Thursday, April 27, 2017


This is Essay #17 (on time! woo!!) of The 52 Essay Challenge, a series in which I write a new (unpolished) essay each week during 2017.

(my studio during last night's Open Studios)

My residency at Vermont Studio Center is coming to an end.

I should be packing up my studio right now, but instead I am staring out the wide open window, listening to the Gihon River roll by. Birdsong trilling every now and then at this early morning hour. Everyone is still sleeping after a night by the bonfire behind Schultz studios. I like the quiet, the stillness of the world before everyone wakes. Which is why I'm not packing up just yet. I want to linger here. To savor this moment as the sun tries to break through cloud cover.

Leaving is always hard, no matter how much one practices non-attachment. Well, at least for me.

Last night was Open Studios, which, for those unfamiliar, is like an Open House. Studio doors are open and we wander in and our from place to place, seeing what each of us has been creating during this month of our residency. It's pretty amazing to see all of that art, in varying degrees of process with a vast range of media. To witness each person's specific ways of interacting with the world and their expression of what they see. Because as artists, it's all about what we see and how we see it, how we make sense of it.

There was Open Studios mid-month, but this one, at the close of the month, was really intense for me. It took longer. There was a lot more work to take in and a lot more conversation with everyone. Discussing projects, plans for what's next. Sensory overload. But all of it was really incredible. So much talent in one place.

Afterwards, I just sat in my studio, listening to the river with one earbud in, listening to one of my favorite songs on repeat. I needed to just be alone for a minute, to take it all in and digest before I went back out into the world of socializing. I didn't want to talk to anyone. I just wanted to be in the quiet. Then it started to seep in like the night: that sadness of leaving.

On Monday, I could already sense it: the long goodbye. There was talk of the process of shipping (mostly for visual artists), of breaking down studios and returning them to clean slates. Plans for last dinners, staying in touch, final hurrahs. I started to slow down, to really be present as much as I could (which, to be honest, is something I should've done right from the start. Oh, hindsight, how you vex me so! Haha!). That afternoon, I took a hike with my friend Kara to Journey's End. A hike that should've happened sooner rather than later. It was beautiful. Warm and sunny. Waterfalls here and there --the sound of rushing water so powerful-- which then tapered off into quiet. The water so clear that you could see the river rocks shimmering in the light. I took off my socks and shoes and dipped my feet into the icy water. While Kara searched for her stone treasures, I just sat there, letting my mind wander from thing to thing, noticing the water's movements, noticing water bugs on the surface, feeling the sun's warmth on my face, on my arms. Unhurried. At peace. I didn't want to leave.

On Tuesday afternoon, I spent three hours painting the big canvas (24 x 36) I bought during the start of Week 2. It took me two weeks to just break the plastic wrap and put some blue on it. It felt good. I listened to this one song on repeat and let the body respond with gesture, paintbrush in hand. Again, I was unhurried.

But then yesterday that prickly ball of anticipation showed up in my belly. I still moved at a slower pace than I usually do, but I needed to get things done. I had to prep my studios (both my writing studio & the art installation) for Open Studios. It's like staging a house for open house: you want everything just so. You won't necessarily be there to talk to those who visit, so you want to make sure things are clear. But also, I didn't feel like I needed to be around my peeps (which was interesting since I suffer from FOMO all the time!). I kinda liked doing my own thing. I even had dinner off-camus at the pizza place by myself, reading the comic book, Ms Marvel. I guess I wanted to be alone for a bit.

This seems to be a new way of me dealing with leaving. Usually I'm frantically trying to spend every last minute with every single person I want to be with, squeezing quality time into every tiny second. This time? Quite the opposite.


There are different kinds of leaving.

Leaving home to come here was both exciting and a little sad, but not so much so because I knew I'd return. But what it is to be left behind? To be in the place that is familiar and feel the absence, the gaping hole of that person who has left? This, I think, might the harder of the two. Of course, it depends on one's perspective and circumstance.

This leaving is different. Everyone is leaving at the same time, heading off into different directions, like the burst of colored rays in a kaleidoscope. It is sad to leave the place and the handful of staff who remain behind (Mo!!!), but, in some ways, this leaving feels like a promise of possibility. And that is what I'll hold onto to keep from crying (Lord knows I've done more than enough weeping in my studio this month!).


Which brings us back to this moment of me staring out the window, listening to the river. I'm going to miss that river. I'm going to miss my studio. And my big first-floor window out of which I have stepped. Do you know how great it feels to just step out of your window and onto the grass and then walk a few steps to get closer to the water? I love it.

Leaving is hard but only because we've grown attached to the temporary. While I will miss my studio, I know I will be back. While I will miss the amazing, loving, and supportive friends I have made here, I know my life is much richer because of them. Some of us will stay connected, others may drift into the horizon. Either way, I am grateful for all of the interactions and experiences I have had here.  I am blessed beyond belief. And I hope that I can walk away, take these moments, and create something that will add beauty and love to the world.


  1. Taking it all in
    Letting it go

    Traces of memory
    always remain
    Like gold chips
    to add light
    to the mosaic
    of your life...

  2. <3 Beautiful m'love. That part about different types of leaving really resounded with me. Going to miss that river and you as well.