Life as a Sponge

It is Tuesday morning, my third day at Caribou Ranch. I awake at 7:00, much later than I usually do at home. Long walks in the mountain air must be the best sleep medicine there is! I think the lack of lights and constant sound help me sleep so soundly as well.  Even this late, with the sun already up, ice still remains on the car windshield, and it’s about 40° in the barn.

 The barn is really quite comfortable, kind of like camping with a few luxuries thrown in. The cabin has a solar panel for limited power, a propane-powered fridge, a small microwave, a two-burner hot plate, and, most importantly a coffee maker. The walls seem insulated and the doors well ventilated. But it is the pit toilet, or as we fondly called it growing up the outhouse, that brings back memories—maybe not fond ones, but at least humorous ones.  Like my aunt and uncle’s outhouse that had a view of Sugar Loaf Road and a door that would randomly swing open, or the neighbor’s that had no door at all in order to take in the wonderful view across the hills.

 As I’ve said before I like to see what is around me, so I am thrilled that there is a window in this outhouse. Can you imagine the experience of a chilly updraft while looking across the valley and watching the moose and coyotes wander by? There is nothing quite like it! But this outhouse has hot water for a shower and sink. What a luxury!

 From the moment I found out I would be staying at the barn, I thought about what would I would do with my time. For the painters or writers, it’s easy to just work on their art while here. I, on the other hand, need a sewing machine and iron to do my art, and due to the limited power supply, that was out. I knew that bringing my camera and a sketchbook was essential. I also decided that I could do hand-stitching and made a couple of needle-felted bases to work on. I included the laptop that I use extensively in the design phase of my work, and, for those spare moments when I didn’t want to work on any of that, I tucked in knitting.

Whether it was bad planning on my part or the fact that a higher power had something else in mind for my time here, my plans changed drastically. I failed to pack many of the things I needed for sketching and my handwork, my laptop died, and the mice ate my knitting. That left me with a camera, a sketchbook turned journal, and lots of time to sit and become a sponge. So I have been spending my hours soaking up every sight, sound, and smell the valley has to offer. I know that I will draw on the inspiration and the absolute calm that I am absorbing into my soul now for my future pieces of art.

I want to be outside enjoying the wonderful weather and the magnificent vistas, so I eat most of my meals at the picnic table and spend hours in my chair reading or writing in my journal. Even though I am blissfully alone most of the time, just me and the wildlife that wander by, there is the occasional human sighting. Boulder County posted signs near the paths that circle the barn explaining about the artist-in-residence program and asking the public to respect the artist’s privacy. I don’t think it was their intention, but it sometimes makes me feel like I am an exhibit at the zoo.

 Most of the hikers stop and read the sign, watch me for a while to see if I m working on my “art,” and then mosey along. Today, a group of older ladies stop at the sign and one begins to read the sign aloud. I try to ignore them and continue writing in my journal, when I hear the reader pause and exclaim in a very loud voice: “Oh look! There’s the artist!”

I now understand why zoo animals retreat to their dens. Having your every move watched can wear you down. But at least my “den” has a big, comfortable chair where I can hide from the noisy humans on the other side of the fence.

 Day three—another day in paradise.