"Tis I, the Intrepid Traveller…" - Ken Babbs, Member of Ken Kesey's The Merry Pranksters

Aug. 26, 2016
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This is a part two of Colleen DuVall's July 19 Shepherd Express article, "An Organic (and Rustic) Experience at Wormfarm," regarding her abbreviated artist residency at the Wormfarm Institute.

This time, I wandered too far off the beaten path. An adventure that sounded like a great idea in theory, but as I discovered the hard way – if it sounded too good to be true, it probably was. I have visited magical places in my day. Several come to mind that I have written about previously for this blog. Others are many miles and even seas away. This recent adventure of mine, promised to have magic. Some folks had described The Wormfarm Institute as such. But in all honesty, I did not feel it there. That was decidedly not the predominant vibe. Even given more ideal circumstances – the hosts actually being present my first week, mature and pleasant fellow artists to reside with, a bedroom door that closed completely – I'm not even sure any of these righted factors might have saved the situation. Because I was made to feel uncomfortable, the moment I set foot out of the car.

But we never know these things until we try them out, do we? And when things don't work out at all as we planned, there comes a choice to be made. I had written a detailed diary account, often humorous, describing many of the events that took place while I was there. Some of them I believe I could spin off into a terrifying modern horror movie, if I have a mind to. However, I'm not sure I want to go there. I may prefer the road less traveled, but I also prefer to take the high one whenever possible.

Let it also be known that I love to camp, if you hadn't already gathered that. My favorite method is in a tent, on the ground. I have stayed at other small organic farms in my day. Several stays at the Bridge-Between Retreat Center in Denmark have always yielded peaceful and private creative time, coupled with thought-provoking conversation around the dinner table. The other most recent visit, detailed in my April 8 blog, "The Napping Farm," was also thoroughly enjoyable. At this latter location the hosts were young, but they were polite, welcoming, and naturally kind. The "Life O' Riley Farm" in Boscobel was my first entry for Off The Beaten Path. None of these places were what you'd call 4-star hotels. They were all charmingly rustic in their own right. The renovated silo at the Bridge is actually one of my favorite places to make a pilgrimage to, annually. The difference is that these places were truly inhabitable, and you were allowed as much respectful seclusion as you needed.

Being intrepid, per Merriam-Webster, is characterized by "resolute fearlessness, fortitude, and endurance: feeling no fear: BOLD." I have been an intrepid traveller on different occasions. Sometimes being truly intrepid is making the hard call to pack it in and take off if a situation becomes impossible. Sticking around and "toughing it out" to prove a point, doesn't really prove anything if the cost is your health and well-being. And so after three days of trying my darndest, I rode shotgun in the rescue taxi back down that long gravel driveway, thrilled that we were escaping quickly, shuttling me off to my next location. At that point, I wasn't even sure where that would be. Feeling truly bold, I let out a deep sigh. I could breathe again.

*The "Intrepid" birds artwork was created by Colleen in her 20s, while attending the commercial art program at Madison Area Technical College.


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