I arrived to Elsewhere Studios after a whirlwind of activity, starting with a Shamanic Journeying retreat in Sedona Arizona for the Spring Equinox, and then a flight home, three days of packing and preparing, and then four days driving to Colorado, (two nights in Moab, of course!) Even with the stop over in Moab and deep connections with all the rock people inhabitants at Arches National Park, arriving to Paonia was not without what I think was altitude acclimation issues. Dizzy, exhausted, not grounded.
It took me a few days to ground myself to my new community. Luckily my vision started to clarify and I could see the community physically. Streets. Buildings. Doors. Windows. Signs. I started to see each of the individual businesses and restaurants, I started to see the beautiful people with their souls shining as they smiled and greeted me on the street, and I started to see the fruitful landscape around me.
Paonia is beautifully a small town. I was immediately taken back to my days as a child, growing up in a town with a population of 2,500, attending school with only 170 other kids and graduating high school with a class of 23. Everyone knew each other and we used to joke that “whether you like it or not, people know the color of your shit.” At the time it was probably somewhat facetious... I mean really, how could anyone/everyone possibly be able to know about the status of my bowel movements. But now I see it from a different perspective. Living in a small town enables you to make connections, even if you don’t think you want them. People SEE you. They CARE about you. And even if you don’t know yourself, they KNOW YOU.
Experiences I’ve had in Paonia have already brought beautiful gifts. One of the first nights we went to eat at Louie’s Pizza and got to know Louie, a bicyclist and an avid road bicycle race enthusiast. Pictures on the wall, jerseys, medals, and a Belgium race on the television. Of course the pizza and beer more than hit the spot. (I highly recommend the eggplant appetizer by the way.) Hanging out, sitting at the bar, we met Rex, a beautiful soul with a seriously impressive rendition of Christopher Walken. Turns out Rex was in the movie business in his former life, that special effects guy making monsters and blowing stuff up. These days, Rex works at the Lands End Sculpture Center here in Paonia and he invited us up for a tour.
The very next day, all of the Elsewhere residents jumped into my car and we drove up to the center. Ok ok... it was like three minutes away. This is something you should absolutely do if you are interested in art, sculpture, bronze and metallurgy, the process of positive and negative forms to make a final result, foundry operations in general or if you are just curious and want to meet some awesome people. I had been to other foundries before, but not a custom shop casting art. All their work is one time only, meaning no patterns for manufacturing multiple parts month after month. Each job is unique and a work of art. I saw everything from small four-inch bronze bolo medallions to a jaw dropping 10+ foot wildcat. And that isn’t even the biggest they’ve done. It was so interesting to see and learn, meet the people who make it all happen and watch them in action. You can count on Paonia oozing with creativity, art and friendliness pretty much everywhere.
A late breakfast at Nell’s turned out to be another unforgettable experience. Nell’s is a small little spot with a walk up counter and Mark cooking up your order. It actually felt like I walked right into his kitchen, and he asks what I would like to eat and he makes it for me right there in his own kitchen. Less of a restaurant-feel, more of an everyone-hanging-out-in-the-kitchen-at-home-feel. To be honest, it was around lunch time (slept in a bit), so it didn’t seem out of the ordinary that the UPS man stops in for lunch. But Bill is not an ‘ordinary’ UPS man, (who is really ordinary anyway?) Bill pulls out his guitar and proceeds to play and sing for us three of the most beautiful original songs. A loving voice that is a blend of folk, country and pure love. Fingers strumming and flowing with energy. Songs about love, lost love, and then the song he is most proud (for good reason), a song for his daughters. Well, I know he is proud of the song, but that energy also comes from how proud he is of his daughters. Beautiful. I am SO in the right place.
Only one trip to the Trading Post on Old River Road and I was hooked. Ok, I want to live here. Fresh and local everything! Fresh raw almond milk. Homemade peach butter. Local happy eggs. Bulk foods galore. Produce grown from right around the corner. Organic everything. A bring-your-own-bags and return-the-jars kind of place. All the prices are wholesale because of the type of foods they offer, so you need to pay a membership for a week, month, year, or get free membership if you... “volunteer your time by making value added products, cleaning, restocking, weeding, harvesting or processing farm food. Suggested time 2-3 hours a week. Bring your homegrown products to sell, or accept "PostNotes" at your local business.” I love Paonia.
With the opening of Spring and the excitement of the approaching Summer, the town is starting to buzz and everything seems ready to pop. Business hours seem to be shifting to more-open-than-not, organic farms and wineries are soon opening for tours and tastings. Festivals, music, gallery openings and theatre productions. And speaking of theatre, we took the time to go to Marty Durlin’s “Back In the Dreamtime” production at the local Paradise Theatre. I went to the production with an open mind... albeit realizing I am a 40-something going to a musical production about 60-somethings attending their 47-year high school reunion. I was really excited when one of the reunioners (yeah I know it isn’t a word) passed out pot-laced brownies... I thought to myself... oh yeah baby, this is gonna get GOOD! And yes, the next scene fulfilled my desires with strobe lights, secret sex and live groovin’ guitar. But it quickly shifted to discussions of Alzheimer's, lost love, the fate of the world and death. These are all issues I invite discussions, but I felt myself fighting back concern with lines like, “We’re screwed,” and “Hope is a whore, we’ve been here before, she shows you the door, you come back for more.” Art is art, and this production was definitely worth seeing. Connection with the characters is inevitable as they warm your heart, stir up memories and encourage contemplation. The live music accompaniment was VERY impressive, it seemed all the seats in the house were awesome (we sat up in the balcony) and last but not least... you have to try the organic popcorn cooked in coconut oil served with real butter and my favorite, brewer’s yeast. Oh yeah baby... Paonia rocks.
With my cell phone service not working here (Verizon), I am gratefully forced to unplug more and more and engage and ground into my new home for the next months. I am nesting, settling, enjoying and inviting the flow, the inspirations and the writing. I am so happy and grateful to be here. Thank you Elsewhere. Thank you Paonia.
P.S. The locals aren’t kidding about the Flying Fork Cafe & Bakery and their awesome bagels only offered on Sundays. Seriously amazing, tasty, soft, warm... makes every corner of your mouth (and stomach) happy. And they’re also not kidding about getting there early. A line forms right before 9am and if you get there too late... you may miss out on bagel-day entirely.
With Gratitude, Dana Fuhrman