Little Free Library 2.0

Ten years ago, I opened Little Free Library #4094.  Here is my original post about how that library came to be, along with pictures of my family working alongside me to create this little treasure box. Thanks to Jill Swenson , the library became official that year and I wrote this post .  In the years since, I have thoroughly enjoyed maintaining the library, cleaning it up, and taking and leaving books. There have been mice families living in it and a wide variety of ant and spider visitors. It has been well used by the neighborhood and many books have passed through its walls.  But time and weather took its toll and the old particle board couldn't stand up any longer. I knew its days were numbers and made plans to replace the old bookshop.   I paused some of my other projects and used the recent perfect spring weather to get outside and turn this old CD case into a new LFL. After reroofing with asphalt and a thick coat of spray paint, I once again engaged my family for a day of r

Saltonstall, or My Room of Requirement

Despite a long weekend comprised of mostly of rainy, grey days, Saltonstall has breathed life back into me with its generous gift of time, space, quiet, and beauty. It always seems to do that, which is why I keep returning, year after year. 

The Constance Saltonstall Foundation for the Arts was founded in 1995. Connie Saltonstall was an Ithaca artist, photographer, traveler, and historic preservationist. When she approached the end of her life, she dedicated her home and property to be used to create an artist retreat. And thus, the Foundation was born.

Saltonstall holds juried residencies every summer for a range of New York State artists and writers. They provide space to work, meals, opportunities to connect with other artists, and 200 acres of fields and forests to explore. In the off months, they offer the six small apartments, with shared kitchen, for a meager nightly fee to New York State artists and writers for DIY retreats. 

I discovered Saltonstall in 2015, when I was working on my MFA. My kids were still young and I needed space and time to write. The pictures on the website looked nice and for minimal cost, I could escape family life to focus on my work, a rare occurrence. 

When I first entered the main house, where I would stay for three days, I could feel the air vibrating with artistic energy. Art and photography covered the walls, tall bookcases were piled high with everything from Shakespeare to the most recent Poets & Writers issues, and comfy couches encouraged me to sit with a coffee and read.

Even more than it's contents, the house itself inspired creativity. The high vaulted ceiling created a huge open space and the large windows looked to the south, across the valley to the low hills beyond. The light that came in through those windows seemed to touch me with golden magic, like fairy dust. Even though I was only twenty minutes from home, I had entered a whole different world. A world where people understood the heartache of being a writer, where they respected the energy art requires, where time spent in quiet creation was the norm. I wanted to stay in that house forever.

I couldn't, of course, stay forever, but I reveled in the luxury of that first visit. I slept in late, ate my favorite foods, walked in the woods, wrote until I couldn't think anymore, then pulled up Netflix for some distraction. It was exactly what I needed at exactly the right time. 

Somewhat like the Room of Requirement in JK Rowling's Harry Potter series, each time I return to Saltonstall I find exactly what I need. Once I used the space for a high-energy, long-hours, final revision of my memoir manuscript. Another time I lay in the quiet and realized I needed to become Editor-in-Chief at Literary Mama. I arrived there on the fateful afternoon after the 2016 election when I thought I'd be riding high with the first ever female President-elect, and instead found myself commiserating with the other guests and deciding to organize the Women's March in Ithaca instead of writing. 

I've been at Saltonstall during a snowstorm, at the tail-end of fall colors, and in the rainy days of March. During the pandemic, the organization was renovating the artist building to include an accessible apartment. That, plus the pandemic meant that they weren't open for the juried residencies that year. Instead, they generously offered a few repeat guests the opportunity to stay, and be fed! Visiting the colony in the glory days of summer, with amazing food, was an unprecedented gift in a challenging and unprecedented time. 

Saltonstall has been an artist's home away from home for me over the years. This time, my visit allowed me the time to consider my path after two writing projects ended and I am on the cusp of new ones. I read books and journaled and walked in the rain. I plunked out a draft of a new essay, which is good, but I also remembered that at Saltonstall, I don't have to constantly produce. I can just be.

I'm not sure how to repay the generosity I received here except to keep saying thank you. And to take that deep breath of life and pass on a bit of the kindness I've been shown. That, I believe, is the magic of Saltonstall.