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  • Writer's pictureMatilda Butler

Inspiration Contest Winner: Susan Payne for Her "The Edge of Wild" Story


Inspirational Message from Susan Payne

"Look for the balance between being controlled and seizing control.

It has become my creative driving force and my impetus in life."



by Susan Payne

Split Rock Waterfall |Photo by Susan Payne|


Nature has always played a significant part in my life’s journey. But it was not until midlife when my husband and I began hiking regularly that I found it to be my muse.

Let me make it clear. Hiking the wilderness was not my idea. However, after I let go of my fear of falling off cliffs and encountering rattlesnakes, I began to see correlations between life and nature. I encountered lessons with every step into the deep.


The perspective of my photography transformed according to the message before me. Designs based on my impressions not only made their way to paper but took form in stained glass, fabric, paint, and other various materials.

My husband spouted scientific names of the plant life as I struggled to stay in step. The strange thing was no matter how breathless I became at times, poetry ran through my head nonstop. I was not reciting poems nor did I know the origin of the words. One thing led to another. Trees began to speak to me. I felt the song of the river as if her water was the blood running through my veins. My heartbeat became one with Earth. My experiences in nature inspired my way of life. I stopped living in reflection and grounded myself in attention to the moment.


Each hike provided another wonder as I wandered. One time I felt akin to a fallen tree that continued to nurture the life growing on its bark and to provide food and shelter to insects and small critters.

Another time, I saw my reflection among the cypress knees in a swamp.

Black-eyed Susans, Queen Anne’s Lace, goldenrod, daisies, and other wild blooms taught me about beauty, struggle, and individuality.

The forest never failed to enlighten my mind and spirit. It rejuvenated me — a woman who was struggling to find purpose after becoming an empty nester. I discovered, like my children, I also had wings. I relished sharing this time of sacredness with my husband as these outings became part of our weekly routine.


We each live and grow in patterns though often not identified unless examined. This goes for creativity as well. This examination causes one to reach deep within the caverns of self. What one pulls forth becomes the catalyst for the next stage, whether that is a project or life itself. It is both development of craft and maturity of spirit. I embrace the mystery within and around me. What touches my heart leads me not only to questions but the need and desire to express my emotions.

The Space Within: As we cross the bridge from one moment to the next, we live in the gap. |Photo by Susan Payne|


Nature connects me to my spirit which opens me to a world of inspiration. It is a sacred pull to know myself as part of something much bigger and unexplainable. Often I am called to write or sketch a design with no goal in mind. Much like life, the path is revealed in hindsight. I sometimes find I was writing to connect with Spirit or to reveal a hidden aspect of myself. My sketch may later turn into a painting, stained glass pattern, or a fiber project.

I appear to be what one might consider a late bloomer in life. I’ve been searching for myself for years, decades if I’m going to be honest. As all occurs in its own timing, I found myself on the far end of my fifth decade relaxing on a boulder in the middle of a river, shaded by a canopy of sycamores. I watched as the water rippled and flowed along its course, splashing and gurgling as it met resistance with the rocks. Friction creates foam. Foam folds itself back into the flow.

When longing finds belonging, the resistance gives into the flow. Thus balance is created. Instead of inspiration coming into life, life becomes inspiration. Identifying with the river’s song of freedom was a moment of validation for me.

While I am referring to an actual location and incident, metaphorically we each know this place within that awakens us. Each of us has within a space of power residing at the brink of chaos. This is where the tame wrestles to be free, where the soul essence awaits recognition.


What I know for sure is inspiration comes to me when I am most myself, feeling like a part of the landscape. Now, fourteen years later, nature continues to speak her wisdom to me. Sometimes it arrives in images but mostly in words. Some I’m meant to write, others speak, but all are mine to live by.

I’ve come to realize I’m not the prize-winning dahlia of a well-manicured garden but more like the eastern red columbine found thriving on the edge of the wild. I feel the muse arrives to each individual like a perfect fragrance; subtly intoxicating, yet not understated nor overwhelming.

