September 25th, 2011



If there is someone who feels like an outsider, like they don't belong, like they haven't found their kindred spirits on this earth, there is sure no evidence of them at the Squam Art Workshops, nestled deep in the oak groves of rural New Hampshire.

SAW is held at the twin lakeshore camps of Deephaven and Rockywold on the shores of Squam Lake. I'm sure there are times when it's bleak there; in winter, maybe, when the leaves have forsaken the trees and the ground is slick with ice and downed branches and the lake is a gray and frozen vastness. But not during SAW. At SAW the sun is shining. The lake is twinkling starry-blinged in the light. The people—ALL the people— are smiling. Even when they're crying (and I saw a lot of them crying), they're smiling at the same time. It's amazing.

Deephaven and Rockywold camps were opened in 1897. I kept imagining women in long skirts and button-up shoes with wide-brimmed hats carrying their tennis rackets down the acorn-strewn paths and children in knickerbockers running riot along the piers. I imagine it's the kind of place that Mark Twain might have taken his family. And it's nearly exactly the kind of place I can picture some of my favorite characters from Louisa May Alcott's stories spending their holidays in. Rustic, natural, friendly and above all, peaceful.

I'm not going to talk so much about the classes, although I enjoyed mine, and Mom enjoyed hers. The workshops at the spring SAW focused more on textiles and knitting; the weekend we were there seemed to be more about general creativity, mixed media and just being in the moment.

Mom and I spent the nights "off-campus" at Elizabeth's old home, Soliden, courtesy of her ex, Dave. I emailed him the week before to confirm our arrival on Friday night and said that we'd already gotten directions. "Oh good," he replied. "If I'm not there, the door is open and the dogs will make you welcome." They sure did! :) We were greeted by a volley of barking fit to scare off the most intrepid burglar. Thank goodness I had met and knew these dogs from previous visits! Daisy, Ollie and Henry did indeed make us welcome and so did Dave when he showed up shortly afterwards.

Henry on the left, Ollie on the right. I took pictures of Daisy, but every one of them was blurred because she just doesn't stop moving! :)

SAW itself was a medley of excitement. The look on Elizabeth's face when we arrived and she greeted us, the laughter and chatter of nearly 200 women, all obviously completely in the moment and in the only place on earth they wanted to be just then, the incredible meals that were served up, the breeze through the trees and the stunning amount of creativity on display everywhere we turned. Walking back through the woods after lunch, Mom and I came upon an Earth Art piece by Penelope Dullaghan and another artist had created: a mushroom tree that made us stop and boggle and then laugh our heads off.

Saturday night was the topper: the Squam Art Fair, which featured artwork and handicrafts by participants, teachers, and local artisans. It was INCREDIBLE. Outside, giant blocks of ice from Squam Lake itself twinkled with embedded candles, leading up to the door and inside table after table of beautiful, useful and creative items awaited (plus they served FREE BEER). That Elizabeth is a marketing genius!

Mom and I browsed all the tables, and I was in Overload Covet mode. I managed to keep my purchases under control, picking up some of the smaller, beautiful things I really wanted. There were several artworks I would have loved to have had the chance to figure out how to get home to Sweden (one by the amazing Flora Bowley who I was thrilled to meet and talk to the next morning).

I got to meet Christine Chitnis and Sandy Steen Bartholomew (who I would have liked to have had more time to get to know), Jen Lee (!) and "the other Jenn Lee" as she laughingly refers to herself. And you know what? That was only the very tippiest tip of the iceberg.

Even though I have been more of a writer than an artist for years now, and felt like a complete amateur/dilettante around most of the people I came into contact with, it was such an energizing, inspiring, and motivating atmosphere. It made me want to come home and blow the dust off my ink bottles and brushes and dig out the sketchbooks and collage work again.

Elizabeth, whom I've known online for years, and whom I've had the great pleasure of meeting twice in person on previous trips, has found her calling. She runs the workshops with grace and humility and manages to make everyone feel welcome and special and loved. It's such a gift and such an honor to call her friend.

If you've heard about SAW and thought about going, don't wait any longer. If you haven't heard about it, check it out and GO. You'll be glad you did. Now I just have to figure out how to make Squam Sweden a reality!

Sugar Beety Autumnal Lovely Belated Birthday Wishes to sealwhiskers!

In other news: I went to the naprapat on Thursday and the doctor on Friday and received the same diagnosis from both: extremely aggravated and inflamed pinched nerve. Got wonder-drugs that have made an huge difference...I have my arm back! and will continue with the naprapat this week.