Jan Risher

Jan Risher

Lately, I’ve been living in that just-before-something-big-is-about-to-happen zone.

I’m going away for a month to work on a specific writing project. Maybe I can accomplish what I’m setting out to do. Maybe I can’t. We shall see.

I’m marking things off my to-do list and figuring out who will take care of what while I’m gone. The lists and tasks are similar to preparing for a family vacation, but the whole feeling is different this time around. This time, I’m going by myself — and I’m going to work to accomplish something I’ve dreamed of doing since I was a kid.

There’s so much possibility, but there’s also a degree of mystery about the whole thing. I love riding that line between possibility and mystery.

In late April, I’ll spend the first few days in Denver with friends. Then, along with seven other artists, I’ll spend the rest of the time on a giant ranch as a part of the Brush Creek Arts Foundation Residency program. Each of the eight artists selected to attend will be assigned a cabin-studio where we are welcome to create at our own pace. In all, four visual artists, two musicians and one other writer will be a part of the residency.

Maybe because I like thinking about mysteries, the unknown of who will be there and the group’s dynamics feel a little like I’m entering an Agatha Christie novel. What I know about the other participants could fit on a postage stamp and is limited to their email addresses. In homage to Agatha, I’ve done some sleuthing and figured out who a couple of them are, but beyond that, I have no idea who else will be participating.

I’ll meet them all when the van picks us up at the airport in Laramie.

Our host, the Brush Creek Ranch, will provide meals, including a self-prepared breakfast, bagged lunches and family-style dinners. At some point, I believe that each of us is expected to offer a workshop for the locals — and that is all I know.

“Residents are at liberty to structure their own time and activity while on a creative retreat. Whether solitude or social engagement is inspiring, the opportunities for creative enrichment are endless at Brush Creek Foundation for the Arts,” the website says.

Wide open spaces

Wide-open spaces and a lack of structure are part of the appeal for me. Not only are those my favorite work conditions, but the openness of it all excites me and reminds me of my 23-year-old-self heading out West for the first time. I love beginnings in general.

I also love spring. This experience will give me the opportunity to do spring again this year — this time in the mountains and surrounded by the rugged beauty of Wyoming, will be glorious.

To quote Dr. Seuss, “It’s opener there in the wide-open air.” Long before the Dixie Chicks, the wide-open-spaces of the West appealed to me. When I first drove across the country way back then, I had a newfound appreciation for the pioneers of long ago — people like the Sterrett brothers who, back in 1884, settled what is now Brush Creek Ranch.

From these Louisiana lowlands, the website description of the Wyoming ranch reads almost like a piece of fiction: “Located on 30,000 acres of scenic splendor at the base of the Medicine Bow National Forest outside of Saratoga, Wyoming, the camp is situated right next to Brush Creek, in between the Sierra Madre and Snowy Mountain ranges.”

The photographs are stunning — broad expanses of sky and land.

The truth is, I love all the unanswered questions — the promise of being in a new place, even the awkwardness upon arrival and that slow process of getting to know new people. Chances are I’ll make a new friend or two. I love the promise that new friendships hold — knowing there are unknowns that will open up whole new ways of thinking and offer insights into new places and art I’ve never considered.

Professionally, I have a project planned out and am craving the space — mentally, emotionally and physically to bring my idea into reality.

The possibilities of a new-and-different-short-term rhythm thrills my soul.