The inspiration I find in nature is a melding of wonder and fear into a moment of acceptance that allows me to liberate and nurture my spirit. It allows me to step into my power to speak my truth by creating through whatever means calls to my essence. It is this very balance between being controlled and seizing control that has become my creative driving force and my impetus for life.

Whether or not I choose to step into a particular experience, the magic of it still exists, and this is what truly inspires me.

The Edge of Wild |Photo by Susan Payne|

About Susan Payne

Susan Payne describes herself this way: "Other than writing, dabbling in all sorts of creative pursuits, and hiking, I am also an avid rock hound.

"I try to live my life from the inside out, finding the sacred moments within everyday living. I feel it is vital we rewrite our stories from a higher perspective, one that empowers us.

"Before I learned to write, I told stories. You see, I grew up at the feet of the greatest storyteller I ever knew, my father. Some people are storytellers. Others are writers. When one learns to write as a storyteller speaks, it is pure magic.

"And here I am, decades later, still practicing with that wand. Maybe, one day I'll get there."

More About Susan's Photography and Derivative/Expansive/Transformative Art

Susan shared two images that illustrate how her photographs inspire her art. Explaining this example, she writes:

|Photo by Susan Payne|

Creation of The Tree Madam

"The Tree Madam came to life for me as I was contemplating the grooves of the bark and curvature of the trunk of a photo I'd taken of a tree at a local park. I felt the energy of the tree to be female and began to imagine all of forest life she was nurturing...and one thing led to another.

Fiber Art Panel by Susan Payne

"As I was creating this fiber art panel -- The Tree Madam -- I wasn't sure what I was trying to say in my art until I looked up the meanings of the symbols I'd been guided to include. Here's what I discovered --

Tree Madam Symbolism:

  • Tree = life,

  • Roots = stability,

  • Wings = freedom,

  • Dove = holiness and peace,

  • Flowers = beauty,

  • Lizard = flexibility and adaptation,

  • Snake = patience and balance,

  • Frog = transition and healing,

  • Fairy = hope and desire,

  • Mushroom = knowledge,

  • Sun = death and rebirth.

"On the outlines of the mountains, I stitched in black a quote from a book I wrote. The quote is: 'Never underestimate the power of roots or the freedom of wings.'"

You can contact Susan at her new website: Edge of Wild


I hope you'll consider my message:

"The magic of nature inspires."

~Susan Payne


Be Sure to Return


for the Next of Our Honorable Mention Winners

and Their Stories

I Am the Master of My Fate

by Patricia Hollinger

Sign Up Below This Post and We'll Be Glad to Send You a Reminder and Link to all the Inspiration Contest Winning Stories

More Upcoming Stories:


Ann J. Bennett

Inspiration for an Ordinary Life

Julie Catagnus

Just Us Guys

April Hamilton

A Purpose for My Pain

Nancy Julien Kopp

Keeping Family Alive


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by Sara Etgen-Baker

Gold Winner

by Constance Lieber

Silver Winner

by Mairi Neil

Bronze Winner

by Marilyn Janson

Honorable Mention


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3 komentarze

Oceniono na 0 z 5 gwiazdek.
Nie ma jeszcze ocen

08 cze 2023
Oceniono na 5 z 5 gwiazdek.

I love this Susan - what amazing talents you have - your father's magic wand is in good hands! I'm enthralled with nature too and your beautiful words and descriptions are an inspiration.


Sara Etgen-Baker
Sara Etgen-Baker
01 cze 2023
Oceniono na 5 z 5 gwiazdek.

Brilliant! I loved reading about your journey and the importance of nature. I, for one, stay too busy sometimes to appreciate the natural beauty around me. Yet when I pause, I feel so much more connected. Thanks for sharing your process and creativity, Sara Etgen-Baker


01 cze 2023
Oceniono na 5 z 5 gwiazdek.

I loved what THE EDGE OF WILD did for my body, mind and soul. The poetic flow of words, imagery and experiences inspired my muses to dance, create, and feel the pulse of life. I am moving towards 80 this year and want to explore and express my "edge of the wild."

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