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Pie in the Sky

The other day, I was hunting for a file deep in the recesses of my Dropbox folders when I found a document from over twenty years ago. It was a self-assessment essay, written for my senior portfolio as an undergraduate.
At some point, I must have transferred it from a floppy disk, and I hadn’t read it since I wrote it. I winced before clicking “open,” wondering what young Anna had “assessed.” I started to scan the double-spaced, Times New Roman font. Two paragraphs in, and it wasn’t as terrible as I’d thought. I read on. In one section, I detailed the then-highlights of my writing education. One was a seventh-grade project on The Odyssey. Calypso’s fire of the future inspired me, and I wrote an essay musing on my grown-up life.  
I was simultaneously back in my college basement apartment writing that memory and back in the grade-school classroom writing the original. Meta-historical-memory, maybe.
Toward the end of my nine-page self-assessment came this paragraph about my post-graduation dreams: “Once I have the diploma in my hands, I could find myself teaching, working on the staff of a literary magazine, publishing, curating…or even traveling as a freelance artist and poet. I cannot predict what will burn in Calypso’s fire this time, and I do not want to. Through serendipity and grace, the right things come. I am willing to wait.”
I blinked. I hadn’t realized my twenty-year-old self had known all the things she wanted to do. And then I realized I had done them all—including the “or even” of being a traveling freelance artist and poet—the least likely element on the list at the time, especially since I had no role model for that in pre-social-media 1997. It was my pie-in-the-sky dream.
Young me just reminded middle-aged me of serendipity and grace: Thank you, Anna.
Let’s remind ourselves of our dreams, live them, and keep hatching new ones. Apparently, it’s time I hatch some new dreams….

And apparently, there’s pie in the sky after all!

Hello, Summer! Hello, Berries! Hello, Poets & Painters!

Hello, Southern Oregon friends!
Summer’s here. Might I suggest a Saturday afternoon Poets & Painters workshop at Pennington Farms? Their summer berries inspired Mindy Carpenter & me so much, we’re holding a workshop to celebrate the sweet harvest: we’ll eat ’em, we’ll write about ’em, we’ll paint ’em.
Here’s one of Mindy’s berry celebrations:

I’ll help you write a poem (zero pressure!) and Mindy will help you paint a painting (also zero pressure!). No experience needed; this workshop is more like a playshop…it’s all about having fun 🙂
So grab a friend and come play with us:
When: Saturday, June 9 from 11-3 pm
Where: Pennington Farms | 11341 Williams Highway | Grants Pass, OR 97527
Cost: $95 per person (includes all painting & writing supplies, coffee, & berries! Savory treats will be available for purchase)
Register: Email me at [email protected], let me know how many people you’re bringing, & I’ll send you payment info.
You’ll leave the workshop with a finished 8″ x 10″ painting, a poem & berry-stained fingers 😉
Space is limited, so register soon!
Love,
anna elkins
art word spirit

Growing Roses

I did not inherit my Grandmother’s green thumb. Alas, the extent of my gardening skills is buying basil plants from Trader Joe’s in the spring, plunking them into clay pots filled with soil, and watering them. Somewhat to my surprise, they are bright and abundant and flavorful—often well into October.

