Having arrived at the Glen Workshop late but in one piece, and having awoken my poor roommate, and not for the last time, I woke up to my first taste of Santa Fe sunshine. I headed to breakfast, gawking at the gorgeous landscape on every side. Turquise brush met turquoise trim on burnt sienna buildings hiding on burnt sienna hills. I crossed the adobe campus of St.John's College, past the tranquil Koi pond, towards the first of many abundant, delicious feasts. I ate very well in Santa Fe. From my first breakfast, I met incredible people. I challenged myself to join the conversation of a new group each meal. I learned a lot this way. I learned about art spaces and projects like The Bleeding Heart that had soaked up time, money and passion like sponges, rarely giving large returns on investment, but always worthwhile. This shared struggle somehow encouraged me. In other settings I could whine how difficult it was to get a crazy project like The Bleeding Heart Art Space off of the ground. I could bemoan being misunderstood. But here was total understanding. Here were those who fought in the same war, and having been wounded, rose to fight again. And again. Beyond my own excuses these were beautiful artists who made art work in their context, regardless of perceived success or failure.
Over the week I met remarkable men and women, most of whom have not made a living solely by their art, but have surrendered to its vocational calling nonetheless. They have simply found ways to create. Sometimes to not create for long seasons. Sometimes after raising families and establishing careers, to return to their first love of art making. But regardless where they had meandered across a lifetime, the artist's call remained a constant thorn and comfort.
You may recall my questions about what a real life artist looks like 20 years down the road from me. I met so many, with a kaleidoscope of answers. A few common truths emerged.
Artists are called and love or hate it they cannot shake that call. Artists find a way to make their work and surrender to their calling. Sometimes that way is their job. Oftentimes it is not. But they find a way or they suffocate. Artists are often on the margins of their communities, misunderstood and taken for granted. This is why the Glen Workshop is bread and water for so many creatives. It is a week of mutual understanding, where relationships put down last summer can be picked up at that same spot, and carried forward without disruption. Lastly, artists have an absolute overwhelming abundance of beauty to offer up to those who would only watch and listen.
I got to watch and listen a lot during the Glen. It's hard to overstate the blessing of simply witnessing God's creative energies exploding from his obedient children.
Each morning I would listen to poetry from my fellow workshop participants, every one gifted in some unique way. Each voice exposed to me a new facet of God's world. I saw with new eyes. Amy Newman, my poetry workshop director, led us towards some rich wells of words, and I've been returning to drink ever since.
Each afternoon I would enjoy the beauty of creation as I walked from building to building, or sat in the sun to soak it all in. Then I would wander the aisles of Eighth Day Books - a miraculous collection of arts and faith wonders. Then I would listen to reading, or view visual works by one of the workshop leaders. And then, after supper, I would do that again. Then the worship with Richard Rohr, presenting a faith I so wanted to embrace even when I struggled against its simplicity. And finally, some days, an open mic where the floodgates would burst with beauty brought by the workshop attendees. There was no pride or pretense in these performances. It was only, 'here is what God has given me to give to you. Isn't it cool?'. And it was always cool.
On our day off, I wandered downhill into Santa Fe's downtown with two friends I'd made. I won't go into detail to avoid a travelogue, but suffice it to say any creative person must visit Santa Fe. Canyon Road alone boasts a hundred galleries in a single mile. I have never seen anything like the quantity and quality of work on display here.
Later that night I crammed into the apartment of Jeffrey and Anne Overstreet for a gathering called The Thomas Parker Society. It was an intimate night where anyone could get up and read work they'd written or work by someone else that had moved them. There was both laughter and tears. I learned that this spontaneous happening happens spontaneously every year at the Glen, and that one talented man brews special beer to share just for the occasion. Another beautiful gift offered up to community.
As the week came to a close under that final Santa Fe moon I became sad for one reason. I knew that one cannot live with so much beauty always. I knew that this was only a foretaste of glory divine, a thin space where I could not breathe for long.
But for a week I feasted. And in gratitude for that feast, I wrote this poem.
I Just Want to Say
I just want to say (And not just, because I could gush) That you are each beautiful Your particular shimmer Bright as Santa Fe And I did not expect that Gift Or the long conversation Threaded through myriad mouths Across a week of dinners and Walks and waiting Each voice building on the last You, Christ's speech To my hungry ears
I just want to say That compliments are easy But not encouragement that I can believe And I believe you all Truth in love Church
I leave larger Mended where I knew no break Seeds in my spirit A garden growing You have no idea what you've planted In me
I just want to say that
Oh, and thank you