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home : columns : columns November 16, 2018

2/21/2018 2:06:00 PM
An unexpected gift
The Oregon Outback is rich with beauty and inspiration. photo by Katy Yoder
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The Oregon Outback is rich with beauty and inspiration. photo by Katy Yoder

By Katy Yoder

My artist residency at PLAYA is done. I drove home from Summer Lake, through 100 miles of volcanic vistas and tiny towns. The Oregon Outback is a special place; sparse and rich with beauty. It's still hard to believe what opened up in those two weeks. I stared down fears and visited long-forgotten memories. Now, the first section of my book is complete, and I'm working on a second draft.

The cabins at PLAYA don't have Internet. It took two days for me to realize there was no chance the inexplicable sounds I heard were texts, emails or phone calls. I had to keep reminding myself to stop anticipating the next electronic communication and settle into the silence.

I walked the grassy, mown paths along Summer Lake and wrote in my cabin, often in a trance-like state. I read old, worn journals for hours. Sometimes, I forgot where I was. Memories bubbled up and ran like old home movies. I relived times when I was confused and couldn't see a way out of the chaos.

Now that I'm home, I'm deluged with ideas and gifts eager to be opened. Next to me are the special relics I took to PLAYA; a cedar bison, square nail, purple heart and homesteader's bottle. One unanticipated item was a crystal given to me by Mark, the owner of Nature's Bling. He is kind, and in love with the crystals, fossils and rocks he's collected for his shop. During a visit, we talked about my upcoming residency and my desire to uncover stories from my childhood.

He reached behind the glass counter and pulled out a crystal four inches tall and handed it to me.

"This is from Brazil, and I know it's special," he said. "Hold it close and keep it near as you write. It will help you recover your story and give you the courage to tell it."

I cried. His generous gift meant so much. Until that moment, I didn't realize how scared I was to be alone in an unfamiliar place. I knew I'd have trouble sleeping and would be haunted by noises that jolted me awake and made me believe I was under assault.

Before I left, I put the crystal in a metal star I bought from Twigs. It's a mat-colored silver container about two inches tall with a bronze rim around its five points. The day before I left, Gary and I took our new puppy Beau for a walk in the BLM. I was looking for home soil to pour into the star to keep my mementos stable. I realized the tiny pebbles on top of red ant hills were perfect. They were excavated by the ants during the summer as they built their underground caverns. I took a trowel and a bag and gently scrapped some from a few of the mounds.

"Don't worry about taking some," said Gary. "That's all the stuff brought up from below that they don't want."

That's what I was hoping to do, too. Bring up what was holding me back and place it above ground where it could help me live a less-encumbered life. I'd need all the help I could get.

About half-way through my residency, I woke one morning and felt like I had nothing more to write. Morning sun was shining in the south window, casting light on the crystal. I picked up the crystal, dusted off the bits of Central Oregon earth and held it directly in the sunlight. The lower edges glittered. I looked closer and inside the six-sided column was a smaller, amber colored crystal suspended near its point. I'd never taken the time to see what was there. Like that crystal I began to realize that what I contain - beautiful and just right - was there all along, waiting for me to hold it up to the light. What a gift that man had given me!

While I let the epiphany soak in, I picked up Science of Mind magazine. Its daily meditations have impacted my life in so many ways. I read them during my cancer treatments and was amazed at how many times the messages were perfectly tailored to get me through what was happening that day.

The same thing happened at PLAYA. The quotes, messages and affirmations bolstered my resolve to dig down and mine my own subconscious. February 6, 2018 was focused on self-worth. The common theme for the month was the Olympic Games. The SOM quote was, "I see that the future is bright with promise. It beckons me forward into a more complete realization of my own worth and my rightful place in the Universe." When I sat back down at my desk looking out at Summer Lake, the words flowed and my story continued to unfold.

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