My basil’s success (or the fact that it doesn’t shrivel and die) is largely due to good soil from the Grange. The rich, composty stuff that kind of smells when you upend it from its unwieldy bag.  It’s all in the soil. I take zero credit for my basil.
You might be wondering why I called this post “Growing Roses” if I can barely keep a store-bought basil start alive. Well, I grow supernatural roses, if you will. And from seed, no less.
In short—as in short enough to fit on the back of a seed packet: Life is full of shit. You can either sit in and complain about the smell, or you can choose to grow roses in it.
Me? After trying both options through many seasons, I far prefer growing roses. And though I recommend this choice highly, I would add to this “seed packet’s” suggestions for care, along with the proper watering, pruning, et cetera: once you’ve made this choice—once you set your attitude out in full sunshine, don’t be surprised if you encounter people who want to stand over your new start, casting over it the shadow of their own unhappiness.
Years ago, I stood in a kitchen, cooking with a friend and her sister. I shared a story of a lesson I’d learned from a bad circumstance and how it had turned into something beautiful. My friends sister turned to me and said, “Well, don’t you just shit and it comes out roses.”
Nope. But I have learned to grow ‘em. And my secret isn’t Miracle-Gro or Garden Organics. It’s choice.
That moment in my friend’s kitchen, I saw how many connections are established in commiseration. Group lament, even when staked with humorous sarcasm, is stenchy decay at best.
But spend enough time with others who are growing roses, and before you know it, you’ve got a riotous swath of them, and the air begins to fill with their sweet fragrance.
Just as I can learn to keep plants healthy and happy in my garden if I really want to, I can learn to keep my attitude healthy and happy if I really want to. Even when things are shitty—or especially when they are.
May we all choose to cultivate green thumbs in the spirit.
Happy gardening,
Anna

Watch Oregon’s Poetry Out Loud champ compete live at nationals, a call for grant panelists and one of our own exhibits at the Smithsonian!

April 2018

News & Updates

Watch Oregon’s Poetry Out Loud champ compete live at nationals, a call for grant panelists and one of our own exhibits at the Smithsonian!

Watch live!

Oregon POL champ competes at national contest April 24

Help cheer on Oregon’s 2018 Poetry Out Loud Champion, Sarah Calvin-Stupfel of West Salem High School, when she participate in nationals April 23-25 in Washington, DC.
Watch Sarah’s performance live between 2 and 5 p.m. on Tuesday, April 24. If she advances she will compete in the finals April 25.Enjoy an excerpt of Sarah’s winning performance at the state contest here.
Poetry Out Loud is sponsored by the National Endowment for the Arts​ and the Poetry Foundation & Poetry Magazine​ in partnership with the Oregon Arts Commission and other state arts agencies.

2018 Poetry Out Loud champion Sarah Calvin-Stupfel, right, with runner-up Amy Jarvie from Oregon School for the Deaf.

Amanda Wojick exhibits in Governor’s Office

Eugene artist Amanda Wojick will exhibit “The space is always” in the Governor’s Office of the Capitol Building in Salem through May 31.
Wojick’s work explores a collision of abstraction and everyday life. Using layered texture, vibrant colors and irregular shapes, she weaves together elements of painting, sculpture and collage. “The Space is Always” includes works inspired by common materials found within the space of her home.
An exhibit in the Governor’s office is considered a “once in a lifetime” honor.
Read the full release.

“Bricks on Yellow,“ 2017. Wood, paper, paint. 22 x 30 x 1 inches. Courtesy of the artist. Photo Jonathan Bagby

Grant panelists needed to review, score proposals

The Arts Commission invites those interested in serving as grant panelists to submit a nomination form.
Selected panelists will read, review and score applications on-line and meet once by teleconference to provide final application ranking. Commission staff will provide a panelist orientation and training.
Individuals with experience in a variety of arts and non-profit disciplines including music, dance, film/media, interdisciplinary arts and arts learning are needed. Panelists from different artistic disciplines who bring a regional perspective from throughout the state, and a variety of backgrounds and experiences are encouraged to participate.
Contact [email protected] with questions.

One of Oregon’s own exhibits

at Smithsonian!

Tyler Fuqua, an artist from Eagle Creek, has one of his creations displayed as part of the “No Spectators: The Art of Burning Man” exhibition through Jan. 21, 2019.
Tyler’s project, “Thorax: Ambassador of the Insects,” is made from mostly reclaimed materials including more than 50’ of EL wire, a color changing chest emblem and four fully articulated wings.
“No Spectators: The Art of Burning Man” brings the large-scale, participatory work from the famous desert gathering to the nation’s capital for the first time. The exhibition takes over the entire Renwick Gallery building and surrounding neighborhood, bringing alive the maker culture and creative spirit of this cultural movement.

