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Otis, OR 97368
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November Director's Journal

November 26, 2019

Alison Dennis

It's not quite light yet outside, and I am in the Sitka library alone with my reflections. It's been one year since I moved to the Oregon Coast to serve as the Sitka Center's director.

Just as I sit down to write, it starts to rain - a velvet downfall, too soft to disturb the spruce branches visible through the library's round window.

I close my eyes and listen.

I hear a musician-in-residence singing a winter song written for a seal. I hear recorder players making fairy music in a rite of spring. I hear the supportive voices of summer workshop participants gathered around their creations and sharing encouragements. I hear the joyful camaraderie of colleagues, old and new, arriving downstairs now as this autumn day begins.

So many moments this past year have expanded my appreciation of the peaceful power of this place and of what is made possible through Sitka's open-ended gifts of time and space.Let me share here just one of a personal nature.

Last holiday season, my mother gifted my father a Sitka membership. In September they both traveled up from Ashland to visit and take their first Sitka workshops. While my dad art-geeked out in a cellphone photography class, I surprised my mother by filling the last seat in her sketch booking class. For two enchanted days I sat side by side with her, drawing for pleasure, the way we did when I was small.

Drawing with my mother and countless other Sitka moments from this first year converge now and reaffirm a core belief. Creating - drawing, painting, playing with clay, playing with words, making a discovery through a pair of binoculars, tuning a banjo, focusing a camera or finding a fossil - is life giving. These are not impractical pastimes or extracurricular activities. These are ways people of all ages with the spring of curiosity in their steps and the spark of imagination in their eyes engage with and contribute to the world. Art and science, in all forms, have the power to make life on this earth we share better.

The rain has stopped. I glance up again from my writing and consider the spruce through the window.Sitka may be small and tucked away in the woods, but the earth here is fertile and uniquely conducive to growing some of the tallest, longest living and most inspirational organisms on the planet.

Reflecting on my first year, I am grateful to everyone in our ever-expanding Sitka community for leading by curious and creative example. As winter holidays approach, I am especially grateful to my mother, Susan, for reminding me that in these increasingly cacophonous times sometimes the most radical and world-changing act of all is to turn off the 24-hour news feed and pick up a paintbrush.

In thanksgiving,

 Alison