Monday, November 19, 2007

Susan's Spot

"Magic is believing in yourself, if you can do that, you can make anything happen."

-Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

If you have been reading my blog for a while, you probably know that something profoundly devastating happened in my life in the summer of 2000. Something life changing. I spent the next three years, pretty much detached from life. I rarely took photographs, and when I did, they weren't particularly good. I became somewhat of a recluse, except for a few very special places I felt comfortable going to. To the people I saw often, I looked ok, but inside I really wasn't. Not at all. It was after "the event which shall remain nameless" occurred, I became so depressed I developed Anhedonia.

What that basically means is, I lost all ability to creatively express myself. All joy and the ability to enjoy even the slightest happiness was gone. When I tried do a simple craft project, I found I couldn't match colors. Nothing looked right to me. I could dress myself, but my clothes meant nothing to me. I would laugh at all the wrong points in a joke, and sometimes my sense of humor would kick in at times when there really wasn't anything funny to laugh at. It was almost as if the creative side of my brain had died, and I was walking around, just trying to do my best to hide the pain I felt. The weird thing was, the pain I was in, was a strange kind of numbness. How pain, and numbness can coexist is still a mystery to me, but trust me... it can.

In the late summer of 2003, I decided to start Ellipsis. I had no idea why, or for what purpose, but I know it felt right. My Anhedonia lifted off my shoulders one day, a few weeks earlier, as mysteriously as it had found me. I started picking up the camera again, and then Alan bought me a new digital camera for Christmas, 2004. I spent the next 8 months or so, running here and there, looking through the lens, practicing with color and light, looking for the picture. I felt better, but I still had a little way to go. As autumn approached, I asked Alan if we could take a long drive up to the Sierra's to see the changing of the leaves.

As we drove east along I-80, I must have stopped 30 or 40 times, between Sacramento and the Placer County line. LOL. Alan was being very patient with me, and I was very tired when I decided that I would make just one more exit off the freeway. Exit 165. As we took the exit, I closed my eyes, for just a couple moments,as my eyes were really tired. When I opened them, we had parked in the lot of Cisco Grove Gould Park. As I looked around, I felt stunned by the colors of the trees, against the amazingly blue sky. I had seen other beautiful trees that day, but somehow the lighting was particularly lovely at that moment.

When I stepped out of the car, the cool, clear air hit me, and I had the feeling that I was being welcomed home somehow. It's difficult to explain, but it was as if the park was surrounding me with warmth and love. Nothing bad could happen here. No shadows to frighten me, just color and light, and life everywhere I looked. I spent the next hour, or so snapping photo after photo, and smiling and laughing. It was pure happiness and creativity. I fell in love with this park that day.

I have been making annual visits to Cisco Grove Gould Park since 2005, but last month I found out something very special about this place. It seems it was also loved very much by artist Susan Cooley-Gilliam. In fact, she loved it so much, that it was dedicated to her after her death from cancer in... 2003. In life she loved coming here to photograph the beauty of the park and the South Yuba River, which runs through it.

She worked in earnest to help preserve the land for artists, and visitors who were drawn to it's ethereal beauty. According to the plaque, this was one of the last places she visited, prior to her death, but it was the following words inscribed on the plaque which made it all come together for me, as to why I always feel loved and embraced here...

"Her presence will always be felt by those who pause to take in the beauty of the river or the Fall colors, and especially by other artist drawn to this scene."

I knew when I read that part, that Susan was standing right next to me, welcoming me home. I believe in spirits, and our ability to leave our impression on the places we love so dearly in life. Susan's soul is still in every leaf, and every ripple on the surface of the river. She is in the quiet, gentle breeze that whispers through the lemon drop trees. She is that feeling of safety and comfort that embraces you. She guides me when I am there, she shows me the light. She helps me believe in myself, and my art through photography.

Again, hard to explain, but somehow I feel like I will always have a friend waiting for me just off Hwy I-80 at Hampshire Rocks road. By the way, this park is situated just down the road, from where I took the photo in yesterday's entry. It is a place of magic for the weary soul. It is a place of inspiration and love for the lonely artist. It is a place of magic.

Here are some of my favorite photographs that I have taken at Susan's Spot, over the last few years. As you can see many artists feel inspired here. On my last visit, there was an art class being taught along the banks of the South Yuba River.

"If you see the magic in a fairy tale, you can face the future."

-Danielle Steel

"Susan's Spot"
Cisco Grove Gould Park
Between I-80 165 and Hampshire Rocks Road
Cisco Grove, California
October 23rd, 2007


MyMaracas said...

You were right, this is magical! What a magnificent spot, and how lovely to think of a welcoming, guardian spirit there.

I'd love to live in that little stone house. It's perfect.


fdtate said...

Wonderful post and wonderful photos, Carly!

sunflowerkat said...

That is a "WOW!" story Carly. Thanks for sharing Susan's Spot through your beautiful photos.

Steven said...

Those colors are amazing with so many layers and folds about them. Neat spot and I'm glad you were drawn to it :-)

Karen Funk Blocher said...

What a feast of images to go with your touching, very personal story. I was going to say that the first and third were my favorites, but then my eye was drawn again to several of the others. Magnificent! I'm so glad you found the place, and grateful for what nature, Ellipsis and the camera have done for you--and, through you, for the rest of us.