“Thorax: Ambassador of the Insects” by Tyler Fuqua, now on display at the Smithsonian.

Upcoming grant deadlines

Oregon Arts Commission | Phone 503-986-0082 | www.oregonartscommission.org

These Beautiful Blues

From a visit to Yves Saint Laurent’s Jardin Majorelle a couple of trips back
In March, Deep Travel Workshops enjoyed Larry Habegger as our instructor in Morocco. For one of his sessions, Larry asked us to write about our intention as writers—what did we hope to convey to others?
I hadn’t exactly articulated that before, and this is what came out:
“As a child, I wondered if we all saw the same colors. Is my green your blue? Is your red my yellow? With my writing, I think I want to figure out what I see, taste, feel…and to share it. To hear back what you see, taste, feel. To compare notes and knowing. To shimmy about in a synesthesia of experience—borrowing and lending. Giving and taking. Eventually, I imagine that what I write could be a color of my own mixing—a new pigment that someone else can use like I learned to use the colors of others. Maybe I hope to concoct a Majorelle blue like that of Yves Saint Laurent in Marrakech. A blue I fell so deeply in love with, I took its powdered pigment home, not knowing that by merely unscrewing the lid, the particles of color would rise up and land everywhere, turning everything I touched the color of distant seas and skies. I want to make and share an indelible reminder of unexpected beauty.”

Thanks for that prompt, Larry! (And I’m still trying to figure out what to do with that pigment….)

Travel Philosophy with Bathtub

Fun with Photoshop: Silly Illustrations!
I was recently asked to share my travel philosophy. I couldn’t remember ever having articulated one. For years, the closest I came was a maxim I’d heard from a friend: “Take only photos, leave only footprints.”
I followed that advice as best I could, even though for many pre-smart phone years I traveled without a camera. Thankfully, I took notes. Then I started sketching and painting.  My souvenir rule for most of my 20s: whatever I brought home had to fit in the pages of my journal.
But that maxim only addresses the moments of being in a place, and I realized that if I have a philosophy of travel, it starts well before I leave home. So I decided to borrow another friend’s idea, one she passed on to me in the form of the John O’Donohue poem, “For the Traveler.” Here’s my favorite part:
Make sure, before you go,
To take the time
To bless your going forth,
To free your heart of ballast
So that the compass of your soul
Might direct you toward
The territories of spirit
Where you will discover
More of your hidden life…

The whole poem is beautiful, but I found myself drawn to this section about preparing for the journey. As someone who loves to plan, I’m not surprised this resonated with me. And it’s good advice whether you’re heading to the new coffee shop around the corner or to the ancient medina of Fez.
There is no one way to travel—as evidenced by the diversity of our seatmates on an airplane or the camels carrying us across sand dunes. But the beauty of taking time to bless our journey before we go is that we’ll have grace to deal with those seatmates, whether they have bad breath or bump around a lot (which applies to both plane passengers and camels, come to think of it). Preparing our hearts opens us up to discoveries that can get lost when we haul the ballast of our hearts around with us, leaving no room for treasures.
I have several pre-departure rituals. One is to take a bath before a long journey, even if that means turning on the tap at 4 am. The bath helps me to do several things: to choose to make moments of stillness in the busiest times in my life. To metaphorically wash away any anxieties and limiting mindsets I don’t want to bring with me. To literally be as clean as I can before hours or days of airports and unreliable hot water. And to bless the journey so that when I return home and next sink into my claw-foot tub, I’ll be a kinder and wiser traveler than when I left. Ideally, I’ll have changed my own world to better love the wider world.
Many grand quotes turn into clichés (what a wonderful problem for a truth to become familiar, right?). So I’ll end by borrowing yet another travel philosophy for daily living, this one from Proust. You’ve heard it before, but then you’ve also bathed before—some things are worth repeating on a regular basis!
“The real voyage of discovery consists not in seeking new landscapes, but in having new eyes.”

