Return to Manzanita, this time for more than the views…

Twelve writers and twelve artists were paired to create

The stars aligned,  serendipity struck, the universe conspired and I found a new, 2024 penny, head’s up, when I left the grocery store.  I was back in Manzanita, Oregon, for the weekend,  where I spent the month of April and where I didn’t think I’d be returning until next spring. 

 When I said my goodbyes a short month ago, — to the sea, the charming town, and the moody coastline, I made a point of slowing down to absorb as much as I could before I left.   I wanted to remember the sounds, the smells, the slow melt of the sun into the horizon, each day more beautiful than the last, and the feeling of soft mist on my face as I walked out of a gentle rain and into sunshine.  Those feelings were still front and center in my memories when I drove into Manzanita a few weekends ago, feeling conspicuous in my rental car — a 2024 Mustang, which was not my first or second choice, but I did choose it over the Camaro.  The guy at the car rental counter in Portland thought he was doing me a favor with the upgrade and I liked his spirit, but didn’t care for the car.

As for the alignment of the stars, they weren’t just aligning, they were in a congo line dancing around me. The timing was that good. There was another labyrinth walk on the beach, by the same artist that created the walk the day before I left, this time the the day after I arrived. The rental house I had in April was available and friends of mine from Boulder happened to be traveling in the area and we were able to connect and swap travel stories on my deck. And the weather just happened to be perfect – sunny and warm in the afternoon and cool in the evening.

I returned because three written pieces I submitted in a competition were selected and I only submitted them after being encouraged, prodded and not so gently pushed by my sisters to go for it, and so I did. Had they not been visiting me during my first week there, I might not have wandered into the arts center that they discovered and doubt I would have written three pieces to submit. Thanks, sisters.  I made my return to be present for the random pairing with a visual artist, who also had three submitted pieces that won.  We will be a part of an ekphrasis, the Greek literary form of art inspiring art, using both visual art and written words.  I will chose one of the artist’s three pieces to use as a visual prompt for an essay and he will chose one of my essays to inspire his art, a drawing in his case.  The reveal of the art with words will be presented at the Hoffman Center for the Arts, that represents the northern Oregon Coast,  in early October.  

I’m thrilled, honored and challenged with this project and have looked deeply into the three drawings I have digital copies of, while searching for my inspiration.  They have become etched into my brain.  I have until July 31st to turn in my words.   Along with feeling honored to be chosen, I also feel vulnerable and exposed when I think about another person going deep into my work, word by word and sentence by sentence, to find inspiration for his drawing and wonder if he is feeling similar emotions as he thinks about doing the same when I studying his drawings.

If I had the actual drawings with me and not just digital copies, I’d probably carry them around with me throughout the day, arranging them on the table next to me while I eat then moving them to the coffee table where I’d  continually glance down at them throughout the evening. Digital copies are not the same as the originals and I wish I could touch them for some reason.  While waiting in line at the airport on my return flight back to Boulder, and other times I’ve found myself waiting, instead of scrolling, as most around me appear to be doing, I’m staring deeply into three drawings, looking for clues, words and my story.  The drawings are beautiful, evocative, well-executed and oddly familiar to me in their content, which confirms that although the pairings were random, the artist who I’m working with, is exactly who I am supposed to be with.  

I’m glad I was able to make the trip to Manzanita and was able meet the artist face to face, rather than the zoom option I was told I could use given I don’t live on the Oregon Coast. I felt like I owed the artist a face to face meeting, and of course I wasn’t sad to have to return to the house on the beach with the beautiful view.  The co-facilitators each drew a name out of a hat, one designated for the writers and one for the artist to form the pairs.  There were twelve pairings.  My artist happened to be sitting in the chair next to where I had put my jacket down, while I socialized with the group before taking my seat.  We were the last two names called.  The first thing he said to me was that he was honored to be working with a good writer.  I told him I appreciated the compliment but given that he hadn’t read my work,  his words seemed a bit premature.  “It’s become more and more competitive every other year when it’s offered.  Your pieces were selected because they were well-written,” he told me. I was humbled by his words, also nervous because it felt like he just raised the bar of expectations considerably.  I only hope my words will stand up to his perceived words of praise.  

I have no idea where I’m going with this, but I’m challenged, intrigued, completely absorbed and scared enough that adrenaline has begun to weave its way into the process.  And that feels productive, even though no words have hit the page… yet…

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