The road to Elsewhere Studios started, for me, with a 4 am wait for the M116 bus in upper Manhattan, proceeded through two plane rides, a connection to a Denver Greyhound, and finally the joyful grin of a fellow Elsewhere artist who would be behind the wheel for the last hundred miles or so to Paonia. I climbed up to my studio space with relief and no small amount of exhaustion, but was soon revived by the abundant creative energy coursing through the space. It was a home that immediately welcomed, comforted, and rejuvenated me.
I spread my papers across the giant desk in my space, where I worked from early in the morning to midday, breaking for coffee or some local goodies from Paonia Bread Works. I had a number of writing projects to tackle—poems, a children’s book, a digital narrative, a short story—but it was the novella at the heart of my application that received the bulk of my creative attention.
My subject is deeply personal, so I allowed myself breaks as I needed them. I loved being able to just walk out the front door and soon be on a beautiful walk with views of the valley, or down the road for a snow cone in the shade of the driving Colorado sun. The bright, arid environment afforded me a perfect kind of reset. I could see my work, and what I needed to do, in a new light. There is something really refreshing, and reassuring, about what being in residence offers to an artist in the midst of some really challenging work.
At the end of my four weeks in residence, we gathered in the common space studio of the main house. What a pleasure it was to witness the words, wit, and work of my fellow artists in residence, and to be able to share my own progress. We spun words in the air, and images on screens, to express and discuss work close to our hearts—work we had created across our time at Elsewhere.
Here is one poem that I wrote down by the bubbling water of the Paonia River:
“Once they hatch from eggs, mayfly nymphs cling to rocks on the bottom of the river with specially adapted legs. They eat algae. They live in the nymph stage for up to three years. When conditions are right, they shed their old body (molt) and emerge from the water with wings. They change once more that same day from a ‘dun’ to a true adult, called a ‘spinner’. Adults have no functional mouth parts, so they only have a few days to find a partner and reproduce. Once they have fulfilled this life mission, they die. Their bodies, sometimes thousands at once, provide food and organic matter for the river system”
– Paonia River National Park Information Board
The Mayfly Series
Yes, I have been born.
It is a confluence of things,
A myriad, a mystic.
This world this time, this shape and size, this vessel.
So many things had to be possible—all these other possibles, all of them,
In sequential order
For this to be possible.
Joy is gangly and unbridled.
As I am unbidden to see this,
This me-sized me
This thing that I am.
Even as billions have come before me
As they will appear after I am gone,
I am new.
Look! Look here—these legs, they are special
I use them to cling to this thing, this rock.
Let me stay here a while
On this rock
In this life
Here, I will live here, newly born.
Legs build just for clinging,
To the lamp of my rock.
Mouth just for this
Eyes, I see you.
I will use these things, here, now.
I will live to survive
I am rock steady.
Years now, but I’m ready.
I float to the surface
But I’m ready
Breach the membrane of the surface
Eyes glancing, gleaning
My years steady and my rock-life
Have prepared me well.
I will shed my old body
And emerge from the water,
I know how I will use these.
I am imbued with that knowledge
And the rock, that water,
All that was essential to me
A dun, tentative to the last.
The light, this world
Newly in it and in the presence of firsts.
I bid it and it comes to me
The light, these wings,
Dun, they call me.
The new one, newly risen
Dun to spinner,
In the single day of the eternity of my life.
I am looking, ever searching
I feel my need and I know
And to sustain myself only—if only—to sustain that
The rocks my stars
And the night a time of glowing magic.
I am unmouthed, yet agape.
The stars my rocks
The others, too, rise from the water.
They are beside me.
Rise as one, our purpose—shared.
And again I fall into the lamplight of my twilight
A spinner in full, heady rise and my once-dormant wings
They beat one million times
Furious to kiss the wind.
First, I find
Waste no time in finding
Upon whom I will imbue
This love lust
And emerge, untrammeled
In the secure knowledge of the thing, secured
To rock, to water vine
To the next,
And the next
And again—the next.