Bon voyage to all our comings & goings, near & far!

Wordplay Call to Artists

Call for Art: Wordplay
July 6 – 28, 2018
Entry Due Date: April 22, 2018
Juried by Vernita Nemec

This exhibition serves to highlight the voice of all female identified artists who use text and image or text as image as a means of creative expression. Works in all media are welcome and encouraged. Submit your work here: https://womanmade.org/call-for-art/
Detail of work by Vernita Nemec
(Image: Detail of work by Vernita Nemec)

The Art of Adventure


[I] look out on a land of mists and mysteries; a land of trailing silver veils through which domes and minarets, mighty towers and ramparts of flushed stone, hot palm groves and Atlas snows, peer and disappear at the will of the Atlantic cloud drifts.—Edith Wharton, In Morocco

We have one last spot on the upcoming Deep Travel Morocco trip! Join us from March 22-29:

Come experience sensory-rich Morocco with travel writing guru Larry Habegger. Larry co-founded Travelers’ Tales books and edits the Best Travel Writing anthologies. He is also known for skillfully coaching many novice writers from first draft to their first publication. We will begin our writing workshop in the Fez Medina—a UNESCO World Heritage Site of over 9,000 byways. From there, we will venture into the Middle Atlas for some retreat time in the mountain village of Moulay Idriss. While in Moulay, we will visit the 2000-year-old Roman ruins of Volubilis, tour Morocco’s wine country, and enjoy daily life in this small, enchanting city before returning to Fez. Along the way, we will meet local artists, restaurateurs, change-makers, and traditional storytellers. An adventure awaits you!

More info at DeepTravelWorkshops.com or email [email protected]

#WinterLove

I meant to write about Mexico, having just returned from a few weeks of sun, sand, and cerveza (I was working, really). But what I returned to was a deep joy at deep winter. Maybe it’s because I grew up in Montana. Maybe it’s because, to the best of my knowledge, most of my ancestors roamed northern climes. Or maybe it’s because there is something about owning the cold and bare and dark seasons. About not running from them but burrowing into them and learning how to warm and clothe oneself and how to seek the light. I mean coats and scarves. I mean joy and love.  
Around the time I turned forty, I was talking with a friend about love and how we so often wait and want for someone to love us. We want to say “he loves me” or “she loves me.” At one point in the conversation, I laughed and surprised myself by blurting out, “I love me!” I used to teach English; I know it should be “I love myself.” But I think wanted to hear aloud the words I thought were only true if they started with someone else.
In an interview, Michael Bernard Beckwith said: “And when you can fall in love with yourself and like yourself when you’re by yourself…you can be with others.” If not, we’re essentially relying on others for our joy. No bueno. 
I think I love this particular winter because it’s the first one that’s found me, myself, and I completely content with ourselves and therefore far more able to be content with others. Of course, contentment isn’t a synonym for complacency. As my wise mom says: we can be content while contending.
From this new place of contentment, I’d like to contend for loving ourselves—just because but also because we will better love each other.
May winter clouds be filled with hidden blessings for you.
Love,

Anna

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The Daily & the Doing

I started to write a list of the year’s highlights—a fun gratitude practice. But I discovered that the entire list could—like a good caramel sauce—be reduced down to this one, sweet dollop from Julia Cameron: “Creativity lies not in the done but in doing.”
I first read that line seventeen years ago, and it has taken me all of these years to begin to learn it. In fact, as I was fiddling with the now-defunct list and getting annoyed at my inability to get it to flow, I took a break for gingerbread and cloud-watching. This little post and yours truly are both the better for it. 
And so, in this season of celebration and on this shortest day of the year, here’s to celebrating each short moment of our days—whether writing a to-do list or a cycle of poems, warming leftovers or concocting a five-course feast, sketching a poinsettia or painting a twenty-canvas series, sitting still for five breaths or walking five miles. Even beyond any good outcome, let the daily and the doing be our creative delight.