The Headlands Center for the Arts in the Golden Gate National Recreation Area is haunted. Artists have reported waking in the middle of the night to doctors performing surgery just over their beds, hearing the sounds of stomping in the studio above them (apparently a suicide took place in that room); a phantom girl keeps appearing near a dryer in the basement and there have been reports of screams drifting from coast, from those who died on shipwrecks many years ago.
I'm an Affiliate Artist at the Headlands, which means that I have a studio space there year round, but never spend the night-which is when most of the ghost experiences happen. So while I miss these, I do partake in the other festivities. During the high season, when painters and composers arrive from around the world and the kitchen collaborates with artist collectives, the natural history of the area is celebrated. Cocktails reminiscent of fog are served prior to eggs, deviled with anchovies and served in bird's nests commemorate the Portuguese settlers who rowed out to the Farallon Islands for gull eggs. And military history is always present-sometimes overtly, like when poetry ambushes from hilltops are planned.
So there is time to write during the day before dinner and artist presentations, gallery openings, musical concerts, and loud, clamorous talks about art and life as the dishes get washed after dinner each night. But December, January and February are the dark months, and no Artists-in-Residence arrive. The kitchen closes down and the staff gets a long break, and even Powder, the mouse-catching cat is relocated to warmer home. The place gets very, very quiet. I still go out there to work. My studio is part of a renovated Army storage depot that overlooks a defunct missile silo. It's on the top floor, near the rafters, and sunlight beams through the windows; dust moats float around abandoned desks and chairs. At times, wind gusting in from the sea howls by and rattles the roof. Out my window, I can see the foamy effervescence of waves crashing onto the rocky shoreline. I take walks at dusk, catching site of prey and predator--wild turkeys and deer are plentiful, and when lucky, I spot coyotes or a bobcat. On my walk, I might pass an old lighthouse, military garrisons from WWII tucked into the hillside, surfers bob in steep beach breaks, and cypress trees, sculpted by the wind, cling to the cliffs. Ship's foghorns blow in the distance and owls call back and forth to each other from deep in the eucalyptus trees. Then I circle back to my studio, rub my hands to warm them up, and I continue writing my novel, inspired by all the spirits-past and present-- of the Headlands Center for the Arts.
Causes Maria Finn Supports
CHEFS (Conquering Homelessness Through Education in Food Services)