It is difficult to acknowledge the merit of normalcy after traveling to a place that abruptly shakes your sleeping inner-self awake. Your feet long for rocks to climb. Your body revolts against the cubicle and the office chair. Your eyes strain against the straight lines of skyscrapers and yearn to drink in blue glaciers melting down mountains. But you are here, and this is your life. So you tell yourself.
But if a solo trip to Iceland can teach a person anything, it is this:
You are mighty, and therefore your life is mighty. You can craft it into whatever you want it to be.
So when your best friend invites you to visit her at her art residency in North Carolina – says it’s the mirror of your soul reverberating in a space, you must come, I’ll pay half your ticket, come, come, come – you go.
Elsewhere is a living museum, artist collaborative, studio and school set within a former thrift store in Greensboro, North Carolina. Inside, it looks like the mutant child of your grandmother’s attic and Anthropologie’s evil twin. But don’t mistake its clutter for chaos; every wall, corner and inch of ceiling is carefully articulated and saturated with meaning.
The collection of the old thrift store – including cymbals and a piano; an enormous and eccentric wardrobe; army surplus blankets and flashlights; stacks of dusty books; old plastic dolls; and sky-high bales of cloth – is recycled through the hands of hundreds of artists each year as they transform the house, again and again, into its newest iteration. The house is a living, breathing, yawning animal.
I pulled into Greensboro on Saturday afternoon as the house was busily preparing for Spirit, its tenth annual fundraising party. During the evening’s festivities, as dozens of visitors poured through the house, the artists-in-residence (dressed in wild costumes from the collection’s vast wardrobe) mixed cocktails, performed bluegrass, and set up booths where visitors could interact with the collection and the space.
One artist was giving energy healings; another would paint your face with your spirit animal; and my best friend and I played the part of the severe psychiatrist, running our “patients” through a brief set of diagnostic tests from the 1950s and prescribing them a color of the rainbow to represent their inner psyche, after which they would be dressed in that color from items in the collection and have their aura photograph taken.
My most fascinating “patient” was an older woman, dressed modestly in black and white with a thick silver necklace around her throat and her hair curled in tight, silver ringlets. When I read out her prescription, The color Yellow, her face blanched. Are you sure? she said. Yes, I am quite positive, I replied in my most authoritative voice. She swallowed. I abhor the color Yellow. It’s the only color I hate, she said. Her eyes pleaded her unspoken wish, Please prescribe another color.
I took my lens-less glasses off my nose and leaned back in my chair, staring long and hard at her. Hmmm… Very interesting. Very interesting indeed. Well, madame, consider this as The Universe’s way of helping you make peace with the color Yellow.
Our “patient” found a yellow beaded bracelet in the collection, and to her credit, she wore it. Later in the evening, she bounded to our table, jubilant, to thank the dear Doctor for her prescription. The Yellow had worked its magic, whatever that magic might have been.
It wasn’t until later that night, when the full moon had risen large and red above the clouds, that I realized that exactly one lunar month had passed since I’d returned home from Iceland. That moon had been the Blue Moon, a rare moon, one that wouldn’t be seen again until 2015. This moon was the Harvest Moon, a time for reaping and celebrating the life you have crafted for yourself.