Part of our mission at Spring Bird is to host guests at our Cottage. Some guests come for solitude or to share in a pair or a group. People stay for the day or overnight, and in some cases they stay for long retreats over multiple nights and days. In any case, I love having guests to the Cottage. It was through my stays at the Cottage that I fell in love with this place--which was then Siloam/now Spring Bird. And whenever you love something you are thrilled when others have similar affection for it. Sharing this place--this physical manifestation of peace, rest, nature, creativity, solitude, quiet, playfulness, and exploration, is a privilege and very much an honor for me.
But with all things that we do, there is a time for reevaluation, and I have been thinking and dreaming about what the cottage is and can be. What is working and what can be improved upon to make guests feel more comfortable? I spent the morning indulging in making an elaborate mind map (pictured above). I'm scheming and dreaming and would love your input. Whether you've visited or stayed at the cottage or never been here before, what sorts of things (amenities, activities, environments, vibes etc.) do you look for in a place of retreat?
Some things I'm thinking about is how to make the space more adaptable to artists and how to make it more comfortable for large groups. One of my dreamiest ideas is to build an adjacent screened porch. If this development or anything else significant comes into fruition, I will surely keep you posted! In the meantime, what do you think?
OK, I'm ready. I'm ready for
the next step, the next opportunity, for something big,
for giving back and paying debts
for bringing home the bacon,
I've recovered, recouped, revamped, refocused
My attention is on YOU
What do you ask?
Instead of mystery,
I want certainty, synchronicity, serendipity,
a clear path,
to make good, improve, pay it forward,
to be positive, proactive, and proud.
My arms are open
My heart is open
My mind is open
I'm ready for YOU!
Do not be adverse, please accept this pleading verse,
my humble, ever expansive Universe
A few years ago in preparing to begin graduate school at School of the Art Institute of Chicago, I tore the cover off a brochure for Ox-Bow, an art school affiliated with SAIC located in Saugatuk, Michigan. I was terrified to begin school again. I was going to be an older graduate student woefully untalented, out-of-date, and disconnected from the current trends in the worlds of art and more severely technology. I clung to the torn brochure for reassurance because printed in a neat list numbered one to ten were Sister Corita Kent's Rules. These rules were my road map for school--for keeping an open mind and heart. With this wisdom, I could push fear to the side just enough so that I could squeeze some learning through the opening.
I would return to this artist's/educator's rules throughout my semesters at SAIC, and I still come back to them as I consider how to approach each day. I may have graduated a year and half ago, but I still feel like I am learning heaps and mounds as I develop my art practice, launch a business, read books, listen to books and podcasts, and observe my environments. I try to remember Sister Corita Kent's rules as I glean from each experience whatever nuggets of truth that I can manage to sift out. Perhaps you will find them useful, too--especially those of you going back to school in the fall.
PS I'm so glad that I took her advice on the last of her hints in saving this severed brochure.
Copied from Ox-Bow's 2014 brochure :
Sister Corita Kent's Rules
Rule 1: Find a place you trust, and then try trusting it for awhile.
Rule 2: General duties of a student---pull everything out of your teacher; pull everything out of your fellow students.
Rule 3: General duties of a teacher---pull everything out of your students.
Rule 4: Consider everything an experiment.
Rule 5: Be self-disciplined--this means finding someone wise or smart and choosing to follow them. To be disciplined is to follow in a good way. To be self-disciplined is to follow in a better way.
Rule 6: Nothing is a mistake. there's no win and no fail, there's only make.
Rule 7: The only rule is work. If you work it will lead to something. It's the people who do all of the work all of the time who eventually catch on to things.
Rule 8: Don't try to create and analyze at the same time. They're different processes.
Rule 9: Be happy whenever you can manage it. Enjoy yourself. It's lighter than you think.
Rule 10: "We're breaking all the rules. Even our own rules. And how do we do that? By leaving plenty of room for X quantities." ---John Cage
Hints: Always be around. Come or go to everything. Always go to classes. Read anything you can get your hands on. Look at movies carefully, often. Save everything --it might come in handy later.
This piece was cut from the Summer Issue of Woolgathering. No room for the gourds!
When planting the garden last year, I insisted on growing birdhouse gourds. There is an aged one hanging in the front of our house. It’s starting to crumble, and I’m not sure if it has been home to anyone in a while. Nonetheless, its curvaceous shape and whimsy remains an open invitation.
My affinity for gourds began when I was about eight, and my brother and I participated in a nature camp one summer. During Mr. Patterson’s nature camp, we learned about the types of clouds, tasted freshly farmed honey, and hugged trees. The experience was so positive that my brother brought home a baby bunny whom he named after Mr. Patterson --despite her being a female. In addition to scientific observations, we made things inspired by nature--like ceramic owls and birdhouse gourds.
This latter project so perfectly marries garden produce with creativity while creating homes for our feathered friends. These goosey gourds are beautiful in the sculptural sense and historically very functional produce. Gourds were the plastic-ware before there was plastic--serving as ladles, bowls, and spoons. They weren’t often adorned since they were considered common and disposable. They have also been used as instruments. In fact, holding one in my hand preparing to sand its surface, I instantly started to shake the dried seeds within the cavernous shell. They are an instant rattle.
We grew four of these percussive vegetables. The smallest rotted. The other three I sanded, cut holes, and varnished. They hang near the patio now, and I wait until someone moves in. Until then, I will plant the saved seeds from these gourds for growing more birdhouses for next year.
Anna Lentz, artist and writer, blogs about making a creative life connected with nature at Spring Bird.