Driving back along the 10, post road trip to Arizona. Headed to the Californian mountain of Idyllwild and Silverpines Lodge www.silverpineslodge.com, to a rustic cozy room, with floral linens, crackling fire and a welcome to match. I had happened across it three years earlier. As I climbed up the mountain, gas tank on empty, my excitement began to bubble.
The second I arrived in Idyllwild, stars flickering above me and gridded street lamps lighting up the towns below, I entered a social whorl. Not just from rekindling of friendships but the formation of new ones. Instant friendships, bright, awesome and quick to disperse…like colourful fireworks. I met a writer, there to polish the edits for her novel, a young published poet (who confidently recited a celestial poem ad lib, standing beside the open fire) and her mum, well on her way to documenting her ‘Mommy & Me’ adventure romps. No warning, no time to scurry away, I jumped in feet first. Over three days I was a social butterfly. Confident, happy, interested. I was swimming in creativity and entertained by the engrossing tales of my companions, marvelling at how they were creating visual masterpieces.
It happened that the day after I arrived Idyllwild was holding its 2nd Annual Film Festival. I happened to meet the nice chap who was directing the event at a lodge bar. He offered me and a couple ‘in the biz’ a free pass for the opening day. It was totally unexpected so I scanned down the list of offerings and chose the screening of Finding Jenua, written by Alison Mason…her debut film. The film is shot without the Hollywood ‘gloss’ and follows a brief tale of two woman, at opposite ends of their life journey. One trying to forget, the other clinging to a fading memory. Who find each other and act as the catalyst to moving on. The effect of an amazing cast, the filming which gave it an edgy feel. Within the first opening minutes I was sucked in emotionally and was perching on the edge of my seat, consumed. It was original, extremely moving and left me wrung out. Leigh Rose, the hugely talented actress who convincingly portrayed a woman with alzsheimers, was seated next to me in the cosy Rustic Theatre. She fished around in her bag and tried to find me tissues. I was sobbing buckets..emotions dredged up from my core, raining down my cheeks. My nose streaming. I thought of Dickie…my dear,dear friend, and my heart reminded me how it had shattered when he left.
It was the only film I saw that day. I had marked rings around several others but it had such a deeply profound effect on me, I felt to cover it over with another would somehow be glutenous and would ruin the experience of Finding Jenua. It is good to know when you’re full.
In the evening I had an invite to the opening party. I happily mingled with the cast, the benefactors, the actors and was captivated by the lengthy and sometimes emotional process of film making, and all the relationships within it, temporarily glued together for the time it takes to go from an idea to a visual art form, enjoyed by the masses. I asked questions with the unregulated curiosity of a child. Marvelled that there lacked any hint of ‘ LA LA’ in the room…they were all so NORMAL.
I also began to feel more comfortable when asked ‘what do you do’. ‘I’m a writer’. ‘Working towards a my career’. I handed out postcards for my project like toffee. Each time, they were received with interest and a willing desire to participate. The pile of cards, and images of the authors grew with my commitment to making something of it. A book perhaps? My feelings of being a bit ridiculous were melting away with the snow.
“Hiroshima/Nagasaki Download a documentary by Shinpei Takeda, about survivors of the atom bomb living in the west of US. He and a friend, offering a visual diary of the interviews. Eye opening and desperately sad. The victims showed an unbelievable humbleness. This amazed me, considering the horrors they witnessed. One survivor spoke of watching a mother pass by soon after the blast, with her baby strapped to her back. The child was lifeless. Jesus, they told how they realised the baby had no head! Despite the devastating trauma they suffered, the interviews seemed to free up something for them. Tiny bubbles of pain released like gas in a soda pop. Had they felt they had been heard at last and could find a little peace? Perhaps for Shinpae too, the intense, talented filmmaker…… he appeared to come to terms with something within him during the process. His need to help a community of people with histories woven, time travelling to the present. The effects still reverberating. Did he think he had to feel their pain to free it? He came to the realisation, his part in lifting the lid was enough.
I felt so real with these people. The bellows igniting the idea that to be creative is not only necessary to life but worthy and challenging, with great rewards. This (and the sun and the food and the energy of its inhabitants) is what pulls me to return. ASAP.
I pulled on my trainers this morning in an attempt to get some adrenalin pumping…shield me from the gloom. Gloom, grumbling, moaning, dour. Words only to be used in this country. As I ran, I decided I would treat this like a flying visit. Approach the UK with the curiosity of a tourist and make the most of the time with those I love before jetting off to write more, photograph more, engage more, learn more….. LIVE more.
I’ve a packet of photo’s I want to share. Of wooden lodges. Idyllwild. People. Soon to follow.