Jan 26, 2010

Three Words to Live By

I've just returned from a gift of a place. CALDERA.

Caldera is 90+ acres of incredible forests and lakes in Central Oregon. During the summer it is a camp for under-served youth; in the winter months, the grounds are given over to a set of artists in residence. The facilities are wonderful and the landscape is ... well, breath-taking.

A few years ago, the B&B fire burned down 900,000 acres of forest and the damage from that mighty fire is still remarkably visible. In fact, it's a bit of a miracle that Caldera survived at all.

Caldera is built along the edge of Blue Lake, a steep 300-foot deep lake and is the only thing that came between the fire and the camp.

A caldera is "a cauldron-like volcanic feature usually formed by the collapse of land following a volcanic eruption." I love this description because, to be there is both an eruption and a settling. It is a surrender to the natural order of things.

Artists are invited to Caldera for month-long residencies during which they/we live in A-frame cabins overlooking a creek. We are given free reign over our time and all of that open space to explore. We are not expected to pay or work or donate anything to the place. There is a real understanding that artists make significant contributions to the world and that their creative processes must be supported and unhinged. It's rather extraordinary to consider this concept. It's entirely generous and forward-thinking, important and true.

The story behind Caldera is sweet and it starts with Dan Wieden, of the famous Portland-based advertising agency Wieden + Kennedy. W+K is the mastermind behind loads of marketing genius but are best known for their work with Nike. JUST DO IT. I heard this and was dumb-struck. Although I've grown up with Nike and seen the ads a zillion times, I never really thought about that phrase coming from somewhere, someone, and that millions of dollars were rewarded for its articulation in the marketplace. JUST DO IT... it seems so plain and simple, so absolutely elemental. Certainly this is a phrase that courses through the minds of every human and is the very instinct that drives evolution and culture forward. How odd that someone could market these three words. It's almost like marketing breath or water.

As skeptical as I can be about marketing, etc. I am in awe of this phrase and very grateful to those who coined it. It's interesting to think that three words can make a person rich and that the fruit of those three words can support an admirable non-profit that advocates for youth and for art. The more I considered these words (while working in my A-frame or circling Blue Lake), the more I heard their incredible power. There were moments of uncertainty -- when I couldn't decide how to spend my unscripted time or if I should veer off the beaten path when "JUST DO IT" would rumble into my head. Not only did the words speak to me as a sort of cheer or mantra, but I began to see the brilliance of the phrase as a marketing scheme. I'd like to think that Dan Wieden has had moments like I have. Even though he's a millionaire now, he's probably struggled through creative process and turned to nature in his times of confusion. It wouldn't surprise me at all if it was in a nature-filled moment, in a flash of uncertainty, that his best-seller came to mind. Isn't this where the best and brightest ideas are born? From our collision between our raw, helpless human nature and the desire to really make the most of ourselves?

I am so grateful for Caldera. The gift of time and space is unlike anything else. And while that gift can be offered by other people, it requires a certain surrender to allow the time and space to do its magic. So often JUST DO IT meant, just do nothing. I had to own my experience; I had to really live it. And so the place, the gift, the forest and the phrase all came together in a fascinating month that I will never ever forget.

Learn more about Caldera here: www.calderaarts.org

1 comment:

  1. I came across this today: "Nothing in this world can take the place of persistence. Talent will not; nothing is more common than unsuccessful people with talent. Genius will not; unrewarded genius is almost a proverb. Education will not; the world is full of educated derelicts. Persistence and determination alone are omnipotent. The slogan 'press on' has solved and always will solve the problems of the human race" ~ Calvin Coolidge