September mornings in the old town part of Vogogna, Italy are wonderfully dark and quiet.
The darkness is not from lack of sunlight, but from the inevitable shade created when tall, stone buildings rub shoulders with each other, towering over the narrow cobbled streets that keep them from knocking heads with the buildings across the way.
It’s a lovely kind of darkness, soft and gentle. The thick stone walls of the aged homes muffle any sounds from within, and the streets are still save for the occasional workmen whistling as he passes.
I loved those mornings spent in a wonderful old house where I was staying with some amazing women writers – Margo, Katy, Kate, and Kathy. I loved waking up before everyone else, wrapping a pashmina snuggly around my shoulders and walking barefoot down steep stone steps worn smooth from generations of barefoot wanderers like me.
One morning a few of us decided to gather outside in the newly discovered courtyard out back for breakfast and brainstorming.
The courtyard had been hiding behind a lace covered doorway in the kitchen, and there were gasps of delight when we creaked open the door and found it there just waiting to be occupied by the chatter of women and the smell of a hot breakfast.
I’m at my best first thing in the morning, so I took on breakfast duty and was soon bustling about brewing coffee, cracking eggs, and sauteing spinach with sun-dried tomatoes over the big gas stove.
Minutes later all was ready and we took our seats on cheery red striped cushions and tucked in. Mmm, it felt so good to wrap chilled fingers around steaming mugs of coffee, and the piping hot fried eggs on savory spinach nests warmed our insides and fortified our brains.
It was a leisurely meal with frequent stops to exclaim at this cheery pot of flowers or that wonderfully weathered window shutter. We waved at our Italian neighbors who were amused by our cluster of foreign ladies chatting happily over breakfast in a back alley.
It is nearly impossible not to get inspired in such a delightful hideaway, and as soon as breakfast was over we pushed our plates aside and hauled out notepads, pens, and other accoutrements. We talked and listened, learning much from each other’s areas of expertise. The little courtyard was filled with the sounds of scratching pens and flipping pages as we filled line after line with ideas for stories, books, and articles. We cheered each other on as we wrestled through fears and doubts, and hurrahed when solutions were reached and decisions made.
As writers, so much of our work is done in solitude, quiet hours spent gathering and organizing information and sifting through words to find just the right ones for each job. As much as we love it, such a life can be isolating and lonely, and it was immeasurably comforting to spend the morning together commiserating, challenging, and inspiring each other.
All too soon it was over. Pens capped, notebooks closed, computers turned off.
We stretched and sighed, laughed and stood up to clear the table.
After all the brain work it was time for a walk.
What do you do to inspire yourself in your work?