Winter's Bone-Chilling Cold (AP Photo/Kiichiro Sato)

This past weekend an old high school friend I call The Author paid me a visit from out in sunny Southern Cali all the way to the snowy center of the continent. Ostensibly, we were looking over some information that may have led to a collaborative project between us; realistically we were catching up and enjoying the company as one only can with a friend with whom you have a couple of decades of history. As to the writing project, we’ll talk about that later, but suffice it to say that I really look up to this guy; what he’s done in the creative community, projects from novels to screenplays and roles in his life as varied as mountaineer to independent producer. Just the chance to collaborate with him is worth at least a six pack of Guinness on the open market.

He took off last night, back to the land of the fit and fabulous, back to his grind of creative output. And here I sit in front of my seemingly vanilla laptop (not a Mac), staring at the same old news sites I use to come up with inane tales of stupid observation (hello, Daily Mail) and there’s an overwhelming melancholy to the whole bit.

I think it’s being surrounded by the creative energy of someone else that inspires such impetus for me to create. That’s why observing my kids create art, ninja battles and other products from their fertile imaginations provides me with such intrinsic happiness. It’s why I root for the artists striving to break out, such as Nathan Maulorico of Unknown Films or Sarah Bliss Rasul, who does amazing work in several types of media. I want to see their creative talents rewarded, because they’ve been given a gift, one that I hope provides them with the ability to dedicate their lives to it.

Because if they can do it, I’m inspired to believe that I can as well.

The downside is when I’m apart from other weird, creative types, I get into a funk. It feels like the world is transpiring all around me, as though there’s this tremendous wave of artistic flow happening just outside Missouri’s borders. It’s the same feeling I used to get when waking up from an afternoon nap as a kid: something just happened out there, and I missed it. Let’s face it – the fire service is just that…. a service, and a valuable one at that. Really, though, it’s the application of science to disaster. Preparedness, training, conditioning, paperwork, all these are hallmarks of a successful career in the fire department. While it’s necessary to keep the lights on with a job like this, for which I’m grateful, I pin a lot of happiness on the ability to create while off-duty.

And when I find myself in a melancholy jag, watching a friend’s plane take off from our gray and white world out here in the Great State of Ranch Dressing? I look to the boys, my very own Heathens, and take comfort and inspiration from their very own creations. Ninja battles and Legos never looked so good.