Oh, sun! Damn you. You might as well rise.
At my last VCCA dinner, I looked over and saw a table of entirely new folks, unfamiliar faces all having the same conversation I had three weeks ago--Where are you from? What are you working on?--and I thought, It's time to go. The totally superfluous helping of cauliflower drenched in Sriracha sauce while everyone else got dessert? Pairing another glass of zinfandel with a mug of full-strength coffee? Also signs that it's time to go. One of the things I've learned about myself is that I'm really good at being away from home for about three weeks. But if I'm gone for four weeks or more, something gets broken.
Then we had a Fellows reading that illuminated two women I've been sharing tables with for days. One poet I now want to talk to about formal poetry, Anna Akhmatova, South Carolina. One nonfictioneer I want to talk to about biography, Africa, self-doubt. These will not be conversations I get to have. We sat in the living room after their reading, laughing and talking, but I wanted more. I wanted a colder day so we could use the fireplace one last time. I can't be going already!
It is easy to be glib about friendships you make at art colonies. A photographer and I were joking about it on our walk back to the main house. "I wish he were younger..." he said of a third resident, "...but I already know why it wouldn't work." Another artist I overheard say "Let me get your email, so we can do that thing where we never get around to actually writing each other." You go from 0 to 60 MPH in terms of confession, intimacy, irritation. For so many of us, at home our work is both the thing we love best about ourselves and the thing most isolating. Here, the latter half of that drops away. The problem with getting to know people at their best is that their worst, when discovered, comes as a much harsher shock. And I of all people know that.
Still I delight. I open the studio door at 4 AM to find hearts chalked in lieu of a doormat, and I delight. This is not a place to bother keeping your guard up.
I got the writing done. Poems, prose, even something that paid. That gives me comfort as I ponder packing bags (did I really need this many skirts and sweaters?) and pulling push-pins out of the wall. Count the Waves is coming together. I refined sestinas, rescued a poem from banishment, embraced my animalia, committed to a new sequence, gave a reading that left me feeling hopeful. This third poetry manuscript is harder than the last but maybe it is richer, too, pleasures hidden a little under the surface. I just have to provide enough glimmer to tempt a reader to do the digging.
See you on the flipside, friends.