Sedona Summer Colony / by Maya Ciarrocchi

Some time in January 2016 I received a Facebook message from someone named Eric Holowacz. It said, “Here’s your invite for a summertime spell in our red rock energy vortex Wild West - a little experimental creative colony we are trying to establish.”

Throwing caution to the wind, I bought a ticket to Phoenix. I had some time in late June and felt my art practice and I would benefit from some solitary time in the red rock desert.

It’s easy to forget in the craziness of living, how much we need a break. We read essays and scientific reports on the creative and psychological benefits of hiking or daydreaming, but somehow we neglect to do these things or if you’re like me, you feel guilty about taking this time for yourself. I still function with the conviction that to produce good art one must work very hard and working very hard involves shutting oneself up in ones studio. Of course producing good art does take hard work but I forget that my best ideas often come when I’m in the shower.

I worked very hard in the two weeks I was in residence at the Sedona Summer Colony. I shut myself up in my workspace and sweated it out. Some days were agonizing. I felt I had no ideas and what ideas I had were of little consequence. I usually had a breakthrough around three in the afternoon. This granted me two productive hours before dinner at five.

And what dinner! Fresh and healthy meals were prepared twice a day by the chef. I fell into the food with abandon. Brunch and dinner were the times I could break the solitude of the day and talk with the other residents. Everyday I acknowledged what a gift it was that I didn’t have to think about preparing my own meals. The hours usually consumed by shopping, cooking and clean up were now blissfully free.

On days when my productivity was low, I took advantage of the myriad opportunities to experience the landscape and culture of Sedona. There were museum trips, hikes to rock formations with astonishing views, and on hot days trips to Oak Creek for a swim.

For me though, the best part of my time at the Sedona Summer Colony was getting to know the other residents. I met and spent time with wonderful artists and cultural managers from all over the world. We bonded as we transformed together. I arrived stressed, adrenalized. Gradually my guard came down, my breathing slowed. Theirs did as well. I often found myself grinning spontaneously. One night I met up with a group that had just returned from a trip to the Grand Canyon. Their bodies glowed with pure happiness.

On one of my last nights in Sedona I hiked to Cathedral Rock. I didn’t go all the way up but climbed with some others to a point were we could sit and talk. We sat on the wide red rocks and watched as the sun began to set. The rock face to my left became a dark outline as the vista in front of me shone, first orange, then pink, then purple. I imagined this landscape as it might have looked when it was once under water. I leaned back to look at the pink sky and felt the Earth swirl below me.  A vortex? Perhaps. It hardly mattered. I was already healed.