I replied, “No. I will eat you up.”
If you are in the Pacific Northwest, do please consider attending this event. Not only is the Methow a wonderful place to visit, but you’ll walk away with so much appreciation for the artist community here. Our creatives are a force. Our creatives are the very verve of this place and after two straight years of tourism-killing forest fires, the entire Methow needs you to visit more than ever before.
Also this — a full ten pages of it.
And, you are going to need to put your name on the Filson catalogue mailing list…right now…today. Just trust me.
I took the long way to work this morning, a total of 15 driving miles instead of 5. It’s not the best use of fossil fuels but I find driving extremely freeing and sometimes I simply need to take the long road to get to where I am going. I sip my coffee slowly in the truck, roll the windows down so the dogs can taste the wind with their long tongues, play my music loud and shake my hair as we swoop around the corners and cowboy wave and the neighbors. It makes me feel limber and relaxed so when I get to work, I am ready to get to work. I find my holiest habits aren’t truly habitual. Not really at all.
I am working my way through Trust The Process at the moment and one chapter addresses the idea of changing up daily rituals in order to keep work fresh and progressive, down to silly things like employing non-dominant hands in the middle of work to engage the opposite side of the brain! Some folks thrive on a day to day regimen but I find I work best when I approach my days exploratively, when I let them, to a certain degree, carry me. I like to be adrift. I like to see where the path leads, I thrive on the looseness of intuitive wandering and the freedom therein. I try to be gentle to my sense of time.
A wise friend once told me that it’s ungrateful to complain about time, its structure, the seeming lack of it on certain days. It dishonors those who have lived short lives. I thought, as I drove this morning, about one of the firefighters who died a few days ago on the Twisp River Fire here in the Methow — he was twenty years old. Just a baby. So far, I’ve been given thirteen more years of life than he was given. I am spoiled with time.
Time is on my side.
Something else I am practicing in the studio these days is physically moving, as much as possible. I am working past a layer of something that is like scar tissue or knots in my creative muscles — muscles that are crackling with seized up fascia; in need of stretching, movement, healing, loosening, a massive tearing down so they can be built back up into a place of flexibility and power once more. Putting on a song that gets my body moving in between batches of tiny solders and hours of delicate piercing work feels fantastic. Sometimes I stick a huge piece of paper up on the wall, grab a pencil or a handful of pastels, shut my eyes and simply usher the medium over the paper while I move to music. I make motions. I make marks. I open my eyes when the song is finished and see what the music made my body do.
I don’t really care what folks think of these mad methods, all I know is somehow, they are doing something to me and I feel myself creatively re-opening right now, or at least loosening to the the point of being open to openness.
I’ve been hell bent on setting stones the past few days, re-connecting with work that is clean and made powerful by accuracy, simple mastery of the medium and speed. There will be time when I settle down into working deeper than this but it seems like reattaching myself to the glorious mechanics and science of metal work and soldering is important right now. So I am allowing myself time for very basic designs that feature beautiful stones in simple settings.
Clean, bright work.
Last week, after I expressed concern to a friend about the smoothness of my re-immersion into the studio and metalwork, she said, “I just looked through all your photos because I miss your damn face. It’s been fun to see your growth in photography but don’t let it stifle your metalsmithing. You are talented at both and it’s good to learn to feed both mediums. I love you.”
The promise of autumn is written in the stars and draped in swaths of cold dew on the lawns in the morning now. Can you feel it where you are? We’re making our winter plans, finding a place to live once the fire season is over, imagining how sweet it will be to feel the wind in our faces as we hunt birds behind the dogs and curl up with books by a warm fireplace. The end of the fire season is near and I’ll miss it when it’s gone, like I have every time before this, like I will every time after this.
What we have here in the Methow has become family. At the firefighter memorial on the weekend, I sat in a sea of broad shoulders and shaggy hair, I sat holding Rob’s hand, and I thought, “This is my immediate fire family and we really are just like a family. Some of these people are like brothers to me, some are weird, some I plainly do not understand or particularly like, but we’re a family, I love them all and we will always have each other, come rain or sun, come hell or high water.”
And I thought that was a really beautiful thing.
