There is quite a bit of adjusting to do moving into Schaefer Cabin. Having spent the last four years living in a city, I’ve had to readjust to swarming bugs, ticks, and poison ivy. Those are constants when spending time outside unless there’s a breeze which feels amazing in early Wisconsin summer! The quiet and seclusion is also a big adjustment, though I’ve found it very refreshing and rejuvenating. I’m often falling asleep to the sounds of whippoorwills singing through the woods but I don’t mind it (and ear plugs are always an option). I do tend to feel a bit antsy with extended time out here because I enjoy city life so having a town about 30 minutes out gives me a little fix when I have to do grocery shopping or attend weekly meetings. Sharing a space with two strangers is, of course, it’s’ own adjustment as well, but the seclusion and lack of working Wi-Fi forces conversation that might happen less slowly in a typical setting with a million distractions.
The experience is once in a lifetime. I’ve never been in such a quiet setting surrounded by this kind of beauty for an extended amount of time. The river right down the path is a perfect escape, place for debriefing, a place for relaxing, inspiration, or a nature fix – whether I get in the river or just sit and watch the water and trees. I can also feel the cabin’s history through its structure and design and it is very spacious. I cannot imagine a better place for brainstorming and being naturally inspired to do art. I have already written three songs because of the surroundings and the time I’ve had to reflect and write, not only on my own but during sessions with the kids as well. Living with two other artists who both bring their own mediums makes the cabin atmosphere a hot spot for creativity and ideas. It has been really important to discuss themes for the week and different plans for each group. We have had to learn to talk amongst ourselves about ideas before sharing them with the group as well as coming up with backup plans if the kids are not responding well to an exercise. This brings me to actually working with the kids. It is incredibly rewarding. I have been leading my own sessions in songwriting and have been blown away by some of their abilities and their vulnerability in sharing work that might not feel complete or “good” to them. Their writings have inspired me in my own writing and I find myself eager to keep pushing them to express themselves and to push my own writing boundaries as well. It has also been an exciting challenge participating in sessions led by Cait where I am pushed to work through her medium of art – one that I haven’t truly touched since middle school. The kids work also has inspired me to think outside of the box. Schaefer Cabin is a gem and this job feels like a hidden treasure. I could not think of a more ideal place to submerse yourself in for the purpose of creating. In many ways, my experience can serve as a mirror for the kid’s own experiences. We ask them to step out of their comfort zone and to draw on what they are feeling inside. How can we ask them to be vulnerable without being vulnerable ourselves? The Artist in Resident, Cait Irwin who lives alongside me at Schaefer Cabin says that “we need to go first,” meaning that as figures who the kids look to for leadership and guidance, we need to take the jump first to show them that it is okay to show our flaws and insecurities. Otherwise, we will never be able to gain the kid’s trust. A developing trust with the kids is imperative to do because it reiterates the safe space that we are trying to encompass them in.
“Living here at the cabin has really pushed me out of my comfort zone, I have been able to draw on that discomfort and use it to create something beautiful.”