Running Away from January

Kate Flora here, filling in for Dorothy who is nursing a terrible, brain-crushing cold caught from her beloved grandchildren.

Sign in a store window. Dangerous allure to a shoe junkie.

I used to go crazy in February. Short-tempered, unfocused, chocolate-gobbling crazy. This was before people knew they suffered from SAD, or seasonal affect disorder. Indeed, being from New England, the very idea that being unable to endure winter was a disorder was unthinkable. The only proper solution was endurance. With children in school, getting away was out of the question, except for an occasional quick school vacation trip to warmer climes. Far too often, those escapes were truncated by bad weather and flight cancellations.

But years have passed, and the children have grown up and left home. It is no longer necessary to be in New England during the long, dark months of January, February, and March and I have beaten back the guilt that required so much endurance. So about eight years ago, when my husband started working half time, we started escaping to the West Coast in January. This year that took the form of hiking in Sedona, Arizona, visiting the left coast child in LA, and then heading up to San Francisco to visit with old friends.

Also, this year, for the first time in many years, I did not have a book deadline and left my laptop behind. Instead, I did a different kind of work.

Julia Cameron, in her book, The Artist’s Way, talks about the importance of having dates with oneself to refill the creative well. As described on, these are “a once-weekly, festive, solo expedition to explore something that interest you. The Artist Date need not be overtly “artistic”–think mischief more than mastery, Artist dates fire up the imagination. They spark whimsey. They encourage play. Since art is about the play of ideas, they feed our creative work by replenishing our inner well of images and inspiration. When choosing an Artist Date, it is good to ask yourself, “what sounds fun”–and then allow yourself to try it.”

It is not part of my New England upbringing to have fun, but I’m working on it. So this January, while I’ve been on the road, I’ve been having dates with myself and playing with my camera. These photographs illustrate some of the ways I’ve been having fun observing new places.

And, dear readers, what do you do to refill the well?


Ancient oak on the road from Sonoma to Napa





The twisted red trunks of manzanita

Tree trunk that looks like an animal head. Sedona

















Moss covered trunk seen on a hike in wine country










Cute sign in a restaurant in Silver Lake



Window in St. Helena

Sign in a winery window, Healdsburg, CA


Panna cotta with gingered pear



Avocado toast, Little Pine restaurant

Vegan sushi, Los Angeles









Dried grasses in a bucket outside a restaurant in San Francisco that look way too much like you know who’s hair

Wallpaper that looks to a crime writer like blood spatter

Mirrored bathroom in a house outside LA. Can you imagine showering here?

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10 Responses to Running Away from January

  1. C.T. Collier says:

    Photography does it for me, too. And shoe shopping. Great post! –kate

  2. Gram says:

    Love the pix!!!

  3. Lea Wait says:

    Love your idea about escaping to new places — and your pictures! If I can’t escape personally, I can via them! Journey well …

  4. Ooooo, I really love this post. I usually feel too guilty to take myself out on a date. I feel like I should spend time with my kiddo while he still wants to spend time with me. BUT, I run on the weekends and I figure that is my “me” time. Someday when the boy is grown, I’ll take those little day trips I’ve always wanted to.

  5. Sennebec says:

    Binge reading and listening to new music until the urge to write returns seems to be working at the moment.

  6. Barb Ross says:

    I am definitely a person who needs to refill the well. Art museums and sightseeing, either as a tourist in a different place or a tourist in my own town, are what usually work for me.

  7. Sandy Rowland says:

    I too suffer in February. I love in Utah and we get terrible inversions. Nothing but gray sky, frigid gray ground, and a numb outlook. Julia’s books have saved me! Thanks for the reminder to treat myself on dates. I’m not good at thinking about me. Terrific post!

  8. MCWriTers says:

    Thanks, everyone, for your comments and sharing your thoughts. Like some of you, I have a hard time with those artist dates because it seems selfish. But nurturing our creativity probably makes us nicer to live with, so why not try it? Even an hour can help. Lately, I’m considering doing some artistic projects, even though I’m not artistic, just because there’s a tactile quality to making something.


  9. Reine says:

    I take photos, too. Every day. I started when I got my service dog, Kendall, and the same day discovered that my phone was a camera. After that, we went out together and took pictures every day. It’s hard to do without him.

  10. bethc2014 says:

    Fun pictures! I have been being political, but yesterday another sister-in-law and I went outside. The sky was the bluest blue and the sun was sparkling off the crisp snow. We walked around on the crusted snow without falling through and just talked. It wasn’t only the cold that was refreshing.

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