left Bank gallery district, taking my time in exhibitions, imprinting images into the mind’s map, feeling happiness at its purist and carrying the breath of wonder with me into the remainder of my day and night.

The Poetry of Paris

There was a time when poetry would replenish the dwindling stores – Pablo Neruda, Marge Piercy, Margaret Atwood. Poetry still holds the power to transport me, but admittedly, I must be in a frame of mind to sit still, in a place of emotional openness to the words, and no stress or to do lists knocking at my mental door.

And yet art can deliver me from any mood at any time, landing me straight inside the collision of exuberance, distraction, folly, acceptance; at times, the shrouded tunnels of memory, yielding their veils however briefly so I may reach a moment of discovery.

BIO smI am drawn to artwork that for some is dissonant and for me, the best possible adventure – where concepts collaborate with visual raconteurs of unique voice, where moments in history are captured in unexpected snapshots, where endless questions are posed through a highly personal lens, where brilliance may shine and leave me to the lucidity of a lesson in life’s challenges and possibly, its triumphs.

While New York with its galleries and museums can do the trick at times, for me, the most lyrical of sources remains Paris, where language, conversation, food, drink, and history all enrich the experience.

Refilling the Well (in Paris)

And I wonder when I’ll manage to get back to Paris again, to absorb the imagery that fills me with equal measures of excitement, energy, and calm; to meet with collectors who are as caught in the thrall of this form of creativity as am I, content to spend hours discussing artists, their remarkable journeys and their evolving themes, their varied processes and their makeshift tools, their inspiring digressions and their irrefutable constraints – as we enter their worlds and find ourselves bigger for it, smaller for it, better for it.

“Perhaps this year,” I tell myself, again.

And as I consider the conversation with a friend who reminds me of the importance of refilling the well, I know precisely how to go about it and where to begin… à Beaubourg, in the Marais, and later, perhaps a coffee, rue des Archives.

If only…

Print Rue des Archives

Café Centre Pompidou_Beaubourg

Paris facade

Paris images, my own.

Image, p. 9, my copy of catalogue, Macréau, Galerie Alain Margaron, Paris.

Image, rue des Archives, one of my favorite spots, by my son.

Please stop by Marsha’s place for more writers’ musings on the subject of creativity, and what feeds it.


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    • D. A. Wolf says

      Interesting question, Lisa. It’s more than the fact that of my youth, as I continued to cross the ocean and light in Paris for some 30+ years, whereas I also spent time in NYC, SF, Cambridge (very creative), and various locations in Belgium.

      I suspect it has to do with the intersection of language (I seem to be a better self in French), art, the art of conversation and likewise, the art of savoring the senses that I find in France generally, and in Paris, specifically. It is also a city that I know well enough to feel very comfortable (and independent), yet I remain sufficiently (and eternally) an outsider, which promises the endless unexpected.

      • says

        This gets more and more interesting… Lisa’s question was exactly what was running through my mind as I was reading your words. Is it because modern Paris is essentially the result of historical rebellion, on so many levels (artistically, politically, philosophically)? And therefore is imbued with a sense of embracing the counterpoint view? At least in discussion, if not in practice.

        Or is it because Paris, possibly above all other cities of the world (London I am referring to you) places the concept of the intellectual above all other pursuits and reasons for existence of life???

        I could discuss this for hours… all so fascinating…

        • says

          And what I wouldn’t give, to be there at the table, preferably in Paris to just sit and listen to the two of you discuss this…*happy sigh*

          DA, how much do I love that your well is a city? A whole city? One that is far, I know but très proche dans ton coeur…if only I still lived there I would say, “Try and find a cheap flight and come, we will put you up”…

          Thank you for your beautiful writing, as always, I never take it for granted…
          Heather in Arles recently posted…“How to Stay Sane in a Crazy World” by Sophia StuartMy Profile

  1. says

    I am the same. When I go on vacation, I prefer the hustle and bustle, a completely different environment from the one I live in here in suburbia. I’ve been to Paris exactly twice. I’d like to speak French as you do, and in this dark, cold, northeastern winter, the City of Light is a beacon to me, too.

    You need to put this at the tippity top of your ‘to do’ list.
    Judith A. Ross recently posted…“Full of Winter”My Profile

  2. says

    I have never been to Paris. You make it sound so magical and beautiful. An urban setting is definitely where I feel most at home; where my well gets filled. For me, it is Philadelphia. It is home in my heart. I once thought it could be Boston. I do love the Northeast. I hope you get to Paris – this year, so you can fill your well to overflowing.

    The city, art, history…”where endless questions are posed through a highly personal lens, where brilliance may shine and leave me to the lucidity of a lesson in life’s challenges and possibly, its triumphs.” That whole paragraph is brilliant.
    Robin recently posted…It’s All About Me – Share Your WorldMy Profile

  3. says

    Wolfie, this post is the soul of YOU. And, as a writer, of course, you find amazing inspiration and creativity in Paris, the home of so many brilliant writers. Every cup is filled with something different for each of us, and it’s been a real treat reading all the ever-so-personal posts of the members of BIO.

    Pardon me for being so late to the party! Life got in the way, dammit. Thank you, once again, for being with us today, it means so much to each member, I know.

  4. DaveysHouse says

    Well, I’ll try this again! Our dear Mme. Wolf didn’t let me do this last time. Can we each donate a little and send her to Paris? She deserves it. She writes good stuff for us every day (and recipes!), for free, and has done it for a long time, and is more than ready for a break. Hoping she has PayPal… :-)… Bon voyage!

    • D. A. Wolf says

      Ms. DaveysHouse – You are very lovely to suggest this, and I hope to manage a way to get away one of these days, but with one kid still in college and plenty of bills to pay (like so many of us), Paris will have to wait. :( On the other hand, your kindness touches me immensely, and I consider myself extremely fortunate to have traveled as much as I have. So I’ll be closing my eyes, breathing deeply, perhaps cooking up a few French recipes (good idea, n’est-ce pas?) and counting my blessings. :)

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