Now that I’ve completed it, here’s what my month-long artist’s residency looked like:
Up at 5:30 for the stupendous sunrise, then prayer, then work, then usually 11:30 Mass, then lunch, then my chore of helping put away the dishes, then more work or a nap or a phone call, then the hour-long walk up the hill, then (often) Evening Prayer, then supper, then dishes, then reading or a movie.
Sometimes, to get really zany, I would leave the walk till AFTER SUPPER!
The sisters at the Monastery of St. Gertrude were wonderful, especially since I was basically a guest in their home, a fact of which I was at all times acutely aware. I did pretty darn well, for me. Did not get crabby, surly, sullen, impatient, sarcastic or snippy, a feat made possible ONLY by the fact that as I said, I spent 95% of the time by myself.
Another crazy stroke of luck: the other artist-in-residence was Dana Stevens of Brooklyn, NY, film critic for SLATE, a wonderful writer, and an all-around stellar human being.
Dana REALLY never got crabby, sullen, or sarcastic, and instead exhibited a refreshing and unflagging curiosity about all things prairie, Benedictine spirituality, and the mysteries of the monastery building which were legion and included working dumbwaiters, a beauty parlor, a Halloween costume room, a craft room, a sewing room, a pantry the size of my bedroom at home filled with shelves of homemade preserves, a library, a former infirmary, an “old kitchen” with two huge gleaming cast-iron woodstoves, a lab where soaps and balms are made, the room with Sr. Placida’s antique bookbinder, and more.
As it was, and though we were constantly snooping about, we barely scratched the surface.
Having now experienced a few “transition” days in Boise before heading out later today t begin the drive back to LA, I realize I barely “relaxed” for a single hour while I was there. Not that I didn’t sit in the morning staring out the window, but I was generally planning my work day (how could it be that even in a monastery, there weren’t enough hours!?). I was so thrilled to have silence, solitude, and a relatively uninterrupted day that I wanted to take advantage of every second to work.
More to the point, I realize now, I really, really did not want to feel.
My 80-year-old Cousin Dickie died last March. The last remaining “family homestead” (built by my paternal grandfather on Rye Beach, NH, and much visited and beloved by all my siblings and I as kids and beyond) has been sold, the proceeds divided, and as often happens during such times, some old wounds were reopened–and now await healing.
Plus it’s fall already, and WHAT HAPPENED TO 2019!? I know they say time seems to pass more quickly the older you get, but this is ridiculous! I tend to want to cling to all people, places, and things–Wait, where are you going? I didn’t get a chance to FULLY drink you in!
But that’s not the way reality works. Reality rushes in, relentlessly, one second marching on to another…
Now I’m enjoying (among many other things), the Boise River Greenbelt, a genius urban feature that should be adopted across the land…
Tomorrow I’ll head south, stopping once again in Winnemucca, NV (about the only place on a long stretch between Boise and the Eastern Sierras), then to the Bristlecone Forest, and Friday–home.
Being away has made me appreciate my beloved LA all over again.
I will hit the ground running, with a memorial AND an end-of-summer party the very next day.
I can’t wait to see my garden–and to play the piano.