Dorland Mountain Arts Colony Artist Residency 2003

My friend Scott talked about Dorland Mountain as "this most beautiful place that you have to visit" around the time that I first met him back in 1999. It was an Art Colony out in the mountains of southern California, and I was intrigued, since I knew he had been involved in building one of the cabins there (a replacement for one that had burnt down.) I applied and was accepted, but it wasn't until May 2003 that I finally lived there for one month, and it was everything I had hoped it would be. Sadly, one whole year later, a massive wild fire tore through Temecula, CA (and the surrounding area) and burnt the entire property to the ground. Thankfully, the residents and caretakers living there were able to escape with their lives, but everything else was lost. These photos have been a very special reminder to me of what was truly, in Scott's words "this most beautiful place.." You'll notice that my commentary here will talk about what "is" rather than what "was" because my hope is still that Dorland will be reborn in the future, and what Dorland has been to me is best described in the present tense. These photographs keep my memory of the place alive. There is talk about a rebuilding process but I am unsure as to when (or if) that will happen. For more information on Dorland go to the Official Dorland Website

Please be reminded that these photographs are copyrighted images. That means that you need to get permission by the artist to use them.
Here is a Polaroid shot of the "kitchen house" dwarfed by giant Californian Oaks.
Located just outside of Temecula, CA, Dorland Mountain Arts Colony is a quiet retreat for artists of all kinds, including writers, composers, and visual artists. Nine cabins on the colony's 10 main acres are surrounded by another 300 acres of mountain, left in its natural state. The property was homesteaded by Ellen and Robert Dorland in the 1930's, and maintains the sensibilities of that era. There isn't any electricity, only oil lamps, with cabins being heated by wood stoves. During the month I lived there, my propane-fueled fridge wasn't working, and the water pump broke a few days into my stay. It was like living on the set of "Little House on the Prairie" (which was a childhood dream of mine anyway, so I didn't mind.) This photo is of the main building you hit at the end of the long driveway from the Hwy 79. The top floor functioned as a writers cabin, the bottom as a workshop and welcome center.
More stately oaks, and a view of "Ellen's," (the "Composers Cabin,") where one can find a beautiful baby grand piano once owned by Rachmaninoff (a gift he gave to Ellen Dorland)
Another shot of the "Composer's Cabin."
The piano.
Inside the "Composers' Cabin" you'll find one of the old stoves.
Many of the cabins are furnished with antiques. The "Composers' Cabin" features a beautifully carved bed and dresser.
A woodcarving done by one of the past residents at Dorland, just outside the "Kitchen House."
The "Writers' Cabin," perched on a hill overlooking Temecula. Several beautiful evenings were spent on the porch visiting with the other artists-in-residence, listening to coyotes howl.
The "Adobe House" serves as an on-site library of rare and old books. It's thick mud walls do an excellent job of keeping the interior cool when the temperature begins to rise towards the end of May.
The peaceful interior of the "Adobe House."
: Cacti nestled in between the "Kitchen House" and "Karen's Cabin." Karen (and fellow caretaker Robert) both have cabins on-site and keep everything running smoothly during artist visits.
A peek into the "Kitchen House," where potluck dinners are held weekly by artists-in-residence (usually there are about five artists per month.)
A small hike up the winding dirt path near the Adobe house brings you to a tiny pond that overlooks several of the cabins below, in the oak thicket. On one or two mornings, I took the boat out into the middle of the lilies, with breakfast in a basket. I also fell into the pond on another morning, wearing my nightdress. I don't think anyone saw me do this, fortunately, or they would have died laughing.
Jeremy lived in the "Composers' Cabin" and sometimes I could hear him trying out parts of his compositions on the Rachmaninoff piano… the sound would float up to where I was working in the "Lake Cabin," farther up the mountain.
Candice came to Dorland as a visual artist, and produced a huge amount of work while she was there. I wish I could be half as disciplined as she is. Her studio was just a little farther up the mountain from the "Writers' Cabin."
Christopher was one of the visiting writers' in the month of May; it was his porch that we occasionally "crashed" on some of those quiet evenings when we were all a little spooked from living secluded hermit lives. Gin and tonic was usually served around 9 PM. Christopher would pull out his sweetly scented pipe shortly after. Mice came out in droves by 10.
Aoise was also at Dorland to work on some writing and stayed in the cabin above the workshop. She wins the prize for the most difficult name to pronounce. She tested her ghost stories out on us during the weekly potluck dinners, making Jeremy rather nervous, since he was living in the darkest cabin with the most "spook" factor.
