I wake up early, not so usual for me, and when I raise the blinds it’s always sunny here on the dry side of the Columbia River Gorge in Washington.
I put on a thick woolen sweater with a Native American design in sepia and acorn hues, owned by the artist who lives and works here. I grab my cereal and juice, head outside, and eat my shredded wheat looking at Mt. Hood.
We just sold our home of 23 years, where we raised two sons. Wanting to get our minds off of what we left behind, we flew across the country to an artist’s studio and retreat in the Pacific Northwest. New terrain and evidence of an artist hard at work teaching, learning, sharing, and making are reviving my creative spirit.
These things inspire:
- a weaver’s loom
- artwork on all the walls, mostly nature based
- marigolds drying in a basket
- a display of cloth swatches dyed from goldenrod, Queen Anne’s lace, turmeric, eucalyptus, horsetail, walnut, and blackberries
- a fragrant garden with mint, basil, tomatoes, squash and other goodies
- a handmade bread oven
- poppies everywhere in gold and fiery red
- jars filled with mysterious things, such as dried flower petals and I don’t know what
- thick, blush-pink pear slices put by in glass jars
- a catalog of enticing classes like Wooden Spoon Carving, Flower Farm Dyes, Ikat Weaving, and Columbia Plateau Beadwork
Other people’s book collections take us down unforeseen paths, and sometimes the more off the beaten path, the better. There are many books to sample here. At the moment, I’m delving into At Home in Nature: Modern Homesteading and Spiritual Practice in America, by Rebecca Kneale Gould, learning about John Burroughs, Henry David Thoreau, Helen and Scott Nearing, and lesser known American homesteaders – an intriguing slice of American history. It’s perhaps more scholarly than I’d prefer, but I’m enjoying it.
Some other books that live here:
which “aesthetics” do you mean? ten definitions, by Leonard Koren
Coming to Stay: A Columbia River Journey, by Mary Dodds Schlick
A Dyer’s Garden: From Plant to Pot, Growing Dyes for Natural Fibers, by Rita Buchanan
Pacific Feast: A Cook’s Guide to West Coast Foraging and Cuisine, by Jennifer Hahn
Art of the Northern Tlingit, by Aldona Jonaitis
The Textiles of Guatemala, by Regis Bertrand and Danielle Magne
Native Arts of the Columbia River Plateau: The Doris Swayze Bounds Collection, edited by Susan E. Harless
In Zanesville, a novel by Jo Ann Beard (I loved her memoir, The Boys of My Youth.)
Red Brick, Black Mountain, White Clay: Reflections on Art, Family & Survival, by Christopher Benfey
Recommended by my son, which I packed in my suitcase:
The Third Plate: Field Notes on the Future of Food, by Dan Barber
Other books I brought with me:
The Golem and the Jinni, by Helene Wecker (book club reading)
The Artist’s Rule: Nurturing Your Creative Soul with Monastic Wisdom, by Christine Valters Paintner
No Experience Required! Watercolor, by Carol Cooper
I’ll likely read just a couple of these but it’s nice to be able to choose.
Climbing a small mountain is another way to get your mind off things. I have more stores of endurance than I thought and limbs that are plenty sore, but the climb gave me a sense of accomplishment.
We saw three of the Cascade mountains once we made it to the top…
….which I could not have done without the encouragement of my husband.
An artist’s tools and artifacts. Books that belong to another. Climbing a small mountain. How do you feed your creative spirit? Can you recommend any books? Are you traveling this summer or working on a creative project?