Getaway House Residency: The Meaning of Home
Two weeks ago, I shipped some canvas and paint back to New York. In preparation for a show next month, I figured there was no better way than to unplug and re-focus in a different setting. If there’s one thing I’ve learned over the course of the last two years— it’s recognizing the constant battle of creative pressure vs the need to fill. I’m still very much a work in progress in terms of nurturing my creative habits, rather than running myself into the ground. But I’ve made progress. Someone once told me inspiration doesn’t come from the inside of a studio. It comes from living and absorbing the energy of the world.
And they’re right.
So I packed my bags and decided I’d paint back home in a new environment- stimulating my brain with a little challenge- while also taking a break from all social media and other admin work. It starts with hesitation (like, wait, what am I even doing here? I have to focus now?? outside of my comfy studio? and put my phone down?) To make things even better, I was lucky enough to work with Getaway House as a sponsored Artist Fellow for a few days mid week. They offered me the most beautiful space to work & reflect. If you’re unfamiliar with Getaway House- I highly suggest you change this. (Especially if you’re in need of a quaint tiny home experience filled with incredible natural light, pour-over coffee, cherished little card games and books, a fire pit for s’mores and beautiful hiking trails) I packed my bags and drove an hour and a half north to Catskill, ready to embrace the ambiance of upstate.
I think the greatest gift of unplugging from any form of technology is the realization that you don’t really need it. After these two weeks, I almost became addicted to the feeling of not needing my phone. Not scrolling, not posting, not texting, not calling. I snapped photos of moments when I felt like it and all else went unattended to. And what else? The lack of visual verification. Not having a mirror in the cabin was another great experience that I’ve taken more time to reflect on. Not once did I have to walk by a reflection and worry about my hair being too tangled, my makeup free face- or what my baggy sweats looked like. All stressors were alleviated. Removed. All that was left felt more intense, more connected, more honest. There’s nothing left to hide behind.
During these three days, I sketched compositions for my upcoming collection. Some I hated, some I loved. I slept in and woke up to the sound of birds singing, and stayed up too late wrapped in a blanket around the fire. When my brain felt clouded, I stepped out into the woods and walked the icy trails. I listened to the sound natural running water and embraced the cold air in my lungs. I ate delicious food from a simple stove top, savored pour-over coffee and drank too much wine. There’s questions in a book on the table; “What is your most treasured memory? Your worst"?”
The campfire crackles and the trees tower overhead. Smoke bellows around me, encompassing the smell of my hair for hours. Music echoes softly through the air and I sip wine from a coffee mug. A calmness.
It felt familiar. I’ve been here before.
I grew up a bit south of Catskill, where I sat currently in this cabin— and was raised to dream bigger than a small town girl. I never really came back after college, and moved out at seventeen. Each time I did come back, I felt the need to turn around and run back out the door. Stagnancy lived here. We grow and worry we’ll deteriorate if still for too long. Motion is natural. It’s the stillness I’ve always avoided. You can’t feel much as long as your feet are moving.
As kids we walked or rode our bikes to one another’s houses and laid in the middle of the road underneath our favorite oak tree. In the summer I didn’t own shoes, and ran through fields of tough grass to feel the sun on my skin. We spent almost every fall engulfed at little league baseball fields and parks. We lived for cliff jumping, river swimming and wandering. We hung out in abandoned houses as teens and drank liquor out of water bottles around cabin campfires. There were no streetlights— just bold darkness and the occasional flicker of fireflies. We drove our first crappy cars too fast around back country roads; making plans bigger than our small town. Life was simple then, even though it may not have felt that way at the time.
Seated around that campfire there at the cabin, I felt a familiarity I hadn’t in a long, long time. Have you ever returned to a place each year and feel completely disoriented or foreign to the person you were then? Almost as if you can't decipher where the old you ended and current you began. A disconnect. Until this moment, that’s all I had ever felt returning here. But standing still for the first time in years, I was finally able to look back and see everything with a clearer view.
I saw the night sky open up a new world above me in my backyard as a little girl, wrapped in a blanket with my dad as he pointed out the constellations above. I smell the smokiness of campfire in my hair and the hot pavement beneath my bare feet in the summertime. Friends laughter echoes beneath the bridge as the water swallows my body from the jump above. I can feel my heart racing in my chest as I climb too far up that tree to beat my brother in a game of hide and seek. Or maybe it’s the car radio blasting my favorite mix cd as the black leather sticks to my skin in the heat. I can feel my legs push through the air for the first time as a little girl on that town park swing; the same ones I sat on to hold hands and talk about life and love years later. Cicadas buzz in the night as I lay on a trampoline; face up into the night sky, friends asleep at my side. A closeness.
Not many appreciate where they grow up. I’ve noticed this in conversations with friends from all over the world; small remarks about the lack evolving cultures, over-idealized landscapes or just patterns of overall boredom. Why is the familiar so mundane?
Maybe its a narrative that begins long before we can consciously recognize it; insisting we prove that we’re capable of much more than the small communities and ideas that raise us. As if these imperfect places and imperfect people didn’t create who we are. Perhaps its the inability to accept who we’ve been; to be brave enough to bring ourselves home. Maybe some of us never have to.
Maybe life is just one constant longing for the next big move. Waiting and willing to see all that comes next; living for our greater tomorrow. Perhaps its our natural tendency to always explore and evolve past the invisible dotted lines we were raised in. Is it possible to rest here? Allowing ourselves to stand still and feel all we’re supposed to feel; without the fear of roots binding at our feet. Maybe we’re all breathlessly running and running— constantly looking over our shoulder just long enough to finally see through clear vision; that the world was really ours all along.