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  • Jeremy Pataky

Writing Residency - Willowtail Springs in Colorado

I spent a week and a half living in the Garden Cottage at Willowtail Springs, an artist residency in southwestern Colorado, about 20 miles outside of Durango. The town of Mancos is just a few miles down the road to the south, and the entrance to Mesa Verde National Park is five miles north. I'm very grateful to have attended on a fellowship.

Within an hour of arriving, I walked up the hill to catch the sunset with two others. We heard a great horned owl, and then saw it and watched it land in a tall snag. Minutes later, it launched again, disappearing. I heard that owl—or another?—several times during the residency.

I arrived in sore need of ample time and conducive space to devote to new writing. I immediately felt at home and wasted no time settling into the space and getting to work on my next book, reading, and exploring the property. After a hectic year, the chance to clear my head, stretch my senses in a new environment, and write without distraction worked wonders. I left feeling that my second book project was well underway.

Months from now, I imagine thinking back to this residency and savoring so many images in mind: the large table I used as a desk strewn with books, notes, notebook, favorite pens and a pencil, a vase of Peggy’s flowers, and my laptop. Woodpeckers outside on the deck posts, eaves, and trees. The blazing yellow old cottonwood lit up in late evening light across the pond. New snow on the La Plata mountains viewed from the rocky height of the property, cactuses, yucca, and lichen at my feet. The orange glow from the stove late at night, all the lights turned out as I settled into bed. A small lizard, no longer than my longest finger, walking slowly across the deck one morning, where I sat reading and drinking coffee. A small pile of black bear scat loaded with piñon nuts. The gorgeous art work in the cottage and the impossible brightness of the full moon outside after a long writing spell. Elegant Peggy smiling on the porch, and Lee’s kind laugh across the lunch table at the bakery in Mancos. The endless formal variations of juniper, and the pale orbs of their berries fallen to the ground. The white faces of coots paddling the lake, and the flash of mallards’ wings lifting off the lake. A bowl of fresh eggs, bread, jam, pears, and apples, and a hearty jar of whole coffee beans, like an hourglass that would mark time passing as it diminished over the course of my stay. The homey clutter, after a few days, of used dishes, books, clothes, water glasses, binoculars strewn around the cabin and out on the porch, indicators of a lived-in, well-used space. I have a feeling I’ll be back.


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