A father and son went to spend the summer in a small cabin in the forest. The father was a writer and each day of the summer he planned to spend a portion of the morning writing and the rest of the day with his son. It was going to be a wonderful summer of productivity, adventure, and exploration.
The boy was only four-years old but he was quite the inquisitor—precocious some would say. While his father spent the mornings writing, he would play outside around the cabin. The boy would build forts, turn over logs to look for bugs, and find all sorts of collectibles and keepsakes from the forest floor. After his father finished his morning writing they would spend the rest of the day in exploration. They’d go for walks, build things together, talk about the different types of trees, and find new territories of the forest that they hadn’t seen before.
Occasionally, during these walks, the father would make comments that the boy didn’t entirely understand.
“I got a lot of great work done this morning!” He would say. “I just need some inspiration to finish the last bit!”
He would make all sorts of comments using this strange word.
“I love our walks in the forest, son, this is where I look for inspiration!”
Some days it seemed like he couldn’t find this thing he was looking for.
“I struggling to find inspiration today son,” he would say thoughtfully.
Sometimes he could even hear his father from outside the cabin.
“Where are you inspiration?” He would shout playfully.
Of course, the innocent boy had no idea what inspiration was or why his father couldn’t seem to find it. Since they were so fond of collecting and identifying bugs and spotting interesting birds and animals, he just figured it was some type of creature that he didn’t know about yet.
The boy decided that he would impress his father by finding this illusive creature all on his own! After all, he seemed to need it for his writing and if his writing was done they’d have more time to play!
One day, the boy told his father, “Today, I’m going to find inspiration!”
His father laughed kindly thinking that the boy was just imitating him like young children so often do.
The first day, the boy looked everywhere. He thought that since inspiration seemed so difficult to find, it must be high up in the tree canopies. So he spent the day climbing up trees and sitting very still in the tops of the swaying branches. But alas. He didn’t find inspiration. Come to think of it, he didn’t even know what inspiration looked like!
That evening he asked, “Father, what does inspiration look like?”
“Hmm,” he replied thoughtfully, still not aware that his son thought it was a bug or forest creature, “you just know it when you find it.”
This didn’t really help the boy, but he was still determined to continue his search!
The second day, the boy looked everywhere again. Since inspiration seemed so difficult to find, he figured it must be hidden beneath the stones and logs of the forest floor. So, he spent the whole morning on his hands and knees, turning over rocks and stones and carefully watching all the activity beneath them. He didn’t see anything that looked like inspiration there either!
That evening, the boy told his father that he still couldn’t find inspiration.
“Well, sometimes we can’t always go out and find inspiration, sometimes inspiration has to come to us,” he explained.
This didn’t help the boy that much either, but he would try again the next day.
So, on the third day, the boy went out and sat in his favorite spot in the forest. He sat very, very still. He was so still, many of the animals didn’t even notice him. After many quiet hours of sitting still, which is very difficult for a little boy to do, he returned to the cabin. Another day had passed and still no sign of inspiration.
That evening, the boy explained that he still couldn’t find inspiration nor did it come to him when he waited!
“Well, son, why don’t you tell me about what you did find?”
“Okay, well, on the first day I looked up high in the trees. I climbed higher than I had ever climbed before. I climbed so high that I could feel the tree sway in the breeze. From the ground, I always thought trees were so solid and unmovable, but up there I realized that trees are also very flexible. That must be how they survive strong storms! If they didn’t move and sway, they would just break. I think that is how I want to be. I want to be strong, but flexible enough that not even the strongest winds can break me!”
“That is a very good insight,” his father replied nodding his head. “What else did you find?”
“Well, inspiration is really hard to find. Since I didn’t see anything but singing birds and chirping squirrels up in the trees, I figured inspiration must be somewhere on the ground. I started rolling over logs and rocks to see if I could find it there. Every time I turned something over, there was a great display of activity! Centipedes, pill bugs, crickets, worms, and millipedes would scurry around and disappear again in seconds. No matter what happened to the rock or log, they quickly found safety again. They always found a place to go. I want to be like them Dad. No matter what happens to me, I want to always want to be able to adapt and think fast! Also, some of those rocks were really heavy! At first I wondered how they could survive under such heavy objects, but I discovered that they would just make tiny holes and channels that allowed them to move around easily. Isn’t that amazing? No matter how heavy the world is above them, they can make their own little space where they can survive!”
“Oh, yes, that is really interesting!” Replied the father who now started to realize the boys innocent confusion about what inspiration was. “So what did you find on the third day?
“Well, you said that sometimes we just have to let inspiration come all on its own. So, I went to my favorite spot in the forest where the trees make a circle. I sat in the middle and was very, very quiet. You know what happened? I think the animals thought I was just an old stump! A chipmunk walked right up to the tip of my shoe! Birds flew down and collected leaves just feet away from me. Butterflies landed on nearby flowers. I even saw a deer walk near the edge of the circle! I think sometimes I move too quickly and loudly through the forest. When you stop and listen you can see more than you ever thought you could see. I think I want to pretend I am an old tree stump more often and see what other animals I can discover!”
“My, my that must have been amazing to see such creatures come so close to you! It sounds like the last few days have been very different for you.”
“Yes, but, father, I really wanted to find inspiration. I looked everywhere but, I’m sorry, I just couldn’t find it. I’ll look again tomorrow,” said the boy yawning tiredly.
The father scooped up the boy and laid him onto his bed. The boy had been so busy that he fell asleep almost instantly. The father looked down at the sleeping boy who was still in his muddy jeans and soiled shirt. He gently brushed the boy’s tangled hair off of his forehead and smiled.
“Son, it sounds to me like you found inspiration after all. You just don’t know it yet.”
Photo by Lance Baker