At the studio, in the dark, while standing out in the yard preparing to lock doors and drive home to the smokejumper base, I can see into the neighbor’s house — lit up in the night for the first time in the withering daylight hours of late August.
In what appears to be a study or office, the word SHALOM is written boldly on a whiteboard that hangs from a wall beside an open doorway.
Written in yawning, uneven block letters.
Written for me.
They don’t even know it.
They think they wrote the word for themselves, for their family, for whatever they are going through, for the joy of it and the very calm the word speaks into the bones of the soul…but they wrote it for me to see lit up in the last of the gloaming on this specific day.
And I receive the word.
And the weary, chipped and stained corner of my heart that keeps trying to heal, but can’t, despite itself, despite a lot of things, receives the word.
Now, I pass it on to you.
I was grabbing a coffee yesterday while in Twisp and wound up having a meaningful conversation about the Methow Valley, where it has come from, where it is headed to, and how forest fires play a roll in the going and coming of life here — and in all of the interior West, for that matter. Fires seem to be the way of the future.
This is the second year in a row that the Methow has burned and while the valley is home to a brilliant community of mountain folk, it is largely economically fueled by tourism. What will happen to this place when people stop coming because they think it’s no longer beautiful? What will happen in years to come when summer is literally burned out from under our feet and we are forced to spend August and September mopping up after loss of trees, homes, lives, crops, livestock? What will happen? How do we cope? How do we rebuild? What have we learned?
I looked out as the mountains were burning last week and I thought, “It’s a little worse for wear, but it’s still ruggedly beautiful. It will always be beautiful, bless it’s enduring, stony bones.”
On base, Dan built a swing. It’s a beautiful swing that hangs low and strong from a pair of locust trees. Swinging on it is a kind of bliss built of a long, graceful glide that seems like it may never change direction and head back to where it started. I was swinging on it late last night, searching the sky for stars, hoping their light might pierce through the smoke, and as I watched the trees shift and move beneath the weight of my movement I thought, “They like this. The trees like this. They like to have a job.” I was guilty of downright romantic anthropomorphism in my suspended state — sweeping through thin air like the goddess of wind and stardust. But it’s true, you know. We’re just like the trees; counting the years in rings, spending the seasons, eventually ashes to ashes.
It was beautiful last night, swinging. It was the first time I’ve felt moving air on my face, wind in my hair, in days. I felt alive and clean.
Yesterday, I missed a gathering for fire wives in the valley regarding dealing with stress levels and fear (I think that’s what it was about) because I was out fishing and because I didn’t know about it because no one told me about it. I wish I would have known about it.
Last night, when I found out about it, I told my friend, “Well, you know, I don’t really feel stressed. I feel sad right now. My lungs feel black because of this doggone smoke. But I’m not worried about Robert on the line. I trust that no news is good news. I know he’ll make good decisions out there and that he’ll take care of his brothers; that’s all I can ask him to do. In his absence, I simply have to live fully.”
I’m fishing most mornings, because I can, and because it’s a meditation (casting out over the water). It’s quiet. I do my thinking there, hip deep in a prolonged baptism. Each loop I throw out is a prayer, a forgiveness offered to myself for my own shortcomings, a hope for anger dissolved, gratitude for lessons learned, the stripping away of my fears. The river is the coolest, flowing-est, loveliest, most consistent thing in the valley and the fish give me something extra to tether my faith to.
On September 5th I have a group exhibit opening at the Confluence Gallery in Twisp. I’m delighted. This is the first exhibit opening I have ever been able to attend (I’ve had to miss everything in the past) wherein my work is part of the show. You are all invited to attend.
Additionally, on September 19th and 20th, I am happy to announce that I will FINALLY be a part of the Methow Valley open studio tour. I’ve wanted to be a part of this tour for years now but have never had a studio space that could be easily accessed by the public until this year. I’ll be opening up my doors to the public, sharing my space, and naturally, I’ve been working on inventory for this event. I should mention that the Methow Valley is home to an astounding array of incredible artists and it’s an honor to stand shoulder to shoulder with some of them for this studio tour.
Both the studio tour and exhibit opening come at a wonderful time when your support and visit to the Methow will mean the world to the community here. Please feel free to attend, if you’re in the neighborhood, or not in the neighborhood! I speak for the entire Methow when I say we’d love to see your shining faces.