“I came to Bundanon starving and dying of thirst, and it left me quenched and full.”
That would have been a familiar metaphor. The truth seems somehow smaller, though the arc remains the same.
I came to Bundanon weary. Perhaps as weary as I’d even been, outside of deepest grief. A nuggetty essence of exhausted human who’d rattled around in an ill-fitting Kate-suit for goodness knows how long.
Mine is not a unique diagnosis. The last few years have worn down even the luckiest among us, and I have been safe and supported at a time when many have not. So much so, that four days into my Bundanon residency, I already want to pay forward this experience to everyone I know.
Pay forward the relief. The feeling of being held, seen and valued by this place. The privilege of stepping into the legacy of those who’ve done so before. Of the removal of deadlines and expectations, and the implicit permission to pause, rest or do whatever we need. Of time slowing down enough to breathe. To sip my tea in the pale morning sun as the roos commute from the eastern hills to lie in the grass at my feet.
Before my arrival, my friend and former Bundanon resident Jennifer Mills reminded me that residencies are gifts to artists, not our work. They’re not (or shouldn’t be) about deliverables or attempts to force creativity between paid work and worry and the rest of the world. If what artists need is to sleep or walk or read, then that’s what these residencies should be for. It’s a radical and increasingly rare and precious gift, which recognises not-making as a vital part of making too.
So, I start my days with guided meditations from my favourite studio chair – imagining the dull glow of my creativity spark and expand – the sun on my closed eyelids mirroring its warmth. The voice reminds me that creativity is like the blue sky beyond – always there, even when we can’t see it through the clouds.
Just when I had almost given up hope that my post-COVID creativity might not return, in Bundanon the skies are clear. I read hard copy books over breakfast – poetry, literary fiction and all the things my brain deemed too difficult to digest until now. I rest. I stalk wombats. I gulp lungfuls of fresh air. And I write – the words pouring out of me, rough and rusty but there at last – lines of ink and sunlight on the page.
I am unbound:
and far away.
An exhaled breath
for this moment
I came to Bundanon as dry and brittle as tea-leaves, but here I settle, plump and warm. And the sighs come off me like steam.