I’ve just returned from an artist residency in rural Oregon. Arriving at Redmond Airport, I met a fellow resident (and now friend), rented a car, and drove with her for two hours until our cell phone signals disappeared. The drive to Summer Lake featured long stretches of empty desert roads flanked by enormous mountains sweeping up to the sky.
As we drove, I kept remarking at how this, this scale, this emptiness, looked like America, or at least the one I had imagined growing up in Nepal, and my friend, also from half way around the world, agreed and shared her own misconceptions about the country that would eventually become home
Then the climb began and so did the switchbacks and the reminder that we were playing with death. The sun set before us and suddenly we were in the pitch dark, making calculations about which shade of blue signified sky and which the ground. Finally, just after we narrowly avoided hitting a couple of deer, we reached the residency.
Before us was a small collection of cabins, each designated to a different person. We could tell our homes would be comfortable and quiet, but we had no idea of the extraordinary landscape beyond our cabins. We could not see the playa stretched before us — not until the morning, that first morning when I actually walked out onto the balcony barefoot with a blanket around my shoulder to take in the view.
I loved my cabin. It was at the very end of the property, facing a range of mountains that went from purple and pink to white to gold. The light changed constantly. My days were long, starting before sunrise — sometimes as early as five. I wrote through the morning, made frequent trips to my kitchen, moved from my bed to the desk to the arm chair, and read books (including Knausgaard’s My Struggle Book 3, H is for Hawk, and Alice in Wonderland) that seeped into my own.
Then, on some evenings when I was a little lonely, I went out and joked and drank and commiserated with the fellow artists. There were a couple of trips to a hot spring and a local bar where we took free shots from the owner, and I definitely country-danced a little. But mostly we talked about our projects, about America, about relationships, and then we retreated back to our silences, our work.