Creative Inspiration & Prompts for Summer

Nature study

Go somewhere outdoors by yourself, preferably where you won’t see many people. Find a nice place to sit and spend half an hour there studying your surroundings. No music, no talking, no smart phones, just take in the scene. (Of course, be safe and let someone know where you’re going.)

Engage your other senses

  • Eat a different type of local fruit at each meal and create a piece of art inspired by their smell, feel, or taste.
  • Borrow a CD you’ve never heard and create a quick piece of art while listening to the entire album.

Push your limits

Try a new outdoor activity that stretches your comfort zone:

  • Don’t like heights? Try tandem paragliding (I survived, so will you ;D). Tamer alternative: take a bouldering class.
  • Not sure about the water? Give white-water rafting a try (or maybe wait until August when the flow’s lower). Tamer alternative: paddle surfing.
  • Always lost? Take an orienteering class, or participate in a meet, to hone your navigation skills. There are also permanent courses set up; download maps online beforehand. (Seattle area permanent orienteering courses)
  • Inspired by The Hunger Games or Brave? Try archery.

Read a book in a different genre or style from your status quo. Some PNW book suggestions I’ve enjoyed…


At the 2012 Aspen Environment Forum in June, Kevin Trenberth said: “The problem: we’re continually changing the climate so there’s no new normal. How do you plan for that?” Envision the future of the Northwest in light of climate change and continued human development.

Over to You

What inspires you during the summer?


The Sound of Early Summer in the Northwest

Hiking on a foggy day in June at Denny Creek in the Central Cascades

To me, early summer in the Pacific Northwest has a melancholy feel, simultaneously hopeful yet disappointed. It’s quiet and subtle but builds in intensity. I’ve created a playlist peppered with northwest musicians (*) that reflects that moody atmosphere.

Listen to the playlist on spotify (free, but requires registration): Early Summer in the PNW

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Appreciating Pacific Northwest Summers

Rainstorm moving in over the Hood Canal

Rainstorm moving in over the Hood Canal, August 2010

Summer is officially here!

But as I write this, the sky is a dripping white ceiling of clouds, and the rain is forecasted to continue for days.

When I was growing up, summer meant sweltering heat, sundresses, water gun fights, lemonade, sunburns. Since I moved to the Pacific Northwest, where the summers are notoriously mild, I’ve adjusted my expectations. After three summers, I’ve realized that I shouldn’t expect hot or sunny days until July. We Washingtonians love to lament our lack of a summer. But there’s plenty to appreciate about our cool Pacific Northwest summers.

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Finding My Mountain

The Land is Part of Your Identity

In the pepeha, traditional Maori introduction, you introduce yourself with your mountain and your river. Your mountain and river are a part of you, a mark of where your home and heart lie. I’m not Maori, but I embrace this explicit relationship to the land. But what makes a mountain my mountain?

What Makes a Mountain Your Own?

Leaning on a madrone on Mount Tam

Enjoying madrones, my favorite type of tree, while hiking on Mount Tamalpais in California

Each person has different criteria. I want a mountain that holds its own, but isn’t necessarily the biggest or most impressive specimen. I’d prefer a mountain that I can visit frequently. I want to know its name and recognize it from all angles.

I am trying to adopt a new mountain. Four years ago I transplanted myself from California to Washington. Begrudgingly I traded my California driver’s license for a Washington one, my California voter’s registration for a Washington one — but my heart finds it harder to swap my mountain for a new one. Although I’m consciously trying to pick a mountain near my home in Seattle, I feel that choosing your mountain is more emotional than rational.
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What is Cascadia Inspired?

Cascadia Inspired is an inspiration blog devoted to Pacific Northwest nature, outdoor lifestyle and nature-inspired arts and crafts. Next winter, an online-only community art show will be open to professional and hobbyist artists, designers, and craftspeople, with all types of art welcomed. Our project goals are to inspire people with art and information, provide a free online venue for emerging artists and to promote appreciation and conservation of the Pacific Northwest’s natural resources. The Cascadia Inspired blog launched in summer 2012. Check back in the fall for more information about submitting to the art show.

I’m looking for guest and staff bloggers as well as project partners to help with:

  • marketing and outreach (twitter, facebook, pinterest, press releases, etc.)
  • co-curating the show, especially folks with formal art training

Contact Tracy Durnell at tracy [at] for more information or to lend a hand.