It’s week three here at Mammoth Cave. Depending upon what’s up at home, I may have less than a week left of my residency. Since my last post, things have been a little hectic. I was made to move into a smaller apartment due to a mold issue brewing at the other place I was staying. There is less ‘studio’ type space and much less personal space. The notion of privacy and creature comforts that are integral to art making in a residency scenario have been somewhat limited by all of this, but I am rolling with it as best I can.
By day I spend as much time outside as possible drawing and exploring. By night I catch up on writing and embroidery or watch a movie with my roommate. This week we watched Last of the Mohicans which was wonderful on many fronts. I have had the theme song, a jig, now rolling around as a soundtrack in my head as I’ve hiked, adding an element of magic to my explorations. I looked up Daniel Day-Lewis, the actor playing the lead and read about his intense practice of full character commitment for any work he makes. I found this fascinating. Here’s a quote:
“I needed, and I still need, to create a particular environment, I need to find the right kind of silence or light or noise. Whatever is necessary – and it is always different. I know it sounds a little fussy and a little ridiculous, but finding your own rhythm is one of the most important things you can discover about yourself….. So it’s not without a sense of gratitude that I work. but I couldn’t do this work at all unless I did it in my own rhythm.”
This notion of finding one’s own rhythm really resonates with me and I think by and large I have managed to find it at times during my stay here. The trick will be to tap into this same rhythm upon my return to the real world outside. We’ll see how it goes. For now, I have been drawing and exploring a lot, which I will share with you here…..
Above is a sketchbook page from outside a little cave called Dixon Cave. It is a hibernatory cave for the endangered Indiana Bat. Little caves litter the countryside in this area. Back in the day, a cave explorer named Floyd Collins managed to get stuck in one such little cave searching for a new entrance into Mammoth Cave. After a highly publicized rescue attempt, Floyd sadly died in what is known as Sand Cave. It’s a captivating story that people are still interested in today. I went to visit his eventual resting place and did a little sketch of him.
Technically the park’s Artist-In-Residence works under the umbrella of Science and Resource Management. This little fella keeps a watch on anyone entering the SRM building. Today I had the amazing opportunity to follow some scientist/ tree type people out into the field for a visit to a Kentucky State Champion tree called Red Buck Ester’s Tree (or Big White Pine for short).
Below is a baby American Chestnut tree that we happened upon. The trees all died due to the blight but their roots did not and so they continue to try sending shoots up to give it a go. They never make it. But maybe, someday they will. Maybe a cure for the blight that took them all down could be found and within a few hundred years, the chestnut could make a comeback. Maybe.
While out on today’s hike I learned to use a compass. I had a notion of how they work from kayaking but had never really tried it, what with all the numbers and the way they spin around and all, it’s a dyslexic nightmare. But today the simplicity of it finally clicked and I used the compass to bushwhack our way back to the truck.
I have had a desperately poor sense of direction while here at the park, artistically speaking. But little by little, I have managed to find my way to people who can take me to interesting places and tell me interesting things. There is a Native American notion of direction that counts 7 major directions: north, south, east, west, or course, along with above and below. The 7th direction is that of your center, your heart. Before I left, a good friend gave me a card that said, ‘follow your heart. it knows the way’. I think this is true.