After years of hearing about this place and wanting to make it there, I finally rolled the tired wheels up the gravel driveway of Snaggy Mountain. Snaggy is the brainchild and of art of Jared McQueen who built the artist retreat on top of his grandfathers dairy farm from the 60’s. I didn’t quite know what to expect when I got there but I felt ready for something different.
I knocked on the first door I saw and was greeted by a young woman and a man. The man was gargling and couldn’t say hello but he greeted me with a puffed smile. The girl motioned up the hill and told me she didn’t know where I was stay but to ask at the house up there.
The road to the top of the hill was intimidating. I steered Chaz’s Honda Fit up the incline attempting to navigate as many potholes as possible. The rain had left part of the path washed out and I didn’t know these people well enough to feel comfortable getting stuck.
Breathing a sigh of relief, the car and I settled in a make-shirt parking spot overlooking the main house and the valley. Looking around, the place looked well lived in. An unfinished wooden pagoda-type structure greeted me before an open doorway and I hesitated and then poked my head into the doorway with a knock.
A fuzzy grinning head wearing overalls poked out and introduced itself as Jared McQueen. He welcomed me and encouraged me to explore the retreat although his glancing eyes told me that he had things to do and greeting travelers had lost its sparkle.
“What’s up today?” I asked, hoping to get to know my host a bit better.
“We’re shooting a music video” came the reply from a curly haired shirtless dude sitting on a couch inside.
“Oh cool, what are you shooting on?”
We’ve got this Sony a6500, it’s a great little camera.
My shoulders relaxed a bit as I leaned into a conversation I had had many times before.
“Oh, that’s a great camera.” I said, “I shoot video as well, I’m here recording an album and shooting videos for each song. Could you guys use any gear?”
“Woah. That’s awesome. What have you got?”
And just like that, I had new friends.
I ended up shooting and editing the video and it turned out to be for a contest. We split the prize money three ways and it ended up paying for my entire trip. Not bad.
The rest of the trip I split between eating vegan pasta dinners with the other guests and climbing up the hill to work on my song.
My lodging was an old chicken coop they had thrown a visqueen plastic tarp over. The walls were plywood with sheets stapled to them to provide a thin veneer of coziness. At night the rain pinged against the plastic. It wasn’t cold but it wasn’t warm either. It didn’t much matter, I was getting to stay for free and during the day had an incredible view and the instruments I needed to create stuff.
The song Snaggy came from a conversation Angeline and I had back in Delaware. Curled up in a puddle of cuddle, she whispered to herself something that struck me as the most honest thing I’d ever heard her say.
“I know we create our own purpose, but it’s exhausting.”
It turned into the line “We make our own purpose, but I don’t feel free I feel nervous.”
The second verse came really quickly for me.
She just starin’ at the sun
I got up for a meditation
She just skipped a day waitin’
I’m thinkin Taylor be patient
I think that image of her staring at the sun is how I see her. The big picture is so clear to her, I can see that she feels it innately. I used to look at reality that way, without fear, without heartbreak. Determined to have magic or oblivion.
On a lighter note, Jared’s clearly an amazing juggler. It’s funny how someone’s skill at something immediately inspires me to want to be good at it too. He makes it look easy. Juggling is a little bit like drumming: a groove to experience and live in. It’s meditative. It’s easy to lose it if you’re not careful, and inevitably it falls apart.
This is the last stop of my trip, and next I’ll head back south to Orlando.
Like I mentioned before, I’ve been feeling a little bit aimless out here. I’m not sure why I’m out here exactly. I want to go to Miami and see if I can make stuff about climate change. Maybe that will inspire me even further. I’ve had the freedom to do whatever, now the next step after realizing I can do whatever, is to do something helpful. Let’s see what happens.