Museum hopping and inspiration …

This weekend my wife, daughter and I headed for Cleveland, where we could visit both the Cleveland Museum of Natural History and the Cleveland Museum of Art. Both are on University Circle, so you park once and just walk from one museum to the other.


The first stop was the natural history museum, because our daughter’s eagerness to go there was what prompted the trip in the first place. Needless to say, as a writer of fantasy and sword-and-sorcery fiction, I found standing nose to nose with a tyrannosaur skeleton gets the fictive brain juices flowing. So does wandering among samples of art and tools from early human cultures. So does trying to answer an 8-year-old’s questions.

A quick walk across the circle took us to the art museum. The museum features a wonderful display of armor, swords, axes and such — again, it was like tossing seeds into fertile soil and many fictional things are taking root in this writer’s brain. Most of a writer’s work is done inside the skull, but it helps greatly to get out in the world and learn stuff.

The Cleveland art museum is undergoing extensive renovations, so much of the collection is under wraps. But we did get to see this masterpiece from Frederic Edwin Church, called “Twilight in the Wilderness, 1860”:


This was my favorite painting of the day. The image I shared here cannot do it justice; it is a rather large painting, with intense detail of color in the clouds and shading in the trees. It has a spiritual quality to it, for me, and I stared at it a while trying to compose a few lines of verse … then gave up and just enjoyed the painting.

I also found this one, a painting of St. Jerome by Hendrick ter Brugghen, quite inspiring:


I see in this one a scholar, fretting over some dark truth he has divined from his studies, or perhaps worried that he’ll never know the real truth behind it all. And yes, I asked myself if perhaps I was projecting something of my own psyche onto Brugghen’s work. In any case, I think the fellow in this painting might become a character in something I write.

Another inspiring thing about this day was being there with my wife, who also writes fiction and loves learning and asks piercing questions and makes connections between things I would miss. When I call her my muse, I am not kidding.

We rounded out the day with a meal with friends at Great Lakes Brewing Co. on Market Avenue. My wife had been wanting to get me there for a while, as I am a big beer nut and have been enjoying Great Lakes brews quite a lot recently. At the brewery and restaurant you can enjoy brews that are either difficult or impossible to find bottled in stores — and they are fresh fresh fresh. Hence, my wife made this a belated part of my birthday celebration.

I can report that the Blackout Stout and Loch Erie Scotch Ale are both wonderful beers. The Scotch is a bit less sweet than other Scotch ales I’ve tried, but has that malt-driven quality that distinguishes a Scotch. I preferred the stout, which is silky smooth and delicious. Both of these beers pack a wallop, though, so let someone else do the driving if you drop by.

As for the food, most of us had fish and chips and enjoyed it immensely. The atmosphere was cozy, and having kids along wasn’t a problem.

All in all, we had a great Saturday in Cleveland.

— Steve

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