Saturday, February 6, 2010

Arts and Healing a Catalyst for Small Town Renaissance

McGinley Jones, of Twilight Therapeutics, with one of her crystal bowls

McGinley surrounded by crystal bowls


Clay work in progress in the new studio.


Living in Lubec has been an experience like no other. It has presented some of the greatest challenges of my life, but also brought to me some of the most beautiful gifts.

The first few years that we lived here, I was eager to make the great escape. It wasn't at all like the Maine that I was accustomed to.

The word "downeast" conjures images of the idealistic coastal life. Tourists think of Bar Harbor and make the assumption that all of Maine's "beautiful rugged coast" is accompanied by an upper class arts-enriched culture. Even growing up in Maine, I thought no different.

It was a shock for us as the U-Haul passed Machias, rolling down Rte. 1, bringing into view deteriorated roads, dilapitated homes, and few businesses. We arrived to our new living space, never having been here before, sat on the worn and listing deck, watched a white coyote cross the road, and marveled at the gorgeous view, smell of salt air, and sounds of gulls.

If I could have kept myself in that moment of peace and beauty, perhaps it would not have been so difficult a transition. Nonetheless, it was culture shock. Working in the local school system, I came to know the families and their struggles of living in a once-thriving industrial mecca to what was currently a near ghost-town existence with dwindling populations and lack of jobs. Fate had dealt at times an ugly hand for those who had lived and worked here for generations.

As with many small towns that once relied on factories for their livelihood, there is a time of rock-bottom despair, followed by a renaissance.

Chris and I have lived here just over eight years now, and we have been watching the changes take place. It is bittersweet on many levels. We empathize with the people who fear and don't want change, but once that door is opened, there seems to be no going back.

For me, this renaissance feels hopeful. I see an infusion of pride returning as artists begin to bring their innovative touch. It is this insurgence of the arts that makes me feel like this is home. My first few years living in Lubec, I desperately longed for camaraderie with other artists, galleries, live music, and a general eclectic way of life. I also, very deeply, longed for a healing arts community.

Long before we moved here, Chris' grandfather would often say to us, "Lubec is a wonderful place for an artist and a writer." Wooed by that, we took the plunge and moved here on three weeks' notice. The first few years, I didn't fully acknowledge Gramp Richard's wisdom and insight. I never would have thought, eight, or even five, years ago that I would have this new understanding: that this IS the perfect place for an artist and a writer.

Hindsight, I do not think that Chris would have grown as he has with his writing, and I would not have become the artist that I am becoming. All those things I missed about my former home, they are now blooming here before my eyes. I have found an incredible artist community, am blessed with an inspiring new studio space, and am surrounded with miracles of nature every day. I smell the salt air in the summer, watch the eagles soar, fox frolic in the front yard, feel the extreme stillness of winter, and create like I have never before created in my life.

The final missing component for me was the healing arts community. Like with the artists here, the true gems are often tucked away. Slowly, the emergence is beginning. It is a new concept for those who have lived here for generations, but also, on some level, part of their innate knowing of how to heal with the land and spirit.

Eight years ago, a few days before we loaded our U-Haul to embark on our journey from Knoxville, Tennessee to Lubec, Maine, I found a pamphlet about Lubec. It listed a potter named McGinley Jones. I decided to phone her and ask questions about the arts community, and to hopefully make a connection with a fellow artist. It turned out that she was no longer practicing pottery, and as life got more and more hectic, we never found the time to get to know one another until recently.

This new friendship forging gives me another level of hope: that the healing arts community is growing here, or rather, finally coming into the light. For me, this is my own personal renaissance of my spiritual self, which has at times been dormant since moving here.

McGinley is a gifted massage therapist and reiki practitioner. In the past year, she added crystal bowl sessions to her repertoire. It is exciting for me to see this new level of the healing arts enter this area. A few nights ago, I was honored to play hostess for one of McGinley's session in the new studio, which I would like to add, has amazing acoustics!

We were a small group, sprawled out on the floor, resting as we listened to McGinley "play" the nine bowls, each one a different musical note. It is a gift for me, who is normally in such high gear, to be still for an hour and to just "experience" complete peace.

I am not an expert on exactly how these bowls affect us on a cellular or energetic level, but I know one thing...Bello the cat was profoundly affected! He rolled around, flirting and begging attention, giddy and cute as I have never seen him before. So, if it made Bello feel that good, I can only imagine how continued sessions of this sort can positively affect a person.

It has been quite a fulfilling week here for me: drawing group, clay sculpting, and crystal bowls with a phenomenal healing arts practitioner.

Who'da thunk it, right here in little ol' Lubec.



To read an older post about the arts in this region, refer to this link:
http://shannawheelock.blogspot.com/2009/07/arts-gorwing-in-lubec.html

4 comments:

onedia said...

Your post is good medicine for me. I am in a location that is a bit like Lubec seemed to you except we have a lake and the Ozarks Plateau....and many transplanted people here to retire. I often dispair and want to leave but as we build our studios and make friends and find like minded people it becomes more tolerable for a longer time in the future.

Thanks for your very well written post and it is helpful to know that the place I see as an ideal location has downsides and that people struggle there to be happy where they are and to create the place they want to be.

O.

SHANNA WHEELOCK said...

thanks for the comment, onedia. i am learning - that wherever we are, it can become home - a lot of it is attitude. and, you have to make things happen instead of waiting around for them to happen for you. lubec is an amazing place - and many who move here have a different perspective than me, don;t see the everyday struggles of the many-generation families who have lived here. it is amazing pristine coastline - a nature lover's delight. it took me a while to find my groove in the quiet and solitude. but i found it. and it isn't so quiet as it once was. things are hopping here - and i can't keep up with most of the time!

Fearless Nester said...

I have yet to explore Lubec...I have been to Eastport several times and love the vibe there. I enjoyed reading about your transition. And the healing energy sessions are intriguing. Winter is a fun time for art in Maine, in the other seasons it's so easy to get distracted. Enjoyed this post. ~Lili

SHANNA WHEELOCK said...

lili
never been to lubec? must do that - summer a bit more easy to get around. summer keys on wednesday nights is phenomenal. lubec is a different flavor than eastport - more quiet, understated. artists are hiding in the nooks and crannies. hikes are amazing!!!! most beautiful ever at west quoddy - cliffs, crashing waves, critters.