Sunday, February 28, 2010

Ragdale-Writers Heaven

This is the bit of virgin prairie to the west of Ragdale House and the Friends and Meadow Studios. It contains deer, coyotes, foxes, raccoons, opossums, rabbits, squirrels, hawks, owls, and all manner of birds and tiny lives. In the spring, they tell me it's beautiful with blossoms, which I believe because of my own experience with prairie out on the Flint Hills of Kansas. This is also pretty much the view from my studio window as I sit at my lovely BIG desk.

NOTE: All of these photos are courtesy of my friend, Judith Podell. I've taken many, but left the cable to computer at home so posting those will have to wait till I get back home.

This from the front of the Ragdale House, facing east. The circle drive with the lamb sculptures is directly in front of the Ragdale House and there is a small forest of trees blocking Ragdale from the street in Lake Forest where it's located.

This is the view from the top of the Barnhouse after a snow. (Judith's room and studio included the cupola at the top of the Barnhouse during her stay.) That's the Friends Studio in the photo.

This is the Barnhouse to the north of the Ragdale House (which is where I have been staying for the past weeks). We gather in the Barnhouse dining room each night for dinner cooked by our fabulous chef, Linda Williams. It was on my way down the short walk between Ragdale House and the Barnhouse for dinner one night (you see part of it in this photo) just at dark that I came eye to eye with a large stag which then crossed my path about two feet in front of me in bounding leaps and disappeared off into the prairie.

To the left in the photo is the attached office where the dedicated Ragdale staff, Exec. Director, Susan Tillett, Director of Artists, Regin Igloria, Director of Property, Jack Danch, Director of Communications, Leslie Brown, and Office Manager, Liz Isenberg, work at making things easy for residents. As do Housekeeper Marta Quintanilla, and her assistant, David Rodriguez. Lovely, talented professionals, all. The work of all these people has helped me finish edits on a novel and write most of my newest book of poetry during this month's stay!

This is the garden room in Ragdale House, where I usually have my breakfast and lunch while looking out over the prairie to the back of the house. Chef Linda keeps both Ragdale House and the Barnhouse refrigerators stocked with good foods for breakfasts, lunches, and healthy snacks. We all talked about how much healthier we eat at Ragdale than at home.

This is a back view of Ragdale House. You can see the garden room from the other side here. This house is so remarkable. It was built as a summer home near Lake Michigan by the father of the family, Howard Shaw, a Chicago architect who was a contemporary and friend of Frank Lloyd Wright. The whole Shaw family was full of artists, men and women--painters, sculptors, writers, weavers, you name it--for generations. The house looks much as it did then, full of art collected by the family on trips to Europe and even more art that they and their friends created. The estate was a summer refuge for many of their Chicago artist friends, including people such as Carl Sandburg. This group of us now in Ragdale, who will be leaving in a few days, is the last group to live in the house for over a year. The Foundation is closing the house down to make substantial necessary renovations. It's on the National Register so it will open up in a year looking just the same--but with new, safe wiring and plumbing and heating and cooling. This is a project the Foundation is needing donations to help fund, so check out the website and give a little to keep this gem available for generations of artists.

I'll post more about my stay with photos of the insides of the house when I get back home. We owe the late Alice Hayes, the member of the family who set up the Ragdale Foundation, and the whole family, for that matter, gratitude for this wonderful gift to artists that they created.

Now, it's about time for me to head over to the Barnhouse for one of Chef Linda's delicious dinners.

Love to all my friends out there!