I came into my Trélex Writers Desk Residency expecting some things, but I knew it would be even more challenging because of the issues I've had.

Residencies are scary. Rooming with strangers. Sharing everything. Only basic creature comforts. I came into my Trélex Writers Desk Residency expecting those things, but I knew it would be even more challenging because of the issues I’ve had. An inability to write and at times put together a cogent thought. Doubt feeding doubt feeding doubt….an avalanche of doubt. I walked into a tiny Swiss village a dried husk, convinced I’d leave unaltered.

My heart is fuller. My mind is still. I emerged from my residency cell unwilling to return to the noisy, screeching, clashing chords of my world.

Thoughts From My Last Day In Nyon

Time in any cell alters a psyche. I dreaded the quiet, afraid I’d hear absence, a void, a black hole of nothingness. But I relished the quiet, too. My world is too loud, and I’m complicit in the discordant cacophony. I surf the internet when I should be making words. Scroll through my newsfeed when I should be setting up my next trip. Read second-by-second news updates when I already know the world has become a soap opera: I can pick up a thread of the plot anytime because it creeps in its deluge of data. I may’ve slain a pack of hungry lions, but my blood pressure is lower than it’s been in three years. My heart is fuller. My mind is still. I emerged from my cell unwilling to return to the noisy, screeching, clashing chords of my world.

I walked along Lake Geneva's shore on my last night of residency and tried to weave a tapestry, intricate, tight, resolute.

I’m not commenting on what others choose to do with their time, only how my residency helped me understand my role in contributing to noise, to stress, to strife, to crap that doesn’t matter. I walked along Lake Geneva‘s shore on my last night and tried to weave a tapestry, intricate, tight, resolute. My life was permanently changed last year. I hope I use what remains to be a positive force in the world……and that means guarding the tapestry I wove like I spun it from gold and spangled it with precious stones. I can’t take care of anyone if I’m not taking care of myself.

I'm also grateful to the other residents, especially painter James Kao, who was there for my full three weeks of residency.

I’m grateful to Nina Rodin for giving me this opportunity. She opens her home to strangers and shares everything-cars and laundry and guests and garden bounty-with them. I’m in awe of her unbounded generosity. I’m also grateful to the other residents, especially painter James Kao, who was there for my full three weeks. I needed to meet a fellow American who’s grounded right now. Some of James’s zen rubbed off on me.

Leave your noisy cares in the water, and come away whole. It works for me, as long as I avoid my phone.

So I end with a challenge. For me. And for you, Dear Reader. Next time you walk by any body of water, be it a fountain, a puddle, a pool, or a lake, take off your shoes. Run through it. Splash. Plunge your feet in. Leave your noisy cares in the water, and come away whole. It works for me, as long as I avoid my phone. 🙂

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P.S. Wondering what I’m doing in Switzerland? I’m at The Trelex Residency in Maison Binet!

The book I’m working on now is a sequel to the others in the Nowhere Series so if you haven’t read the first two – go get them now!

broken chair

Have you visited Geneva’s Broken Chair?

 

The Broken Chair sculpture is one of the most visited sites in Geneva, Switzerland. The city is home to multiple humanitarian organizations, from the United Nations to the World Health Organization.

Because I am concerned about what I see happening around the world, I trekked from Cornavin station to the United Nations complex to visit the Broken Chair. The all-wood sculpture encourages the United Nations to pass stricter sanctions on countries using land mines. It acts as a visceral reminder to United Nations officials across the street.

broken chair

Flags at the United Nations entrance in Geneva.

Aren’t the flags a colorful juxtaposition?

broken chair

The broken chair at the United Nations is often a rallying place for groups seeking to make a point.

The afternoon I visited, Moroccans protested the UN’s position on the Western Sahara desert in a dispute with Algiers. The chair is often a rallying place for groups seeking to make a point. Since 1997, the sculpture has given voice to thousands of groups who’ve made the pilgrimage to Geneva to make various points.

Initially intended as a temporary exhibit, the chair garnered enough public support to remain a symbol to underrepresented groups around the world. It was removed for repairs and reinstalled on the Place des Nations in 2007.

What do you think of sites like the Broken Chair?

Do you believe such artistic symbols encourage people to rally around causes that matter to them? Or do you think they’re another example of symbolism over substance?

Do you think politicians often heed artistic expressions when making policy? Or do you believe they’re more beholden to money?

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P.S. Wondering what I’m doing in Switzerland? I’m at The Trelex Residency in Maison Binet!

The book I’m working on now is a sequel to the others in the Nowhere Series so if you haven’t read the first two – go get them now!

Residencies aren’t resort experiences. I don’t have a maid coming in every day to freshen my towels and make my bed. A trek to the bathroom at 3am means groping up a flight of stairs and using the studio toilet. All artists share a shower and kitchen. (Shower not shared at the same time……that I’m aware of. Ha.) If I want clean sheets, I have to decipher the German on the washing machine.

And most unlucky for non-gourmet me, we don’t have a resident chef. Residents must either prepare their own meals or go out. (And eating out in Switzerland would bankrupt me. I haven’t found many things in Switzerland to be as expensive as I was told, but dining out lived up to sticker shock hype.)

So I’ve been forced to make food. And because I didn’t want to subsist on cereal and popcorn for three weeks, I decided to learn to make the ultimate French dish: an omelette. My omelette is simple: 2 eggs, a Swiss cheese I’ve never heard of grated on it while it heats, some milk in the egg mixture, and pepper to finish. On the induction stove, I set the eye to 5 and throw in a drizzle of olive oil right before I pour the egg mixture into the hot skillet.

Et voila! I’ve mastered the science of the cheese omelette during my residency. For those curious about my typical routine, it doesn’t vary much.

  1. I usually wake up between 9 and 10am.
  2. I practice yoga for up to an hour in my room. I’m using Michelle Goldstein’s Heart Alchemy Yoga series on YouTube, and it’s excellent. For anyone interested in maintaining their practice while traveling, check them out.
  3. I shower and catch up on any urgent email.
  4. Around noon, I make my omelette and eat.
  5. I practice French on my DuoLingo app. As of this entry, I’m 25% fluent.
  6. Around 2pm, I settle in and start writing.
  7. I usually break for dinner between 6 and 7pm, but I’ve gotten on tears and missed dinner altogether!
  8. Around 1am, I wrap up and go to bed.
  9. Also, I FaceTime with MTM throughout the day, usually when he wakes up and before I go to sleep.

Most days, I barely leave my room. I have one more big hike planned, plus another day trip to Geneva. Oh, and I decided to be adventurous and booked myself into a wine dinner in the next village for one of my last nights. I’m waiting to be banished to the baby table with my appalling French, but I’ll be sure to report.

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P.S. Wondering what I’m doing in Switzerland? I’m at a The Trelex Residency in Maison Binet!

The book I’m working on now is a sequel to the others in the Nowhere Series so if you haven’t read the first two – go get them now!