Playa at Summer Lake Residency

Thank you, thank you Playa at Summer Lake, Oregon for inviting me to luxuriate in two weeks of uninterrupted writing at one of the most well appointed artists’ retreat centers in the country and located in one of the most daunting and prepossessing landscapes found anywhere. Check out the Playa web site to get some inkling, as well as photographer Terri Warpinski’s beautiful images of this seasonal lake which can be found at In addition to Terri, I was joined by photographers Michael Light and Bea Nettles, visual artist Sandra dal Poggetto, geologist Steve Kuehn and crew, and just missed overlapping the creative team of Roger Asay and Rebecca Davis whose breathtaking rock installation on the lake bed you can see on Playa’s web site. Playa Director Deb Ford arrived last November and the effect of her energy, experience and passion on Playa is evident everywhere. Plan a trip through Oregon’s Outback and time it so you can attend Playa Presents, which concludes each residency period. Great readings and studio tours await! The Summer Lake Hot Springs and the charming town of Paisley are just down the road.  Sage Rooms in Paisley is where I recommend you stay if tent or car camping isn’t your plan.

Summer Lake

Ellen Waterston

 Look, now this fleeting lake’s a shimmering silver platter.

What a kaleidoscope of changing patterns, flight and color.

Sweeps of blue, green, slate. Now brown and pitted by rain’s incessant yammer.

Plover, willet, swallow, gull—dart and hover,

scavenge the seasonal mollusk, bug and brine—

that is until this Summer Lake’s sudden, petulant winds scatter the birds to shelter,

or her mischievous gusts conjure alkaline

dancers—veiled strumpets of chalk dust spinning helter-skelter.

This temporal tarn has no choice but to indulge her every mood,

adore her shallow reflection, succumb to each ephemeral whim.

For she knows she has little time—neither for the enduring mountains that brood

along her edges, harvesting wind and color from the thin

clouds that provision her evaporating palette; nor time

for the petering poet scanning the lake’s drying alkali flats and chimeric chorus lines

               for too late meaning and too little rhyme.