Adjö´ så lä´nge to Ragdale


Swedish for “see you soon,” or a similar informal goodbye. My goals: get to Sweden and get published by 2015. That’s a lot of words―to write and to learn. Not to mention the rejection letters, but we’re not talking about reading today!

When I first arrived at Ragdale, an artist- and writer-in-residence retreat, three weeks ago, deer tiptoed right up to the windows in the early morning, leaving silent tracks in the snow. I haven’t seen them in awhile. They are as soundless as they are poised, though, so they’ve probably been watching us slip and slosh about in the slush that welcomes in Spring. 
This final morning the birds woke me up. I’ve been writing about trees, both naked and fully decked out. The trees at Ragdale are beginning to bloom, but they’re still mostly bare-boned so if you look very carefully you can see the birds atop the tallest limbs, chirping away this morning for the first time since I’ve been here.
They must be catching up with each other. They sound so happy, they make me smile. Since they’ve only just arrived, they’re probably quieting down to begin frantically scanning the area for nest-building materials. I see they’ve got squirrels to compete with now, too. Every now and then I hear one chirping in a different tone―sounds like a mom telling the family to come where she is, she’s found a home and now she’s showing them where the twigs and sprigs and strings lie, waiting to be knit into their cozy nest before the cold rolls in tonight. I wonder if all species of moms sound the same? Aha— fodder for more words, something to round out my tree observations. Isn’t Ragdale amazing?
And, finally, here’s a path on the north side of the Ragdale grounds. The architect Shaw created it so his family could horseback ride and run out to the prairie lands at the end of the wood post fence. Can you see the beautiful golden prairie grass lighting up the back, just like a Spring promise? Soon it all will glisten with the greens and golds of springs and summers and all the secrets found at the end of paths.
A bittersweet goodbye. But I will see, hear, feel, touch and smell all that is Ragdale again soon, I hope.

I’m not the only one watching


I’m alone today at Ragdale, or so I thought. This morning was a rush with everyone leaving. But I’d signed up for a workshop here tomorrow, so it made more sense for me to spend the night. I’m in the living room in the Barn, the building where my room is, and where I’d hoped to capture the last sunset. But it’s clouding over, so I doubt my phone camera can catch it.

I’ve sat in this spot on the couch nearly every day of the last 18, and only today saw that I’ve been watched all along. I’m not sure if this is a statue created by one of Howard Von Doren Shaw’s family or if it was commissioned or created by an artist-in-residence. Anything is possible here.

Shaw, an architect from the Arts and Crafts movement, built Ragdale in 1897 for his parents and his own young family. Many of them were creative. Bird Girl is a sculpture made in 1936 by Sylvia Shaw Judson that was featured on the cover of the 1994 novel, Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil. Either side are bird feeders, and it won’t be long before they will be doing their job, as they have for nearly 80 years.

As I suspect, the clouds hid the sunset but they can’t hide how pretty it is as the geraniums and I peek out at all that the grounds reveal without the blanket of snow covering them. 

I’m going to miss this little peace of heaven that is Ragdale, all of the great artists I met and a staff and cook who couldn’t be kinder or more respectful of the creative process. And I’m even going to miss that quiet little plaster boy in the corner who’d been watching along with me all this time. But I miss my family and all the raucous joy and love they fill up my heart with all the rest of the year. I am one lucky person. And, to think, gratitude is only one thing I’ve learned here. If that were the only lesson anyone ever learned, how wonderful this world would be.

Yes, indeed, I am one lucky person.