Here's the view from the road up to "Lake Cabin." I was up early one day and watched twenty or more hot air balloons rise up out of the valley. If you look close you can see a few of them. There were two main ways of getting up to my cabin. A trail that skirted the pond continued upwards and was great for foot traffic only. Getting a red gypsy van (or any car for that matter) up that insanely- steep-and -bending-loose-gravel-road meant that you could officially wear that popular T-shirt I've seen which reads, "I do my own stunts." You had to give yourself as much run way space as possible (one usually started from the bottom of the mountain, near the welcome center) and then GUN IT. The one time that I got the van stuck up there (cantilevered between a large oak and the cabin) the AAA man refused to attempt the hill in his service vehicle. (How we got it loose is a long story.)
The "Lake Cabin," a unique, relatively newer cabin (in comparison to some of the other buildings at Dorland) where I lived for the month of May. I put two pictures together to give a better idea of the structure. (This was the building that my friend Scott helped build.)
The "back porch" made an excellent bathing area as things began to heat up. It was also an amazing hummingbird viewing area.
I was able to get this beautiful hummingbird shot by holding very still with my camera in one spot (for a long time.)
I love concrete flooring, open spaces, and lots of light, so this cabin was perfect. The roof in the main "open" area is covered in a special tarp that allows a great deal of sunlight to pour into the studio. The downside is that heating the space with the wood stove is next to impossible (getting the wood up the hill is A JOB) and when I stayed there, I encountered a massive plague of mice (a lot of time and work would be required in order to mouse-proof the place.) By the end of the month I had trapped 26 of them with no sign that I was curbing the population.
Looking into the kitchen/bath from the main room.
The bedroom is located at the back of the cabin; a concrete room with a skylight and small iron stove in the corner. The bed is suspended by 4 cables and swings when you turn in your sleep. It's like sleeping on a ship. I outfitted the cabin with lots of nice items (like these Indian sheets) from the van, so it would feel like home.
Many days were spent in organizing years of "note-book scraps" that needed to be edited for possible future use. As the days got warmer, I stopped needing to use the wood stove and would open up the big "pivot door" in the front. The outside and inside felt like they were meeting each other; sometimes birds would fly in.
Rocks kept all my writing from flying away.
A few mornings, I hiked up into the mountains above the cabin and found some of the most beautiful wild flowers. There was a silence coupled with an alive-ness of creation so profound that I didn't want to leave when my month was up.
A shot of the studio from the front of the cabin.
The big wood stove, writing desk and view of California oaks. Down the hill, on the other side of the oak grove, are the composers' and writers' cabin. Some afternoons while I was working, I would hear the sounds Christopher on the old manual typewriter. It was lovely to be surrounded by other artists doing what they were meant to do.
Some of the paintings in process.
Laundry Day. Everything had to be washed by hand. In fact, the pump that brought all the water to the tank outside my cabin broke down a couple days into my stay. The water tank was limited, and likely to run out (which it eventually did.) Carving a yoke out of some scrap wood and buying two pails at the local hardware store, I started to haul water up the hill at least once every two days. Water conservation took on a whole new meaning as I discovered that, in order to flush the toilet, I would need to sacrifice an entire pail of water!
As dusk falls outside the cabin doors, I paint until the last light. Hummingbirds drink their last rounds as I light the oil lamps and start thinking about picking up the guitar. Or maybe rounding up some company for gin and tonic…
A hazy morning hike up into the mountains with Christopher, Jeremy, Aoise and Candice.
As the end of May approached, the temperatures hit the 80's and the spring flowers started to get torched. Summer flowers and long grasses took their place. Climbing an hour up into the mountains I could see Hwy 79 heading towards Joshua tree and Palm Springs. Temecula and Dorland's cabins disappeared from view. No one was in sight for miles. I made flower crowns out of Californian poppies.
Being up there, feeling totally far away from humans (yet having the ability to find them if you want) is wild, joyful and only a little bit frightening in the best way. A few squares of chocolate slowly melting in your pants pockets, a little drinking water in a bottle, maybe an apple or two and some warm windy weather is all you need. An excited curiosity that you might see beautiful things keeps you wanting to walk farther and farther up to where a field of jagged rocks stand on a far ridge like forgotten ruins.
A few days before we all packed up we made a special brunch.
A still life featuring my favorite clay tea pot… with oranges and kumquats, a new fruit I grew to love.
(Pictures of Miranda's trip back home from this tour continue in the 2003 section)
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