For my whole life, I've used creativity to manage my depression and anxiety. In childhood, I colored, cross-stitched, crocheted, and painted through the ups and downs of growing up. In high-school and college, I included art as part of my coursework. In adulthood, I have had to repeatedly and deliberately call myself and artist. I built art into my life knowing that I'm so much better off immersed in the process of making something. More and more, I'm realizing it's less of a choice and more of an unavoidable vocation. No matter what life decisions I make --erroneously or otherwise--that pull me away from my vocation, I always find a way to circle back.
Now that I'm fully committed to this artist life and trying to make a living doing it, I'm still struggling with depression. It's of a different variety, though. Not only is there the pressure to succeed financially, but also there is the pressure to create something worthwhile for myself and others. I strive to keep fear and doubt on the sidelines and often find myself repeating Dory's mantra--"Just keep swimming." I no doubt am aware of the privilege I have to be able to live a life as a full-time artist, and this knowing prods me further to not squander this opportunity.
For me what is eternally hopeful about creativity and artmaking is that in the actuality of making things we learn about our worlds through close, sensory perception, and we very literally and physically shape our worlds to our own desires. We have the power to recreate, re-imagine, and manipulate our lives and circumstances through limitless creative endeavors. I find tremendous hope in this practice and look forward to making and making and remaking and making. . .
When we moved to Spring Bird, we knew that we wanted to continue practicing the hospitality that Martha and David had been so graciously extending during their years here. Furthermore, I'm madly in love with this place and want to share it with others who are interested in getting to know it better. While staying in the cottage can be one way to become acquainted with Spring Bird, it isn't a possibility for everyone. So, I wanted to create a means for bits of Spring Bird to be sent out to those interested parties in their own places. It's from this wanting to share Spring Bird in a different way that the newsletter Woolgathering was born.
For me to write about Spring Bird, I need to get to know it better. This Thoreau quote from Walden really sums up my reason for being these days:
“I went into the woods because I wished to live deliberately, to front only the essential facts of life, and see if I could not learn what it had to teach, and not, when I came to die, discover that I had not lived.”
I intend to be a student of Spring Bird-- its natural cycles and happenings, and through noticing, dreaming, meandering and re-imagining a relationship with this place, I hope to share Spring Bird in the form of an illustrated newsletter. Since it will be produced and issued seasonally, I imagine the iterative process will more precisely define how it manifests and serves its readers. I'm looking forward to including other writers, too, in order to gain multiple perspectives.
The first issue will be hitting mailboxes soon! If you are interested in receiving a free copy and haven't done so already, please add your name and address to the list by filling out this form.
I'm really excited to share the first bits of wool I've gathered with you and hope you will enjoy it! Thanks!
I began this project about a year ago after a trip to the Forest of Peace, a retreat center outside of Tulsa Oklahoma. A benefactor there had solicited artist proposals to transform a concrete storm shelter into a meditation chamber. Her inspiration for the space were images of the dark mothers from three religious traditions: Black Madonna (Christian), Black Tara (Buddhist), and Dhurga (Hindu). She saw it a place to stare into the darkness of the abyss, confront one's fears and and emerge spiritually reorganized. The outside of the chamber would be painted to blend into the sandy landscape with markings that recall the oracle chamber in Malta, Italy, a place famous for its acoustics.
While I painted the three portraits in my studio at home, I spend eight days in October completing the installation. During those days in the cave, I was able to confront my own fears staring into the abyss. I surfaced ready to take the next steps in my professional life. It was time to leave my job and devote 100% to creating art and tending to Spring Bird. Even if this journey results in failures, I have to walk down this path or live with enormous regret.
The slideshow below tells a little of the story of creating the Cave. Since the space is tight, it was nearly impossible to get good photos. Also, since the paintings were varnished to protect them from the elements, there is a nice amount of glare. . .
It helps that my new commute is a mere walk to the studio rather than close to 2 hours of train riding. To transition to this new career path, the whole family made stepping stones from concrete and fragmented dishes. I'd had this project on my list for years, and though it is such a simple thing, it felt so good to cross it off. It was the perfect step forward into new adventures at home in my studio.
The prospect of having a tree house at Spring Bird was perhaps one of the more exciting possibilities of moving here. From the beginning, we wondered about its design, but we didn't put a plan in motion until stumbling across the perfect location for its construction. About this time last year, I was going for a walk in the woods and stumbled upon a fallen oak that I had never noticed. I was simultaneously shocked at its magical beauty and the fact that I hadn't ever seen it before. I knew instantly that it was the perfect spot for the tree house, but of course, the kids would have to give their final approval. They quickly ascended the fallen oak finding comfort in is accessible majesty. They continued to scramble on it while combing over stacks of DIY tree house books. Over the summer and fall, Pat built their tree house to their specifications, and by fall, the kids were spending weekends with their cousin creating and commanding their own worlds.
There are a few finishing touches to the tree house before the kids can spend a warm night there, but for now, they have been enjoying making it their own special place.
After relocating my studio to the barn loft from our basement map room, I indulged in repainting and refurnishing this cozy, creative space into a place for office work, games, drawing, and reading. The mattress was built by Martha and David specifically for the counter. It's my favorite place to read, write, and take naps. Furthermore, it was wonderful to reclaim an indoor place as the cold drove us inside. Because of its partial submersion in the hillside and picture windows, you feel like you are nearly outside when you nestled in this room. After all, two injured deer have nursed their wounds near its window. When it is uncomfortable to be lounging outside, this is the next best place to be.
Don't forget to sign-up to be on the mailing list for Woolgathering, a forthcoming quarterly newsletter, that will be a written and artistic meditation on seasonal living. You can add your name to the list to receive the first issue, Spring 2017, for free by clicking here.
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Anna Lentz, artist and writer, blogs about making a creative life connected with nature at Spring Bird.