Struck by Calm

Struck by Calm

by Rebeccah Roush as published in Trans Artists printed Newsletter 17, Summer 2007.

While arriving at Montana Artists' Refuge artist Rebecca Roush seriously considered turning around and returning home. Now she's grateful for the experience of staying in this "unappealing town". Why did she apply for a residency in Basin, Montana, USA, in the first place? "Well, I applied for the residency after reading about it in a publication that posted residencies in the United States, because I easily could drive to it, and because I had never spent any time in Montana. While I planned for my residency, I imagined Basin to be a lovely little town in a gorgeous setting, and the Refuge itself to be a peaceful, homey studio and living space where I could make my art and contemplate my life as an artist.It ended up that Basin is indeed a little town, though it?s not lovely. It?s typical of the small US western towns that in the 19th century had a mining boom, then dried up and never recovered. And late last century Basin suffered the additional indignity of having a highway bisect it."


"After driving from Seattle, I was very distressed at my surroundings. I seriously considered turning around and returning home. Ultimately I decided that I needed to give the residency a try. I made a concerted effort to take advantage of having a month entirely alone, to face the challenge of being without the usual activities to distract me. This meant no television, no radio, no computer, no charming town. And it meant very limited interactions with other people. Fortunately, I brought a stack of good books, everything I needed to make my art, my running clothes, and a supply of coffee."

Running, meditating, working, reading

"Every day at the Refuge I had a routine that was very different from my 'normal' life. I woke up, had coffee, did exercises and stretches, and then drove up a forest road to run uphill two miles and run back downhill two miles through the strange forest. I returned to the Refuge, took a hot bath, had breakfast, and then meditated. (I hadn't consistently meditated for 25 years.) I wrote in a journal and wrote my husband a postcard each morning. I then went to the studio and worked on my art. I made myself a good lunch in the middle of the day, and read about the region's geology and bird life while I ate. When I was done working on my art, I made myself dinner, cleaned up the kitchen, meditated again, read for a while, and went to sleep. Reading was a real pleasure. For the first time in many years I read lengthy novels and scientific and technical books with great enthusiasm."

Calming down

"Every day was the same and as the weeks went by I felt myself slowing down, calming down, and being someone different from who arrived at the Refuge. I changed, and this was good. When I left my residency at the end of May, I was impressed with how calm I felt. Basin, to me, remains an unappealing town. Having said that, my residency did more good for me than I can express. It is a paradox that I remain grateful to have experienced. As I've considered other residencies, I've come to realize that true time alone while being an artist-in-residence is unusual."

Rebecca Roush, Seattle, WA, USA