Resident Maddi Bacon shares the view from their Sitka apartment
The end of last week brought between three and eighteen inches of February snow to different parts of Cascade Head, along with a 27-hour power outage at Sitka. Over the weekend, we reached out to the cohort of practitioners in residence, first, to make sure everyone was safe and warm, and then, later, to reflect together on the storm and the relationship between access to nature and the creative process.
Marlana Stoddard Hayes, staying on campus as a guest artist to teach a Youth Program drawing workshop inspired by the ecology of mushrooms and lichens, instead, had a snow day with her husband Robert: “We found the entire experience to be one of reflection and pause, leaving us with a deeper appreciation of how nature calls us to stillness.”
Writer-in-residence Morgan Thomas, who is staying with their partner at Sitka’s 80-acre preserve where a foot and a half of snow accumulated, shares this reflection: “Access to nature and creativity are so twinned in my practice, it's difficult even to extricate the two long enough to write about their relationship. I generate every first story draft while walking through the woods, dictating lines into my phone recorder. I couldn't write without those walks, which means I can't write without woods. For me, the lesson of the storm, in terms of making, was to let go of linearity, to embrace play and uncertainty. I tried to write as usual at first, and found I couldn't. I needed, instead, to record details of the snow, the depressions the elk left in it where they napped, the V of their footprints. I needed to play in it and create with it.”
Chilean visual artist-in-residence Francisca Brunet shares her snowbound experience and heartening insights in Spanish, followed by her own English translation:
“Días que se vuelven infinitos cuando la naturaleza decide devolvernos al origen. Humanos que recuperan el afecto. Animales que pierden el miedo a los humanos. Las relaciones que avanzan por un camino suave y espontáneo. Hay una cierta irrelevancia en las necesidades cotidianas que acostumbramos y hay vínculos que se construyen sobre la delicadeza de los signos de la empatía. El silencio es tan feroz que no hay forma de escuchar su voz. Sólo las escasas veces en que la naturaleza decide transformarnos en diminutos seres silenciosos y acercarnos fugazmente a la vastedad.”
“Days seem unending when nature brings us back to basics. Humans become kinder. Animals lose fear of humans. Connections flow in the most spontaneous and easy ways. "Normal needs" seem to become irrelevant, and bonds are built out of simple signs of empathy. It's so quiet out there, and we cannot even hear the silence speaking. Every now and then, nature turns us into small quiet beings, making us huge for a moment.”
“At Sitka I become more aware of the patterns of nature, taking it in slowly like sea air,” offers Salvadoran-American textile artist Orquidia Violeta. “Nature teaches us harmony. Why fight against it? The birds, deer and elk just go with the flow.”
Writer-in-residence Zeyn Joukhadar expands on the ideas of flow, beginner’s mind and how being in nature “…makes language unnecessary. Being at Sitka during the winter storm this past weekend reminded me of this – that the rest of our nonhuman kin have other ways of communicating, and that as a writer, my job is not only to focus on the words, but also to communicate the thing that sits behind the words. My job is to make the visceral, messy experience of living – of the needling hail or a spongy mantle of moss, say – present to the reader. And also, sometimes, to forget about language and go outside.”
In addition to these reflections and snapshots, National Geographic published photographer Robert Dash, who is also in residence at Sitka now, contributed a photo essay of Cascade Head storm images to close out this month’s newsletter. Thank you to all of Sitka’s residents for taking us inside your creative practices.
The time and space that Sitka provides for reflection and creation in nature is a luxury. Thank you to the Otis emergency responders who brave the elements, work through the night, clear roads, restore power and keep our community safe when nature clamors.
With awe and gratitude,