by Jake Solyst
October 01, 2020
For as long as there have been meadows to paint and melodies in bird song, we’ve known that nature is a good source of creative inspiration. Celebrated thinkers from Albert Einstein to Emily Dickinson have commented on how the clarity and peace of mind one finds in the outdoors is critical to bringing ideas to life. Studies show that “mind wandering” and “soft fascination” improve when you’re exposed to nature—adding tangible evidence to the very intangible experience of exploring your imagination amid the quiet of the outdoors.
Just north of Baltimore, Maryland, Good Contrivance Farm offers such a respite. The historic farm is owned by author Ron Tanner and his wife, Jill Eiche, who have been managing the land and renting a stunning, home-built writer’s retreat to poets, authors and other aspiring scribes since 2015.
During the last few days of summer, I visited the farm and stayed in the writer’s retreat for two nights, working on a short story collection I’ve started since entering a master’s program for creative writing. Just as my esteemed colleagues Einstein and Dickinson would contend, being surrounded by nature does a number on your psyche. Looking over a healthy meadow that goes on farther than you can see primes you for the daunting task of exploring ideas that have no visible end. Waking up to solitude means there’s nothing to take away your mental energy, which leaves you ready for the strain of creative thinking. The writer’s suite itself includes shelves of books on every floor, leaving no inspirational stone unturned.
Places such as Good Contrivance Farm aren’t only good for the soul, they’re good for the environment, too.
Ron and Jill’s six-acre property, as well as the surrounding 100 acres of farm and meadow, are in conservation easements, meaning that by law they cannot be developed in perpetuity. Land conservation efforts such as this are crucial to the health of local waterways—when more areas in and around Baltimore become developed, there is less natural land to soak up harmful nutrients before they enter rivers and streams. Increased wildlife habitat is another benefit of conserved land: birds, plant-life, pollinators and other important critters can thrive in just a bit of undisturbed property.
The Chesapeake Bay Program has a protected lands outcome written into its guiding document, the Chesapeake Bay Watershed Agreement. In this outcome, we aim to protect an additional 2 million acres of land deemed as a high conservation priority, on top of what was conserved by 2010. Currently, we’re meeting 68 percent of this outcome, which is in large part due to the Chesapeake Conservation Partnership, the Bay Program partner overseeing the outcome.
In the hands of people like Ron and Jill, conserved properties can bring unique value to those who live in the area. The writer’s retreat at Good Contrivance Farm is a precious resource to all aspiring creatives in Maryland, whether they’re out to publish a novel or simply fulfill an artistic itch.
Consider also the benefits that creative works bring others. Art is more than just a luxury—it’s fundamental to good mental health. Creative work can help us navigate complicated emotions. It can make us feel connected to people and their experiences. And it can make us kinder to others—and to ourselves.