When the border officer asked me what my business was in Canada, and I told him I was doing a residency at the Banff Centre, he glanced around and held his face very still, as though he didn't want to be caught emoting on the job, and said, "you're in for a real treat. The Banff Centre is something special. You enjoy that now." And he sent me on my way.
And yes, this place is incredible. It's hard to believe that this beautiful location and these amazing facilities have been dedicated to artists -- artists! -- for the better part of a century. It's hard for me to believe, I guess, because I'm accustomed to thinking of artists as outcast from the material comforts of the capitalist-dominated world, where a lump of dung that gets you a dollar is held in higher regard than a dance that saves your soul, dollarlessly. But it's inspiring to discover that such a place as the Banff Centre exists, and that it is appointed in a way that so clearly respects and supports the work the artists do, and that it is doing this year round, and year after year, giving creatives a place to live and work in comfort and beauty.
I've been here for less than two days, and I've already experienced both a low rise of confidence and a shallow pit of despair as a series of revelations about my art and current project washed over me, pecked at me, and smashed me in the face. This is the kind of trauma that's necessary, I think, if you want to make progress and do something new. But it's not the kind of trauma you have time and space for in your day-to-day life. "You." I mean me. :) In my day-to-day, I rarely have time to fall apart and rebuild myself a piece at a time.
If I hadn't been offered this residency, if my employer hadn't been so generous and wonderful to support my coming, where would this project be? Still in a holding pattern: little to no trauma experienced, little to no progress made. Instead of an interactive story, I'd have an idea sitting on the backburner, screaming to be executed, being ever put off until I can find the time. And then, when I do find the time, I move forward carefully, according to plan, because to question the plan, to re-examine the start of things, that would be madness: what if I discovered something wrong?
Today I reacquainted myself with the dark, slippery center of my story, a handful of questions and concepts and connections that are just beyond my knowing, things I can't be sure of, the things I have to dig in and write and build to try to know. They are not the story I came here with, but the story as it genuinely wants to be -- it's wider and deeper than I'd given it credit for, it's wider and deeper than what I've written, or planned.
So I'm not just making progress on a project, not just finding the time to execute the necessary actions that lead to the final form -- which is what (to my shame) I expected to do. But instead I've discovered the time and space to do something harder, and scarier, but more important: I'm going in big and finding out more about my art and hopefully creating something that needs to be in the world. AND I'm going to execute the necessary actions that lead to the final form. Both. All. Every. Down the rabbit hole.
Or at least so I say on day two. We'll see where this goes...