The Spring Equinox is a time of earthly balance, when day and night are everywhere the same—a good time to envision the rest of the year with clarity and focus. My creative life is out of balance right now—I know this. Whenever I’m not spending enough time engaged in the creative process of writing my brain gets cob-webby and I get cranky. Half-formed thoughts congeal and cloud my vision.
Writing requires introspection. Yet the business of writing requires extroversion, reaching out to the world at large. When I expend too much energy with the business of writing, and not enough time with the creative act of writing stories, I find myself longing to be back at Jentel, where nothing mattered but the writing.
In 2003, I was awarded a month-long residency at Jentel. The award included a $400 stipend, a private writing studio, a private bedroom, and a fabulous community kitchen and living area that I shared with the other five residents: a writer, and four visual artists.
On our first evening together, I wrote in my journal, “Every room of this luxurious house—every alcove, every tiled floor, every bit of eclectic artwork—glows with color. Reds. Blues. Greens. Yellows. Purples.” The vibrancy was intoxicating. I had come to Jentel during a mid-life juncture, “to color my life with possibility.” It turned out to be the perfect place.
Jentel sits at the base of Wyoming’s majestic Big Horn Mountains on the historic ranchland of Lower Piney Creek Valley. Renovated from old ranch buildings, seven separate buildings form the residency village. Sage and native grasses blanket the landscape. There are four private artist’s studios. The two separate writer’s studios, housed in a log cabin about 100 feet from the main house, come equipped with antique desks, bookshelves, recliners, ergonomic chairs, and reading lamps. Mine had a red enameled fireplace and a red stained glass window.
Wib Walling was painting landscapes, like this one he later named "Wyoming Ridge." Leslie was creating a hanging yellow wallpaper installation. Terry worked in charcoal and had us each pose for a portrait. Dehlia, the glass artist from Philadelphia who painted everything backwards, admitted that she feared the dark expanse of grassland that stretched beyond the borders of the village yard. They all assumed that because I was from Wyoming, the wide open spaces didn't frighten me.
Millicent Borges Accardi, a poet from California who had done residencies at Yaddo, Vermont Studio, Fundación Valparaiso in Mojacar, Spain, and Milkweed in Cesky Krumlov, would occasionally stand at our adjoining doors and read a few lines of her poetry. I would share a scene or two from the novel I was working on. Sometimes, we wandered over to the artists’ studios and peeked in on their work. The month we spent at Jentel was a centering time, a time to re-balance the priorities in our lives. For four weeks, we imersing ourselves in our own internal creative landscapes. The creative endeavors of those weeks are still coming to fruition. Millicent's first chapbook, Woman on a Shaky Bridge, was just published by Finishing Line Press.
Neltje, the founder and benefactor of Jentel, is the granddaughter of publisher Frank Nelson Doubleday. She is Jentel’s driving, visionary force. "An author has the ability to communicate a reflection of our present day society," writes Neltje, "and perhaps forecast a possible future if we could only listen...Old societies know the worth of art. We of the United States are young and foolish and not yet steeped in wisdom."
Causes Page Lambert Supports
Children and Nature Network
American Indian College Fund
The Quivira Coalition
Center for Whole Communities
A Room of Her Own...