It is true. I am in Oregon. I am also 30. I cannot say that I feel entirely different or wiser than in my final days of 29. What I feel is a nagging pain in the side of my chest and a sense of emptiness that I have not been able to fill. I fought tooth and nail to travel to Oregon during the busy summer season, and I am thankful for the opportunity to sit by a tent in a beautiful place with little else but my imagination to put to work, my senses to open to the western wood pewee, red-naped sapsucker, black-headed grosbeak, California quail, and many other dear friends whose voices I haven’t heard since leaving/exchanging Washington for Alaska.
Do we Americans trade in places and communities like we consume material possessions? What is it that draws us to a new place? Are we trying to escape and to finally find that greener patch of metaphorical grass?
I suppose it was this way for me moving to Alaska. Though I feel heartache for pieces of the Skagit, I am not homesick. Yet while I feel safe in my haven on Same Old Road in Gustavus, I am not sure Glacier Bay is my home either.
Of one thing I am certain. I am different from the marieke who turned 29 on July 9, 2010. I have a deeper sense of self, an inner voice seeking a path to the surface and an outlet for expression. Outlets I have found in writing and music, in time spent birding and in the company of those who truly see me, see an artist and a beautiful woman, those who encourage me to find and define my own path.
The beauty of art is that it is alive in each of us. I remember a passing comment in conversation with a colleague who labeled himself as an artist because he had been to art school. The comment struck me as odd and unsettling. Many years later, I realize that such a remark and belief is a product of the narrow cultural definitions of art and artist, music and musician our western world has created. I find that I am far less interested in the art of those who talk a big talk about themselves in this vein than in true artists who simply are with humility, passion, love, and a great desire to share their art and in so doing, bring out the inner artist of those they meet along the way.
I am honored to be in the company of one such artist through the Prescott PhD program, a gentleman in my cohort who works with members of his community to bring out their inner storyteller and songwriter. Here at Fishtrap, there is a couple who owned a music store for a quarter of a century and gave it up to travel with a collection of 30 ukuleles, offering workshops to teach those who may have spent their entire lives imagining they were incapable of experiencing one of the most basic, meaningful facets of human existence—music.
Are you an artist if you write and publish a novel or record an album of songs? Perhaps. However, I am more interested in reading between the lines.
If you haven’t wailed lately, you might want to step outside and offer up a good, long howl at the moon. You never know where it might take you.