Thursday, September 10, 2015

Dorland Mountain Arts Colony

            You’ve seen those old western movies that end with the villain crawling through mesquite country. In the background are the humped backs of massive mountains. He croaks one word through parched lips: “Water.”
            This world seems forbidding, but to actually experience it is to discover its glory. What survives here — plants, animals, insects — survive because they’re tough. So tough they can flourish. I was particularly struck by the twisted beauty of the trees. Most lean, some at dramatic angles, because from the time they were saplings they were buffeted by the winds that course through the mountains. But trees exist in abundance, as does other plant life, including flowering bushes with beautiful scents. I saw mule deer, coyotes, foxes, rabbits, and all manner of birds, from hawks to hummingbirds. They seemed to be doing just fine.
            Dorland Mountain Arts Colony is located high up on a huge tract of land owned by the Nature Conservancy (Temecula, California is the nearest city). At Dorland you have the perfect environment to paint your paintings, compose your music, put your words on paper. You can do it undisturbed because you’ve left modern civilization behind. Oh, you have electricity and flushing toilets — in fact, my accommodations at Dorland were far superior to those at the VCCA and Ragdale. I stayed in the Markham House (the remoter of the two cottages that existed in September and October of 2013 and 2014). Both were bright, clean and airy, with many windows and tile floors and a spacious porch. No communal meals are served — you prepare your own food in a fully equipped kitchen. There’s no TV, and the only internet is to be found by the office, where you can connect to WiFi. The chatter of the real world is absent, and the peace and quiet was delicious.
            The couple who live on the premises — Robert and Janice, both painters — seem to fit in with the landscape. I valued the time I spent with them. But, whatever your preferences and needs may be, they will be respectful of them. Since I didn’t have a car, I relied on Robert for transportation (mostly to the nearest grocery store, a twenty minute ride away). Though he was always generous, I think it’s best if you have your own car.
            I envy those who are within a two day drive of Dorland. I’m a writer, and I like to think that if Emily Bronte lived in Los Angeles, or Gustave Flaubert in San Diego, they would spend a month or two at Dorland every year. So why don’t more people take advantage of this place? It seems a shame that they allow themselves to miss out. For don’t artists respond to that which is beautiful in a unique way? 

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