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Now that the elections are over and sanity has a chance to live again, this is a good time of year to visit your favorite farmers' market, flea market, art show or performance featuring the works and passions of our friends and neighbors.

I was inspired – and humbled -- by a visit to the Carroll County Farmers' Market this past weekend, where the craftsmanship and artistry of everyday folks was abundantly displayed. And it just scratched the surface of what is all around us, often overlooked and under-appreciated.

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On any given visit to that market, you can stroll amidst the displays of local vendors while listening to live music – a violin, or guitar, hammer dulcimer, banjo or combination of instruments, sometimes with vocals – and see photography, paintings, handcrafts, pottery works and jewelry that rivals much more famous works in fancier venues.

And then there is the food: Wonderful seasonal foods and cheeses and breads and cakes and pies – as Winnie the Pooh says, Oh, my!

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Wandering around is free. But even purchases are reasonable, because so many of the creative people there are motivated by a love for their work as much as the money. Well, perhaps I shouldn't speak for them all, but I admire the dedication that I see spread out on the tables.

This past week was author's week, and a dozen local writers had their books for sale. We walked out with three, and could have taken home more. Few of these works will ever gain mention in the local papers, let alone the New York Times list of best-sellers, but there are nuggets to be mined by avid and open-minded readers.

One local writer not there was Dr. Robert Wack, who has written a novel based on a real character who served as a pilot during WWII. Time Bomber is an imaginative weaving of history, fact and science-based theories about the relativity of time and time travel to bring people to life on the printed page.

As many times before, when I have stopped dead in my tracks in the middle of a Books-A-Million or a Barnes & Noble book store, or a public library, I looked around and asked myself what makes me think I could add anything to that overwhelming selection of written works.

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I'm sure the painters whose pictures await adoption to a new home sometimes have the same feelings when they visit a museum, or a show like Westminster's annual Art in the Park each June. Same with those who spend hours creating expressive jewelry or lamps or quilts or table runners or bird houses – whatever.

But we keep at it, and the key to true happiness, I think, is to take at least as much satisfaction in the creating as in the selling or even praise for the work. I know Wack had to write his book whether it was deemed marketable or not.

I spent some time Saturday talking with several of the local writers, including Kerry Peresta, author of The Hunting, a novel about a divorcee with three teenaged children who ventures into the world of on-line dating – and a nightmare relationship.

We agreed that creating characters has a way of turning them loose to take a story and run with it: I know I've started a book or two with one idea about where I wanted to take it, but the people I put on the pages become real enough to take the story in new directions. It's a common observation among writers of fiction.

Artists, too, have told me that a plan is only the beginning of many works, and that changes in light, seasons or even personal life events can take a planned stroll down a scenic country lane and turn it into a riot of the imagination. Last year, I stood in Monet's studio looking at some of his works after strolling through his famous lilly pond gardens and felt a kinship.

French impressionists were something new, and now they are not. The imagination of the artist got loose among the population, and something universally human – spiritual? – was shared.

It's happening near you.

Dean Minnich writes from Westminster. His column appears on Thursdays. Email him at dminnichwestm@aol.com.

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