Ellen Dore Watson on “The Hermitage Gift”

Posted by Sharyn Lonsdale on 9th September 2016

Artists of all disciplines are invited to come to the Hermitage to stay and work at our historic campus nestled among the sea grapes and mangroves of Manasota Key.
Writers, composers, and painters connect with artistic passions within while strolling along our shoreline, transforming the time away from normal routines into what most
claim to be their best productive time for creating.

“My Story” by Ellen Dore Watson,

Once darkness fell, I walked out onto the beach as if by gravitational pull. No moon. No

people. Pound and glow of surf. Slightly scary, but energizing. I felt myself opening up, anticipatory.

I don’t think I ever before felt so primed. Back at the house, a new poem

poured out, mysterious and different—a piece I hadn’t realized the manuscript needed.

The first evening of my first stay at the Hermitage. What was it about this place?

The Hermitage is a magic kingdom. The dolphins, mangroves, iguanas, egrets, sharks’

teeth found their way into my work and my psyche. In two weeks, I had intense and

inspiring conversations with four playwrights, a choreographer, a novelist, and a

composer, whose work I will follow and with whom I remain in contact. This amazing

cross-fertilization, and everyone’s single-mindedness about pressing forward, reaching

to new places in their work, was electrifying.

And then there’s the sense of time outside time: permission to read, think, walk,

uninterrupted. I’d been feeling empty, uneasy, stressed about what direction to go with

new pieces and how to re-enter earlier problematic ones. But the perfect balance of

solitariness and fellowship, external and internal immersion, and the fact of having

been invited here—invited!—conspired to produce ease, courage, even joy. When I hit

a snag in a poem, I went kayaking, let my brain stew while I glided, wondering how

those mullets can hurl themselves skyward, and why. But then I thought—that’s what

artists do: thrust themselves out of the familiar, then plop back in to see it anew. We do

what we do because we are who we are, and we are most ourselves when doing it.

I wrote eleven new pieces and re-imagined half a dozen thorny others.

It’s amazing every time. It’s not just driving blind, but finding I’ve taken my hands off

the wheel. Let something seep up from deep underneath—or maybe it’s drizzling down

from somewhere. From outside, from inside. Or just something coming. Forming.

Something we enter, or that enters us. It’s thrilling! Hours fly by, and then here is this

new thing that didn’t exist before, and now I get to play with it—add intention,

discipline, attitude, form—nudge it toward the best it can be. Which is what the

Hermitage does for the artists they gather there: that great a gift.

This is just one story of how a stay at the Hermitage made a difference in the

creative life of an artist, but it is why we are here.  We provide a special place where

artists can strive for success, and through their successes, our lives can also be

transformed. The Hermitage Gift for artists – more than 80 last year alone – is only possible

because friends like you make it possible!

Please visit www.hermitageartistretreat.org and click on the Donate Now Button. Or mark your calendar

for the 24-hour Giving Challenge beginning at 12 noon on Tuesday September 20.

The Patterson Foundation will provide a 2:1 match of donations up to $100 from

new donors (those who did not contribute to the Hermitage during last year’s Giving

Challenge), and will provide a 1:1 match of donations up to $100 from returning

donors! Be the one and make the Hermitage Gift available to future Hermitage.


The 2016 Giving Challenge is presented by the Community Foundation of Sarasota County with

giving strengthened by The Patterson Foundation, as well as support from Manatee Community

Foundation, John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, William G. and Marie Selby Foundation, and the

Herald-Tribune Media Group.

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