Artist Residency at the Sou’wester Lodge

In mid-December I went to the Washington coast and stayed at the Sou’wester Lodge for 5 nights.  They have an artist residency program- you apply with a short questionnaire and a sample of work and if accepted, pay a drastically reduced rate for a Sunday-Friday stay.  I asked for a cabin with a bathtub and my wish was granted.

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The Sou’wester is a lovely spot.  An old mansion (built by a long-ago Portland mayor, I learned) was cut into four suites some time ago and small cabins were built around the property.  More recently a fleet of vintage travel trailers were added, available to be rented for the night.  They have a sauna, a small honor system store with books, art and snacks (and wine), a thrift store in a tiny airstream, a firepit, and a beautiful big open main room in the lodge with books and a fire and records to play.  It is a 10 minute walk to the beach.

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I went there to work on fiction, but knew that what I really needed to do was confront my fear and anxiety around creativity in general.  It worked.  I started jotting words on a napkin on the way there and they came exploding out of me, sometimes in the middle of the night, waking me up speaking.  I allowed whatever wanted to come through to come through- some of it was the fiction I’d intended to work on but mostly poetry and musings.  I took about 20 baths, read a lot, made some collages, walked on the beach, communed with the spirit of a whale whose bone hangs on the wall in my cabin (#10), and came out of there feeling like a different person or maybe more accurately the person I’ve been all along that I was desperately trying to stifle.  Cheers to her, and the Sou’wester, and artists (and those who support them!) everywhere.

Some samplings of the week:

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I sit at this table and

read other people's poetry

and worry I'll never write

anything 'good'

meanwhile the sun is shining the

crystals of frost on the

window translucent and a

forest of ice trees

appears on the glass

if I could only stop

thinking, I could

step inside that other world

and we could all start to dance

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Be a raving lunatic for God.  See poetry under fluorescent lights. Make love to trees. Let your eyes be burning globes. Take off your skin like a dress. Fire your heart black and incandescent as the spaces between the stars and the stars themselves. Sing spirals on street corners. Tear up the streets and plant wildflowers in their wake. Call the whales up from the depths of the sea and sleep in the cave of their ribs. See through wings glossy and bright to the delicate finger bones hidden underneath. Look into the hollowed holes of a seal pup to where life is leaking out without control, a fireworks of molecules and atoms exploding out into everything as if the cars driving by aren’t unaware.  This is what desire is for.  This is where we are all going.  This is the burning altar on which all fear and all hunger is laid.  This is destiny. This is homecoming. This is home.

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III.

A whalebone hangs on the wall 

of this house on the shore

where I have come to learn to trust.

A dead thing, to all appearances.

Rilke says not to be bewildered by the 

surfaces of things;

in the depths all becomes law.

In the hushed deep of the night

with only a rumble under my bare feet

to tell of the nearness of the ocean

I place my palms to arching rib-bone and

for just a moment-

the room is blue

the wombpulse of the sea is all around

the cries of my kin echo through the water

calling me down 

to join them.




IV.

My own bones shine under the

lifeblood of my flesh.  

The architects of my grace,

my stalwart foundation,

the generous bearers of the 

burdens of

my engagement with the world.  

If I could slip off my skin like a dress

and hang it next to the door

I would walk bare-boned to the shore,

clattering my nakedness

through the dunes 

to offer myself up to sea and sky.

I would join the lost leavings

of the sea’s breathe so that in the morning

the joggers would find me there amongst

the stones and shells

the place where my heart once beat

no wider than the rib bone of a whale.

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Support for the Yazidi fundraiser

Support for the Yazidi fundraiser page here

 

The Yazidi are a small ethnic/religious group that historically reside in northern Iraq. The Yazidi have undergone persecution for centuries, but recently have faced genocide at the hands of ISIS. In August of 2014 ISIS attacked the Sinjar area where most of the Yazidis lived. Many people had to flee to Mount Sinjar where they were trapped in summer heat without food or water. There were coordinated air drops of supplies from outside countries, but many people died on the mountain or in mass slaughters by invading soldiers. According to multiple sources, out of a population of ~half a million: 5,000+ people have been killed and 7000+ women and children have been kidnapped and sold into sexual slavery. The majority of the population had to flee after the initial 2014 attack. Many are now living in refugee camps in Iraq, Turkey and Europe.

The Yazidi community of Sinjar has been devastated by the ISIS attack. In its aftermath, no free Yazidis remained in the Sinjar region. The 400,000-strong community had all been displaced, captured, or killed.” from the Human Rights Council report.

The sexual slavery of the Yazidi women has been especially hideous. Girls 9+ and women were and still are sold privately and at slave markets. Older women not deemed sexually useful were killed.

Captured Yazidi women and girls are deemed property of ISIS and are openly termed sabaya or slaves. ISIS made eighty percent of the women and girls available to its fighters for individual purchase, the apportioning being drawn directly from religious interpretation. ISIS sells Yazidi women and girls in slave markets, or souk sabaya, or as individual purchases to fighters who come to the holding centres. In some instances, an ISIS fighter might buy a group of Yazidi females in order to take them into rural areas without slave markets where he could sell them individually at a higher price. The remaining twenty percent are held as collective property of ISIS and were distributed in groups to military bases throughout Iraq and Syria.” (Human Rights Council)

 

Human Rights Council Report, 40 pages and very detailed

Daily Mail article with some figures

Photographic documentation of the Yazidi people and mass graves in Sinjar (the cover photo for the fundraiser is from this photo series): http://www.diegoibarra.com/legacy

What Yazidi Refugees Fleeing ISIS Want Americans to Know

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The money from this fundraiser will go to the group Yazda: A Global Yazidi Organization

From their page: “Yazda’s mission is to support the Yazidi Community in three main areas including Humanitarian, Advocacy, and Community.

Yazda humanitarian mission targets supporting Yazidi and vulnerable groups in the areas of trauma treatment for victims of enslavement, health care, case management for vulnerable individuals, humanitarian aid distribution, and Sinjar Outreach humanitarian project. Yazda partners with a group of leading international and national organizations to conduct its mission.

Our advocacy targets public and government awareness raising, recognition of the Yazidi Genocide by parliaments and governments, supporting Nadia Murad and other survivors to deliver their messages, documentation of the Genocide and accountability against perpetrators, establishing a future for Yazidis with safety.

Our community mission is a relatively new one and includes various educational, community development and cultural preservation programs.”

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I know there is a lot of trauma and darkness happening in the world right now, and a lot of groups that need financial assistance. Any amount you can give will help, no matter how small. Thank you for reading, and for your contribution.

Fundraiser Page

Legacy
photo from http://www.diegoibarra.com/legacy