Solace and Sanctuary: The Ashokan’s Enduring Gifts
About 2.5 hours north of New York City and a world away lies the Ashokan Reservoir and the 18 bluestone peaks that form the Catskill Mountain Watershed. Artist Kate McGloughlin resides on land in this valley where her family has lived and farmed for generations, and author Gail Straub has lived and walked in this landscape for forty years. Close friends, both women have grown to rely on these mountains as portals to self-understanding and restoration. During the pandemic, both artist and writer became acutely aware of the essential sustaining power of their walks along the Ashokan Reservoir, thus birthing the idea of this book. In their luminous collaboration Solace and Sanctuary: The Ashokan’s Enduring Gifts, Kate’s paintings are accompanied by Gail’s words as they take readers through the seasons celebrating the power of the natural world to awaken and astonish, restore and transform us.
Through Gail’s writing drawn upon adapted excerpts from her awarding winning book The Ashokan Way: Landscape’s Path into Consciousness, and Kate’s paintings born of decades of observation and field work at the Ashokan Reservoir, we enter the wild and open expanse of this mountain valley where we are rendered bigger and freer. Visual images and words vary like the weather. Some invite us to trek the hills and valleys of our aspirations and sorrows. Some bring back voices from the past as walking companions. Other entries offer a profound antidote to an interior landscape that has become crowded with overstimulation. Still others usher us into the realm of the mystical. Kate McGloughlin’s evocative paintings, honorific portraits of this liminal place, form a potent counterpoint to Gail Straub’s narrative and vice versa.
Solace and Sanctuary is at once a lyrical form of devotion, and a powerful call to recognize wilderness and unadulterated open space as key to our humanity, especially in divisive and tech-addled times like today. It is a reminder of how our awe for earth is intrinsically connected to our capacity to hope and to heal, leading to an inexorable yearning to act.